Did Michael Corleone Avenge His Wife’s Murder In EACH of the First Two Godfather Movies, Only For it to be Edited Out of Each Film?
Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about movies and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the movie urban legends featured so far.
MOVIE URBAN LEGEND: Michael Corleone avenged his wife’s murder in each of the first two Godfather films, but each time it was cut from the actual movie.
Warning: We’ll be discussing some spoilers from a 41-year-old movie. If you’d prefer to not be spoiled, then go watch the Godfather and then come back and read this article.
One of the most tragic scenes in The Godfather (and there is no shortage of tragic scenes in the film) is the death of Michael Corleone’s first wife, Apollonia Vitelli. Michael has fled the United States to hide out in Sicily after murdering rival mob leader Virgil “The Turk” Sollozzo (who had twice attempted to murder Michael’s father, Vito Corleone, the Don of a New York crime family) and corrupt police Captain McCluskey. Michael seems content to live out his days in Sicily being protected by his Sicilian bodyguard (and interpreter) Fabrizio and wooing the beautiful Apollonia Vitelli, daughter of a local tavern owner. Michael sought permission to court Apollonia from her father and after receiving it, their courtship was brief and they soon married. What Michael did not know was that his bodyguard, Fabrizio, had been turned by one of the enemies of the Corleones and had planted a car bomb in Michael’s car. Unbeknownst to either Fabrizio or Michael, though, was that Apollonia had taught herself to drive a car (a rarity for Sicilian women at the time) and she gets into the car to demonstrate her newfound skill to Michael. The car explodes and Michael’s wife is killed. Through the efforts of his father back in New York, Michael is promised to allow to return to the United States safely. Michael then takes over the Corleone crime family and “takes care off all family business,” wiping out all of the people who tried to take down his family.
Oddly enough, though, while he manages to kill the people who surely contacted Fabrizio, he does not actually kill Fabrizio. That seems not too odd, considering the last time we saw Fabrizio he was in Sicily and Michael is in New York. However, oddly enough, Francis Ford Coppola (director of The Godfather and The Godfather, Part II) actually filmed scenes in BOTH movies where Michael gets his revenge and yet neither one made it in to their respective films! Read on for more details!
One of the fascinating things about how Francis Ford Coppola filmed both of the first two Godfather films is the way that he shot way more footage than he actually used in the films. And we’re not even just talking scenes that were written but never filmed. Just based on work prints of each of the first two films, there was 45 minutes of additional footage filmed for the first Godfather film plus an astonishing and 2 hours and 25 minutes of extra footage for the second Godfather film. Therefore, as you might imagine, there were plenty of interesting scenes that found themselves on the cutting room floor.
One of these scenes was a scene that appeared in Mario Puzo’s novel, The Godfather, that the films were based on. Michael discovers that Fabrizio has moved to the United States and opened up a pizzeria in Buffalo, New York under the name Fred Vincent. He sends an assassin to shoot him with a shotgun (Fabrizio notably carries a shotgun while “guarding” Michael in Sicily). In a scene shot for the Godfather, it is Michael himself who carries out this revenge. In the continuity of the film, it takes place after the baptism scene and after the murder of Michael’s brother-in-law, Carlo but before Michael’s sister, Connie, accuses him of murdering her husband. The addition of the scene of Michael himself carrying out this murder adds an extra sort of ghastliness to Michael’s famous denial of being involved in Carlo’s murder to his second wife, Kay (right before she has the door to Michael’s office closed on her as she realizes he is obviously lying to her as the film ends).
A still from this scene was used in promotion of the film, which makes sense, as the sight of Al Pacino touting a shotgun looked really cool. While no one knows for absolute certainty why the scene was deleted from the film, one theory that makes a lot of sense is that the scene was just so bloody and gruesome that it was almost over-the-top and sort of took the viewer out of the film. There were behind-the-scenes shots of actor Angelo Infantini (Fabrizio) so drenched in blood that it almost looks silly.
Undeterred, Coppola then filmed a scene in The Godfather, Part II, where Michael once again tracks down Fabrizio to Buffalo, New York. This time around, it is a car bomb that does Fabrizio in (poetic justice style). This, too, was cut from the film (possibly because it was somewhat confusing, as it does not tie in with the events of the second film).
This time around, however, Coppola was able to sort of save the scene. When Coppola edited the two films together to air on NBC-TV in 1977 as The Godfather: A Novel for Television (now colloquially known as “The Godfather Saga”), he had to add in some scenes to make up for the removal of some of the more violent scenes from the original films. Obviously, he could not add in the original murder of Fabrizio, but the car bombing scene was fair game, so the second death of Fabrizio did make it into this version of the Godfather story.
So Michael finally got a chance to take care of ALL family business…just five years late!
The legend is…
Thanks to the Godfather Museum for a lot of the information in this piece.
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.