THE GODFATHER FAMILY VALUES
A ‘theme’ from the Greatest Movie of All Time
“Fredo you’re my older brother and I love you, but don't take sides against the family again...ever.” - Michael Corleone
This is the chilling warning uttered by Michael Coleone to his vacuous brother Fredo in the Las Vegas Takeover scene in “The Godfather'' and the line that cements one of the main themes throughout the film trilogy of 'loyalty.' But for myself it is the underlying theme of 'family' that resonates the most. When director Francis Ford Coppola brings a deep focus on family values to the forefront, it reminds me of how Pacific Island families are orientated.
For the Corleone’s we find that loyalty to the family is more important than loyalty to any other principle or establishment, like the law of the land or even religion. For most Samoans, the family or aiga is also of the utmost importance. It is believed that each person is a representative of their family and thus should act in such a way that honours all family members. For many of us, family is a natural part of the order of society. But for the Corleones, it's actually an alternative to that order. In this article I will list my favourite quotes from The Godfather Trilogy to do with the theme of Family. I write this to coincide with The Godfather Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone which is a director's cut released this year. If you haven't seen any of the movies give yourselves an uppercut.
by Cameron Schuster I 4 February 2021
Don Vito: “Tell me. Do you spend time with your family?”
Johnny Fontane: “Sure I do.”
Don Vito: “Good. Because a man who doesn't spend time with his family can never be a real man.”
When Hollywood star Johnny Fontane attends his cousin Connie Corlene’s wedding, he takes the opportunity to ask the Godfather Don Vito to help him convince a powerful movie mogel to give him a leading role in his next film. Johnny sobs as he is explaining the situation which frustrates Don Vito who suddenly springs up at Johnny slapping him across the face telling him "you should act like a man" before calmly expressing the above quote to at the very least grasp some conviction to justify his assent to Johnny's request. Vito's sons Tom and Sonny absorb this lesson as onlookers. To the Don, family is the most important thing in life to a man, if he cries he is not a real man he is weak, so it is impossible for a weak man to make his family a priority.
“I have a sentimental weakness for my children and I spoil them, as you can see. They talk when they should listen.” - Don Vito Corleone
At a business meeting heroin trafficker Vigil 'The Turk' Sollozzo has his offer to cut the Corleone's into a multi million dollar drug deal in return for political protection rejected by Don Vito who is weary of the attention and danger narcotics will bring to his organisation who thrive on illegal gambling, extortion and loan sharking. Sonny Corleone interrupts with a comment showing interest in the deal before his father cuts him off and states the above quote to the ambitious Sollozzo, thus giving Sollozzo cause to eliminate the Don and go through with the deal with Sonny. A risky move since Sonny is Don Vito's oldest child and also underboss or second in charge. Stakes are high as the Corleone organisation’s top management is made up of family members and loyal friends.
“Hey, I want somebody good - and I mean very good - to plant that gun. I don’t want my brother coming out of that toilet with just his dick in his hand, all right?” - Sonny Corleone
This is Sonny Corleone making sure the hit on Sollozzo and Police Captain McClusky goes as planned. Caporegime Peter Clemenza is tasked with planting a gun on the back of a toilet cistern at the Italian restaurant which is the site of a peace meeting between Michael Corleone and Sollozzo. Michael is to excuse himself to the bathroom, retrieve the gun and come back to the meeting guns blazing. Sonny and Michael would always fight and argue growing up but Michael never doubted his older brother's love and it shows with this quote.
Michael: “What did Papa think deep in his heart, he was being strong, strong for his family, but being strong for his family...could he... lose it?”
Mama: “You’re thinking about your wife, about the baby you lost, but you and your wife can have another baby”
Michael: “No, no… I meant lose HIS family?”
Mama: “But you can never lose your family?”
Michael: “Times are changing”
Fast forward to the film The Godfather Part 2. Michael Corleone is the head of the family organisation and is having personal troubles. Basically Michaels family is falling apart as a contrast to how strong his father was to raising his family. In this scene Michael seeks advice from his Mother. Like the Samoan wife from the motherland Mama Corleone is the old school traditional Italian mother who is devoted to her husband and children so she is incapable of understanding Michaels concerns. “But you could never LOSE your family?” Michaels wife Kay is your modern day American palagi wife, albeit devoted to Michael, who does not share the Italian concept of everlasting family devotion so when the going gets tough she was quick to have an abortion, divorce Michael and take the kids. Michael mentions “times have changed” to justify his divorce and intention to murder his brother Fredo for his betrayal.
“Fredo, you’re nothing to me now. You’re not a brother, you’re not a friend. I don’t want to know you or what you do. I don’t want to see you at the hotels, I don’t want you near my house. When you see our mother, I want to know a day in advance so I won’t be there. You understand?” - Michael Corleone
Michael confronts his brother Fredo for information on his nemesis Hyman Roth and the court hearing investigations. When Fredo confesses he helped Michaels enemies in exchange for power and he resents being passed over, he believes that, as the older brother, he should have taken over the family business after their fathers death. Michael disowns him and tells his Capo that nothing should happen to Fredo while their Mother is alive.
“The only wealth in this world is children. More than all the money, power on Earth, you are my treasure.” - Michael Corleone
We are now at The Godfather Part 3 and Michael is in his 60s is even more wealthy and powerful. His children Anthony and Mary are grown and live with Kay. Michael seems content with his life but wrapped with guilt on his rise to power and having his brother killed. He is still haunted about his ultimate sin which makes this quote quite contradictory, he would give up everything to protect his children knowing that his father would have done the same although he is the reason his fathers son is dead. Karma is approaching.
“I, uh, betrayed my wife. I betrayed myself. I’ve killed men, and I’ve ordered men to be killed. No, it’s useless. I killed … I ordered the death of my brother; he injured me. I killed my mother’s son. I killed my father’s son.” - Michael Corleone
In a telling scene Michael’s guilt comes to a head as he confesses his sins to a Catholic Bishop and breaks down crying. The Bishop blesses him before saying that his sins are terrible and it is right that he suffers guilt, he says Michael himself believes he would not be redeemed and that he will not change.
“You couldn’t understand back in those days, I loved my Father, I swore I would never be a man like him but I loved him and he was in danger what could I do? And later you were in danger, our children were in danger what could I do? You were all that I loved, valued most in the world... your gone, and it was all for nothing” - Michael Corleone
Michael apologises to his ex wife Kay. He summarizes how (in the last two films) forces beyond his control influenced his actions which ultimately led down this path. It is a sad and pitiful scene as we see Kay Adams think about and probably understands why their doomed marriage came to pass.
So there you have it, quotes about Family in the movie that I have probably rewatched the most in my life. You too should watch these movies and see the cinematic masterpiece that it is, and if you don't….I’ll give you an offer you can't refuse.