Don Vito Corleone was inspired by real life mobster
Don Vito Corleone (Godfather) has similarities to several real-life gangsters and mafioso from 20th century in America. Don Corleone personage mostly resembles Frank Costello, known as “The Prime Minister” of the Mafia. F. Costello started life a poor kid, but grew up to lead the Luciano crime family, the most powerful crime family in New York, after former mob boss Lucky Luciano went to prison in 1936. Like so many of his New York friends, Costello escaped the poverty of immigrant life by running booze. At the end of Prohibition, he invested in gambling enterprises, earning millions from slot machines and casinos. By the 1940s, Costello had virtually taken control of New York politics through his grip on the Democratic Party at Tammany Hall.
Costello considered the job a burden, for what he truly craved in life—and would never acquire—was to escape the stigma of his criminal roots and be considered a respectable businessman. Just when he reached the top of his power, Frank Costello’s lifelong dream of legitimizing himself in polite society ended abruptly and disastrously. The Senate investigation hearings of Estes Kefauver targeted Costello in 1952 as the No. 1 racketeer in the country. His courtroom testimony would irrevocably taint Costello’s name, as well as destroy his power base at Tammany Hall. Costello found himself pinced on one side by the government, which sent him to jail on charges of contempt and tax evasion, and on the other side by underworld rival Vito Genovese. The same as Don Vito Corleone, F. Costello preferred to draw little attention to himself and the mob, choosing reason over violence whenever possible and using diplomacy and his extensive connections in politics and business to maintain power. In fact, Marlon Brando even based Corleone’s soft, raspy voice on Costello’s after he listened to tapes of Costello testifying to the Kefauver Committee on Organized Crime.
Godfather story in real life
Michael Corleone’s restaurant scene is similar to Joe Masseria murder.
In The Godfather, after meeting two of his father’s enemies in a restaurant, Michael takes them out by shooting them with a gun he had planted in the bathroom. In 1931, Mafioso Charles “Lucky” Luciano met his boss, Joe Masseria, at an Italian restaurant. When he excused himself to go to the bathroom, hit men barged into the eatery, shot Masseria more than 20 times, and left.
Michael Corleone moves to Italy.
In The Godfather, after the hit at the restaurant, Michael Corleone flees to Sicily, where he falls in love with and marries Apollonia Vitelli. Real mob boss Vito Genovese also ran off to Italy in order to escape the consequences of one of his murders, and only returned to the U.S. after charges were dropped. After being deported, Lucky Luciano moved to Italy as well, and while he never returned to the U.S., he continued to pull Mafia strings from abroad. While in Italy, Luciano fell in love with a woman 20 years his junior. Whether they ever officially got married or not has never been confirmed, but it is known that he stayed with her for 11 years, until her death in 1959.