Don Vito Corleone
"I want you to see what he's got under his fingernails." Don Vito to Luca Brasi
Vito Andolini was born in the small town of Corleone in 1891. His father, Antonio Andolini, was murdered by the local Mafia boss, Don Ciccio, because he refused to pay tribute to him. His older brother, Paolo, swears revenge, but is himself murdered soon after. Eventually, Ciccio’s henchmen come to the residence of the Andolini’s to take Vito away and have him killed. Desperate, Signora Andolini takes her son to see the mafia chieftain herself. When Vito’s mother goes to see Don Ciccio, she begs him to spare Vito. However, Ciccio refuses, reasoning that Vito would also seek revenge as an adult. Upon Ciccio’s refusal, Signora Andolini puts a knife to his throat, allowing her son to escape, but is then shot dead by Ciccio’s guards. Later that night, he is smuggled away, fleeing Sicily to seek refuge in America on a cargo ship full of immigrants. He deliberately changes his name to Corleone, after his home town.
Vito is later adopted by the Abbandando family in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, and he befriends their son, Genco, who becomes like a brother to him. Vito begins making an honest living at Abbandando’s grocery store on Ninth Avenue, but loses the job, as an intimidated Abbandando is forced to fire Vito to make room for the nephew of Don Fanucci, a blackhander and the local neighborhood padrone.
He soon learns to survive and prosper through petty crime and performing favors in return for loyalty. During this time, he also befriends two other low-level hoods, Peter Clemenza and Salvatore Tessio. In 1921, he commits his first murder, killing Fanucci, who had tried to extort money from him. Vito chooses the day of a major festival to spy on Fanucci from the rooftops as Fanucci goes home, and surprises him at the door to his apartment. He shoots Fanucci three times, as the din from the festival and the towel he had wrapped around the gun as a makeshift silencer drowns out the noise from the gunshots.
As a young man, Vito starts an olive oil business, Genco Pura with his friend Genco Abbandando. The company eventually becomes the biggest olive oil importer in the nation. Over the years he uses it as a legal front for his organized crime syndicate, while amassing a fortune with his illegal operations. In 1925, he returns to Sicily for the first time since leaving 24 years earlier. He and his partner, Don Tommasino, then set up a meeting with the aging Don Ciccio, where he kills him by carving his stomach open, thus avenging his murdered father, mother and brother.