It seems like the family in The Godfather is quite suspicious of Clemenza's motives. Why?

Among other examples:

From IMDB:

In the book, the Corleones have a contact at the phone company that gives them a log of calls by Paulie and Clemenza (Richard S. Castellano), who was also a suspect.

From Tom Hagen:

I always thought it would be Clemenza [to sell out Michael]

In a deleted scene, from Sonny:

I don't want to use Clemenza's men right now

Who's head do we blow up, Clemenza's or Paulie's?

  • Having not seen it for some time, I'm not sure and better ask, are you speaking about the first or second part (or both)?
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Mar 1, 2014 at 13:26
  • 1
    original Godfather. Clemenza's dead in the second one. Mar 1, 2014 at 15:55

1 Answer 1


I think there are a few reasons for this, drawing from both the movies and the books.

Firstly, Clemenza was known to be an extremely good caporegime and mentor. A quick check on the Godfather wikipedia points out that FIVE future capos were started in his regime - Sonny, Lampone, Pentangeli, Ritchie Nobilio and Joey Zasa. This shows that he has the ability to spot and nurture the talent needed to start a family.

Furthermore, in the scene when Michael asks Tessio and Clemenza to be patient and trust him now that Vito is turning all responsibilities over to him, Clemenza is the one who asks Vito Corleone for permission for he and Tessio to start their own family, strongly suggesting that while neither of them believed Michael was an appropriate choice for don, he was the one prepared to speak out about it. Another fact is that in the books Clemenza is frequently shown to be quite brutal in his dealings (whereas in the film, although brutal, he is also given an almost jovial "big-guy" character).

However, whilst Tom took all this as being evidence that Clemenza would be more likely to rat Michael out and betray the family, Michael recognised it as loyalty and dedication to Corleone family (coupled with a lack of intelligence to look for opportunities elsewhere, beyond his own family). Tessio on the other hand masks his emotions throughout the entire don-changeover-process and Michael knew he had the intelligence, cunning and ability to betray the family, which is what led him to suspect Tessio.

Finally, if at all interested, Clemenza was meant to return in Godfather II, but the actor, Richard Castellano asked for too much money (he was actually the highest paid actor in the first film!). I've also heard he demanded control over all his lines, although I've not found a source to substantiate that. That's why he never returned.

In the books, he got his own family and even acted as a consigliere at one point (albeit in a rather temporary capacity) for Michael. He died of a heart attack whilst cooking dinner, although it is frequently alluded to that he may have been assassinated by the Rosato Brothers.

  • I actually read that Castellano had lost around 100 pounds and didn't want to have to gain it back to be "Fat Clemenza" again. Mar 2, 2014 at 1:28
  • I hadn't heard that one, but it's an interesting one if it's true! I was only born in 1987, so I don't know much about the actor. I still can't believe he was the highest earning from the first film! Mar 2, 2014 at 14:20
  • This video with FFC confirms that Castellano wanted control of his own lines, in particular, to have his girlfriend write them. youtube.com/watch?v=TrWRisfDHK4
    – dpjanes
    Aug 6, 2017 at 22:08

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