Last update at 17 · 07 · by milo‧‧‧ One of 808
Don Vito Corleone professed no regrets over his life of crime, save that it wasn’t quite safe enough to keep all three of his sons from being dragged into it. Most tragic was Michael, the son who viewed most like himself: strong of character, highly intelligent, perceptive, self-controlled, possessing the force of will needed to lead men, and the same unwillingness to be controlled by others. Vito had hoped that, with the firm foundation he could provide, that Michael could become a powerful man in the legitimate world, and although he pretended otherwise, Michael’s stubborn refusal to bow to his’s father’s wishes secretly made Vito proud.
Thus, Vito viewed Michael’s assassination of Sollozzo and McClusky as a tragedy and a personal failing.
Vito Corleone prides himself on being careful and reasonable, but does not completely forsake violence. In 1945, when his godson, singer Johnny Fontane, wants to be released from his contract with a bandleader, Vito offers to buy him out, but the bandleader refuses. Vito then threatens to kill the bandleader unless he releases Fontane for a much smaller sum. Later, when movie mogul Jack Woltz refuses to cast Fontane in a film role that could rejuvenate his waning career, Vito’s men kill Woltz’s champion racehorse and place the severed head in Woltz’s bed as he sleeps.
―Vito Corleone to Michael Corleone
“I knew that Santino was going to have to go through all this. And Fredo – well… Fredo was well… But I never… I never wanted this for you. I work my whole life, I don’t apologize, to take care of my family. And I refused – to be a fool – dancing on the string, held by all those bigshots. I don’t apologize, that’s my life ,but I thought that when it was your time that you would be the one to hold the strings. Senator Corleone. Governor – Corleone, or something…”
Don Vito was a firm believer in the long-term benefits of courtesy, goodwill, and maintaining the reputation of a fatherly, benevolent benefactor. Vito took pains to ensure that those loyal to him felt valued and important because of their loyalty, not merely grunts to be used. Vito never liked to use violence or threats when words and negotiations would suffice. Although he was a millionaire with powerful connections and hundreds of dangerous men under his command, Vito insisted on maintaining an outwardly humble appearance, almost never lording his wealth and power over people who came to him for help, always reassuring and comforting people that they had made the right choice, that they shouldn’t be ashamed or afraid.
Vito viewed egomaniacs who humiliated those beneath them out of a need to feel powerful as stupid, insecure, and recklessly creating enemies everywhere. Although he could be cold with those who had offended him, Vito never lost his temper or gave into his passions, having seen firsthand how that had gotten his father and brother killed, and was dismayed that Sonny has acquired the same temper problems.
This had multiple effects: it made his enemies vastly underestimate what he was capable of, but it also made business easier. Those he did business with were less likely to turn on him or go to the police. Having so many favors owed to him from so many different people in so many different walks of life meant that the Corleone family would always have some advantage in any situation. Vito’s approach meant that those he patronized would willingly repay him out of a sense of gratitude and friendship, rather than view him as some cold creditor looking to reclaim a debt. It also helped his family maintain a low profile in the eyes of the law and the public, which Vito deeply prioritized.