The Godfather

The Godfather Summary and Analysis of Chapter 16: Apollonia's Murder - Chapter 19: I'm Moe Greene


Michael tries to teach the charming Apollonia how to drive around Don Tommasino's courtyard. She giggles as she knocks over garden furniture. Don Tommasino's car pulls in and the couple greets him heartily. Apollonia skips away, and the Don tells Michael that for his safety, he must move to a villa near Siracusa. Michael wonders why, and Don Tommasino shares the news of Sonny's death.

Later, Michael asks Fabrizio to fetch his car. Michael will drive himself to Siracusa, and plans to send Apollonia to her father's house so that she is safe. However, Michael cannot find his wife. He leans into the darkened kitchen, and Calo, face in shadows, says that Apollonia wanted to surprise Michael by driving the car herself. As Michael comes to the courtyard, he sees Fabrizio walking towards the gate, suspiciously. Apollonia jovially calls out that she will drive to Michael - and Fabrizio takes off running. Michael realizes what's about to happen, but it's too late. The car is swallowed by a violent, roaring explosion.

In a fortress-like bank building on New York's Wall Street, we see Emilio Barzini over Don Corleone's shoulder. The camera tracks around the conference table as Don Corleone thanks all the heads of the Five Families, before stopping on Don Corleone. His face is full of regret as he wonders how this crime war has gotten so out of control. Corleone asks Tattaglia to call a truce and let things go back to how they were before. Tattaglia accuses Corleone of refusing to share his political connections, but Don Corleone voices his belief that the drug trade is going to ruin their way of life. Zaluchi stands up and speaks in support of Don Corleone. The men all come to an agreement that "the traffic in drugs will be permitted, but controlled".

Corleone pledges that he will not violate the peace, even to attempt a vendetta for Sonny's death. Tattaglia, who is getting emotional, stands - and, in a long shot of the conference room, he and Don Corleone embrace. All the other men around the table burst into applause. That night, after the meeting, Tom Hagen and Don Corleone sit in the backseat of the Don's limo. Don Corleone reveals that at the meeting, he realized that Barzini, not Tattaglia, is responsible for Sonny's murder.

Dissolve to the playground at an elementary school. Kay, now a teacher, leads a group of children and stops short at the sight of a black limousine. Michael steps out. He reveals that he has been back for over a year. Dissolve to a wide shot of Michael and Kay walking along a quiet New England street, with Michael's limo following close behind them. Michael reveals that he is working for his father, whom he believes is like any other powerful man. Michael tells Kay that he wants to make the family business legitimate and asks her to marry him. In an unbroken over-the-shoulder shot, Michael asks Kay for the chance to make good on his promises and build a life with her. His limo pulls up and Kay gets inside with Michael.

Dissolve to the Don's office, a few years later. Don Corleone, looking significantly aged, tends to his fish while Michael and Tessio argue off-camera. Tessio and Clemenza are complaining that Michael will not allow them to retaliate against Barzini's people, who are edging in on the Corleone territory. Clemenza enters into frame and asks for Don Corleone's permission for himself and Tessio to form their own Family. In a wide shot, Michael, as the new Don, informs the two men that they have to wait until the Corleone Family moves to Las Vegas. Michael appoints Carlo, who is seated on the sofa, as his right-hand man because he is from Nevada. Michael will also be removing Tom Hagen as consigliere because he's not a "wartime consigliere". Neither Michael nor the Godfather want Tom to be involved in what is about to happen.

Dissolve to establishing shots of the Las Vegas Strip in 1955. Inside the Flamingo Hotel, Fredo embraces Michael, complimenting the plastic surgery on his jaw. He leads Michael and Tom Hagen into a hotel suite, where there is a polka band and showgirls seated at the dinner table along with Johnny Fontane. Michael is unimpressed and asks Fredo to get rid of the band and the women immediately. The suite empties out and Michael asks Fredo about Moe Greene. Fredo does not face his brother and agrees to call Greene immediately. Meanwhile, Michael tells Johnny Fontane that Don Corleone and the family are proud of him, and now they need a favor. Michael explains that he is attempting to buy Moe Greene's share of the casino so that the Corelone Family will own it fully. He asks Johnny to sign a contract to appear at the casino five times a year, which Johnny easily agrees to.

Moe Greene walks into the suite, sleek and confident, and takes a seat across from Michael, who gets straight down to business. He tells Moe Greene that the Corelone Family will be buying him out of the casino. Greene is incredulous and proclaims that the Corleone family is a fading power and that the Barzini family is chasing them out of New York. Michael coolly accuses Moe of slapping Fredo around in public, but Fredo defends Greene, caught in between the quarreling parties. Greene asserts his power once more and storms out. Fredo shouts at his brother for disrespecting Greene, but Michael stays seated and warns Fredo not to ever "take sides with anyone against the Family again. Ever".


