Finally, I have solved a mystery. I know I allegedly do it on the page all the time, but I have the advantage of making those up.
Perhaps others have solved this mystery, too. I deliberately did NOT Google or do any Internet-based research when I decided to solve my mystery. So if I am echoing something that someone else figured out long ago – my apologies, but know I’m no plagiarist.
But I think I finally know why the Rosato brothers invoke Michael Corleone’s name (“Michael Corleone says hello”)* when they attempt to kill Frankie Pentangeli in The Godfather Part II.
Michael, as the viewer knows, did not ask the Rosato brothers to kill Pentangeli, although he did ask Pentangeli to make nice with the Rosato brothers. Hyman Roth asked the Rosato brothers to kill Penangeli. It’s a complicated dance: Michael knows that Roth is his enemy, that Roth almost certainly tried to have him killed once, but he’s allowing Roth to believe that he believes that Pentangeli orchestrated the hit because he wants to figure out what Roth is up to. Keep your friends close, etc.
Frankie Pentageli — shades of Luca Brasi — is attacked in a bar and almost garroted. But a cop interrupts and Pentangeli survives. Pentageli thinks Michael is behind his attempted murder – “Michael Corleone says hello” — and agrees to testify against Michael at a congressional hearing because the feds have a lot of stuff on Pentageli. He’s assured that he probably won’t have to testify, but that’s another plot thread.
Why does the assassin bother telling Pentangeli who wants him dead? Why does he say anything? After all, they’re planning to kill him, not leave him alive to testify before Congress against the man who didn’t really want him dead. For years, I thought the only defense for the Rosato brothers invoking Michael’s name at the moment of the attempted hit was plot contrivance.
Unless, I decided during a recent AMC screening. . . . Hyman Roth told the Rosato brothers that Michael wanted Pentangeli dead. Why? Because Roth had to tell them something. It’s a high-level hit that could lead to a war – but not if Michael has approved it. Roth certainly couldn’t say, “Please kill Frankie Pentangeli because the longer he’s alive, the greater the possibility that Michael finds out that he didn’t attempt the hit on him in Nevada, and I did, with the help of Junior Soprano**.” He needs to get rid of Frank without revealing his own disloyalty. The fewer people that know what he’s up to, the better. Roth wouldn’t take the Rosato brothers into his confidence. He’s using the Pentangeli-Rosato feud to his advantage.
(And why does Roth want Michael dead? I’m still confused about that. The attempted hit takes place before the unpleasantness in Cuba. He swears that he wouldn’t attempt to avenge the death of Moe Green, and I sorta believe him. So is he trying to muscle Michael out of Cuba? Or is he really pissed about Moe Green?)
Still, the Rosato brothers could have done their work silently. That they credit Michael is a little contrived, but it’s not the flaw that I’ve worried about for YEARS, literally.
And it only took about fifteen, twenty viewings of the film to figure it out.
By the way, I recently submitted this blog to the <a href=”http://www.genderanalyzer.com/ “>gender analyzer</a>and it determined that there’s an 87 percent chance it’s written by a man. I don’t think this entry is going to up my femininity, blog-wise.
*I did use YouTube to verify my memory of this scene.
**I am blanking on the name of the character and the actor who plays Roth’s right-hand man. Johnny something? Dominic Chia – something? But those are the rules around here. No Googling until after I post, then I can correct myself in the comments thread.
***Okay, theoretically, Michael could be lying to EVERYONE in GII and he did seek the hit after asking Pentangeli to meet with the Rosato brothers, but I don’t think Michael’s “rot” – a term drawn from Pauline Kael’s insightful review of GII – is that far advanced. That comes with the murder of Fredo. And, no, no spoiler alert. It’s 2008. If you don’t know that Fredo dies, you are too young to be reading this blog.