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In The Godfather Part 1 (I haven't seen Parts 2 or 3 yet, if they're relevant) it's seen that The Corleone family does a lot of "favors" for Johnny Fontane - as was explained early on in the film - and the Wikipedia page

* They got him out of his original contract
* They got him into his desired role in Woltz' movie
* They got him the Academy Award for Best Actor
* They funded his own film studio

I didn't see the last 2 favors in Part 1, but I assume they're in Part 2.

It is shown that Fontane is Vito Corleone's godson - which effectively makes him extended family - and when you're family you get favors "for free" to an extent but these are tall-order favors. We do see Fontane thank Vito by way of a delivery of a bouquet of balloons and flowers - which Vito is dismissive of and instructs his henchmen to dispose of it, which suggests to me that Vito doesn't think highly of Fontane - or at least is ungrateful of this token of appreciation.

Furthermore, in the scene where Fontane asks for his second favor that Vito is clearly disappointed or otherwise annoyed in Fontane's apparent learned helplessness and seems to resent having to undertake his request.

Given this, why does Vito do these favors at all? What is in it for the Corleone family for helping Fontane? They already have enough friends in high-places that pushing Fontane into higher celebrity status wouldn't be worth the potential risk of negative attention that the limelight can bring. I also note that Woltz is very well-placed himself (after all, he has power over Fontane), it makes more sense to me for the Corleones to get-friendly with Woltz than to intimidate him instead - even if it means letting Fontane down this one time.

I note that it is possible that the family is getting a cut from Fontane's income, which is presumably substantial, but this never touched-upon in the film - and if they were it would be insignificant compared to what the rest of their criminal enterprise brings in.

It's shown at the start that Vito works on, at least, a favors-for-favors basis, that if he does something for you he will call in the favor from you at an unspecified point in the future - but we never see that happen with Fontane.

So what's in it for the Corleones to help Fontane?

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So what's in it for the Corleones to help Fontane?

Almost nothing...but in the case of Johnny Fontane it's not business related...it's family...not "Family".

Fontane is Vito's actual godson..as Hagen explains

“I don’t think you understand the situation. Mr. Corleone is Johnny Fontane’s Godfather. That is a very close, a very sacred religious relationship.” Woltz bowed his head in respect at this reference to religion. Hagen went on. “Italians have a little joke, that the world is so hard a man must have two fathers to look after him, and that’s why they have god-fathers. Since Johnny’s father died, Mr. Corleone feels his responsibility even more deeply."

The Godfather - Mario Puzo


It makes more sense to me for the Corleones to get-friendly with Woltz than to intimidate him instead.

They try..but Woltz is completely unreasonable for petty (at least in the Hagen's & the Godfather's eyes) reasons..

For the first time, Woltz succeeded in astounding Hagen. He found it inconceivable that a grown man of substance would let such trivialities affect his judgment in an affair of business, and one of such importance. In Hagen’s world, the Corleones’ world, the physical beauty, the sexual power of women, carried not the slightest weight in worldly matters. It was a private affair, except, of course, in matters of marriage and family disgrace.


I note that it is possible that the family is getting a cut from Fontane's income, which is presumably substantial, but this never touched-upon in the film - and if they were it would be insignificant compared to what the rest of their criminal enterprise brings in.

True, but recall that the long-range plan of Vito (and by extension Michael) is for the Corleone Family to become completely legitimate and moving into movie creation (especially when you control all aspects of production) has the potential to be extrememly profitable.


It's shown at the start that Vito works on, at least, a favors-for-favors basis, that if he does something for you he will call in the favor from you at an unspecified point in the future - but we never see that happen with Fontane

Not in the movie..no. But in the novel, and recall that Johnny is family, he "repays" Vito (other than the above) by reconciling with his wife and helping another member of the Corleone extended "family" Nino Valenti.

Later on he extends influence in the movie and entertainment industries on behalf of the Corleones although that's not actually stated in the base novel

Michael asks Johnny to help establish the casino's entertainment offerings..albeit in the Don's name.

    Johnny, the Don wants you to help
    us get started.  We figure
    entertainment will be the big
    factor in drawing gamblers.  We
    hope you'll sign a contract to
    appear five times a year for maybe
    a week long engagement.
    We hope your friends in the movies
    will do the same.  We count on you
    to convince them.

The Godfather Script Source

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Three quarters into the movie when Michael visits las Vegas he asks Johnny if he will perform at one of the Corleme owned hotels 4 times a year , Johnny didn't look too excited about this but agrees after thinking about Vito. Michael also asks if Johnny can persuade his Hollywood pals to perform to. So that is how the Godfather called in his favours.

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For the favor, They got him to perform in Vegas in the hotels they plan to take from Moe Green when he's out of the way, Michael ask him if he could perform at the hotel a couple of times a year and ask his celebrity friends to do the same too!

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This is best explained in the books.

As others have said, Johnny is Vito's godson as such Vito will help him in any way he can.

However;

After the Woltz horse head in the bed incident Vito wonders how a weak man such as Woltz is able to become so rich and powerful in the movie business. He realizes that if Woltz can do so well, the family can as well. With Fontane now a big star Vito provides funding for Fontane to make motion pictures with the profits going back to the Family. This turns out to be very lucrative. Also as you see in the movie Michael calls on Fontane to provide movie stars to perform in Vegas.

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