In the beginning of this section, when Don Tomassino has to inform Michael that Sonny has been killed, he says, "young people don't respect anything anymore - times are changing for the worst." Don Tomassino is part of the old guard, like Don Vito Corleone, and Michael, Sollozzo, and Bruno Tattaglia are the new generation of mafia leaders - who do not have the same connection to the Old World and the tenuous code of morality that has allowed business and family life to co-exist.

Apollonia's death is an important turning point for Michael's character. In the first scene of them after their wedding day, Apollonia is driving Michael's car around with her new husband nervously directing her from the passenger seat. For a brief, fleeting moment, Michael and Apollonia are simply a pair of newlyweds enjoying each other's company. However, when Apollonia - the picture of innocence - dies, Michael realizes that he can no longer separate his family's business from his personal life. Apollonia's death is a brutal reminder of the chaos that Michael left in his wake back in New York. He crossed a line when he shot Sollozzo and McCluskey, and he can never turn back. The violence he has wrought will touch every aspect of his life - the tentacles of revenge will reach him wherever he goes.

Additionally, this section offers more parallels between Michael and his father. Right before Don Corleone is shot, he sends Fredo out to get his car because Paulie Gatto has called in sick. Then, when he comes out of the Olive Oil offices, the Don stops to buy some fruit and, for a moment, he is just a kindly patriarch bringing home fruit for his family. Similarly, Michael sends Fabrizio to get his car, and at that moment, he is concerned about getting his wife to safety and mourning the loss of his brother - losing focus on the cycle of vengeance that he has been sucked back into. Both Don Vito and Michael are attacked in these rare moments of vulnerability. These instances are representative of the fact that no matter how hard Michael tries to make the family legitimate, no matter how much Don Vito tries to keep talk of business off the dinner table, the world they are engaged in is a brutal one. Life and death are reduced to forms of currency.

Francis Ford Coppola wrote in his notebook that the meeting of the heads of the five families is "a scene of SUBTEXT; everything everyone says is at the tip of the iceberg: in actuality, they are curious to see how worn or strong the Don is; who seems to be allied with him; where the loyalties and cooperations lie" (Jones 183). The scene itself feels very intimate. It begins with Don Corleone's voice introducing all of the 5 Family heads, as the camera tracks around the table, revealing each one of the Dons. The viewer feels like a part of this meeting, with Don Corleone teaching us how to navigate this world. Because of the general politeness at the meeting, and the presence of food around the table (note the ominous oranges), this could easily be a boardroom. This is the corporate side of the mafia - they appear to be no different from politicians or bankers.

The meeting itself contains language that one would hear in any corporate conference room. These are businessmen, circling their wagons, looking for a way to maintain their way of life and preserve their sources of income. As Don Corleone says, "Times have changed - it's not like the old days where we can do anything we want". However, the subtext of Corleone's statement reveals his hidden ruthlessness. Don Corleone is giving a warning to the other men, letting them know that there will be consequences if they overstep their boundaries. Just because there is a new guard coming into the business does not mean the rules have changed. Later, in the car, Tom Hagen asks the Don about the way forward, having taken the meeting entirely at face value. Don Corleone, though, was able to see through the niceties and handshakes in order to discover the identity of Sonny's killer - Barzini - a piece of information that he will use strategically. This is the difference between Tom Hagen and the Corleones - Hagen is not as savvy about Business because he himself does not possess the ruthless ambition that Michael and his father do.

In this section, Michael starts to come into his own as the rising Don of the family, indicating the kind of leader he will prove to be. First of all, he presents his desire for legitimacy in the reunion scene between him and Kay. He comes into her idyllic New England world, where she is surrounded by orange leaves and laughing children, to draw her back into his universe. In the tracking shot where Michael and Kay walk down a quiet, residential street, Michael's bodyguards follow them closely in an imposing black limo. This is a microcosmic view of what Kay's life will be from now on - that big black car, Michael's work, will be with them wherever they go.

Later, in Las Vegas, Michael also has a dinner-table-business scene, similar to his father's gathering with the 5 Dons. However, Michael strips away any ritual chitchat, sends away the band and the food, and immediately gets down to business - he makes no effort to hide his claws. He looks straight at Moe Greene and tells him that he is going to buy him out, which of course sends Greene into a frenzy. Greene's reaction is not just angry, though - he clearly feels as though some kind of unspoken code has been violated by this new, power-hungry upstart. He says as he leaves the room, "I made my bones when you were going out with cheerleaders." He has worked long and hard in Las Vegas to get to a point where people no longer treat him disrespectfully, as Fredo emphasizes to Michael. However, Michael is now one of those "young people" who have no respect for anything. He is determined to make the family's business legitimate - but it seems like he will lose his family (and his humanity) in the process.