"I'm with you now, I'm with you ..." : Michael Corleone as gangster figure in Mario Puzo's and Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather texts / by Carmela Coccimiglio.
Corleone, Michael (Fictitious character)
Puzo, Mario - Criticism
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This thesis examines the construction of the gangster figure as embodied by Michael Corleone in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather, The Godfather Part II and The Godfather Part III. The examination of Michael is contextualized in an analysis of the conventions of the gangster’s construction in early American film, specifically the “Golden Trilogy” comprised of Little Caesar, The Public Enemv and Scarface. The “Golden Trilogy” represents the height of the gangster’s representation in film; therefore, to critically analyze Coppola’s films is to recognize what Coppola borrows and changes for his films and how his choices affect the portrayal of the gangster. Also important to this study is the novel on which Coppola’s films are based, Mario Puzo’s The Godfather. A number of changes to the conventions of the gangster genre are located in Puzo’s texts, especially in terms of ethnicity, masculinity and an emphasis on religion. The result is that while Michael’s roots are located in the early films, he emerges as a different kind of gangster, one that faces inner conflicts as a result of his lifestyle. Michael’s choices in the novel and the films, especially his decision to legitimize the Corleone Family, place him in contrast to his father, Vito, the aging Don who must appoint a successor. That Michael’s dream is to live an all-American, or WASP, lifestyle indicates that the family and business will no longer be distinctly Sicilian under his leadership. Although Vito believes Michael to be the ideal successor, he is proven to be very wrong in Coppola’s films. The disastrous consequences of Michael’s choices destroy everything that Vito appoints him to protect; thus, Michael is inappropriate as a successor and a gangster, a point that Puzo hints at in his novel. Coppola’s take on the gangster is that he can never be a success and he therefore must lose what he has been fighting so ferociously for, and deal with his losses until the day he dies, which is precisely the fate of Michael Corleone.