Sonny Corleone: Dressed Down for a Beat-Down

Sonny Corleone (James Caan) pummels Carlo Rizzi (Gianni Russo) in The Godfather (1972)

Sonny Corleone (James Caan) pummels Carlo Rizzi (Gianni Russo) in The Godfather (1972)

Vitals

James Caan as Santino “Sonny” Corleone, hot-headed mob chief

New York City, Summer 1948

Film: The Godfather
Release Date: March 15, 1972
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Costume Designer: Anna Hill Johnstone

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

For this midsummer #MafiaMonday, BAMF Style is taking a look at this much-requested outfit from Sonny Corleone’s street takedown of his abusive brother-in-law Carlo Rossi (Gianni Russo).

It’s a hot June day in New York City. Carlo and his cronies are all out on the street, loafing around, listening to the radio, and not expecting much from their day… until a black sedan squeals to a stop, and out charges Sonny Corleone, charging after Carlo with designs on at least ruining the latter’s orange two-tone leisure suit.

What’d He Wear?

We first catch up with Sonny as he leaves an assignation with his comare, half-dressed in the waistcoat and trousers of a gray wool suit with a subtle windowpane check. Due to the weather and the casual nature of the situation, he doesn’t bother with wearing the jacket or even buttoning up the waistcoat.

The single-breasted waistcoat (or vest, as some of we Amerigans call it) has a six-button front and two welted pockets at the hip level. The back is gray satin with a wide adjustable cinch-strap.

"You touch my sister again... I'll kill you."

“You touch my sister again… I’ll kill you.”

Sonny wears a light blue satin-striped silk shirt that appears to be the same shirt he wears for the iconic later scene when he is gunned down at the causeway. He wears only the top button of his shirt undone, covering up his white ribbed cotton sleeveless undershirt and the gold Catholic cross that we know he wears on a gold necklace.

The shirt has a large point collar, per 1940s fashions, a front placket with the two top smoke-blue plastic buttons undone at the top, a breast pocket monogrammed with “SC” in navy stitching, and double (French) cuffs fastened with round gold links.

Sonny's solution for most issues seems to be to bite a hand... whether his own or someone else's.

Sonny’s solution for most issues seems to be to bite a hand… whether his own or someone else’s.

Sonny’s tie is abstractly striped in dark navy, blue, cornflower blue, orange, and cream in an “uphill” direction.

The high-waisted trousers have double reverse pleats and tall belt loops at the top, though these go unused as Sonny wears suspenders (braces) in lieu of a belt. The trousers have vertical side pockets, two jetted back pockets that each close through a button, and turn-ups (cuffs) on the bottoms.

A wild James Caan stalks his prey...

A wild James Caan stalks his prey…

Sonny makes a snappy impression for his beatdown with a pair of black-and-white leather oxfords, worn with black socks. These spectator shoes have white vamps, a black toe cap, black lace panels with five eyelets for its black laces, and black heels.

Another job well done. Back to base, Sonny!

Another job well done. Back to base, Sonny!

Since Sonny didn’t have time to grab a pair of brass knuckles, he just has to hope that his gold pinky ring with its single inset diamond is solid enough to do some damage when he connects with Carlo’s jaw (…or doesn’t, as James Caan’s pulled punch has been spotted by many a Godfather fan.)

Only the yellow gold case of Sonny’s tank watch can be seen as he’s laying into Carlo, but it is almost definitely the same watch with the gold bracelet that he wears throughout The Godfather.

SONNY

How to Get the Look

James Caan as Sonny Corleone in The Godfather (1972)

James Caan as Sonny Corleone in The Godfather (1972)

Though it’s an “incomplete” look with the missing jacket, unbuttoned waistcoat, and untied tie, Sonny Corleone’s outfit when he beat up Carlo has proven to be a fan favorite.

  • Gray windowpane check wool suit:
    • Single-breasted 6-button waistcoat with welted hip pockets, gray satin silk back, and adjustable back strap
    • Double reverse-pleated high-rise trousers with belt loops, straight/on-seam side pockets, jetted button-through back pockets, and turn-ups/cuffs
  • Light blue satin-striped shirt with large point collar, front placket, double/French cuffs, and monogrammed breast pocket
    • Large flat gold round cuff links
  • Navy blue suspenders/braces
  • Black-and-white calf leather 5-eyelet spectator oxfords
  • Black socks
  • White ribbed sleeveless undershirt
  • Gold square-cased tank watch on gold bracelet
  • Gold pinky ring with inset diamond
  • Gold necklace with a large plain cross pendant

Do Yourself a Favor and…

Check out The Godfather Collection on Blu-Ray.

The Quote

What’s the matter with you, huh? What am I going to do? Am I gonna make that baby an orphan before he’s born?

Footnote

Although he only wore it for this one scene, this memorable and colorful outfit was used as Sonny Corleone’s default costume in the 2006 video game released by Electronic Arts.

The video game's Sonny meets his grisly end, wearing not the gray plaid double-breasted suit he wore for that scene in the movie but instead the vest, trousers, and tie from when he beat up Carlo.

The video game’s Sonny meets his grisly end, wearing not the gray plaid double-breasted suit he wore for that scene in the movie but instead the vest, trousers, and tie from when he beat up Carlo.

James Caan joined fellow cast members Robert Duvall and Abe Vigoda as some of the original actors who lent their voices and likenesses to the game, and Caan was actually nominated for Best Supporting Male Performance at the 2006 Spike Video Game Awards, though he lost to James Gandolfini in the similarly themed game The Sopranos: Road to Respect.

3 comments

    • luckystrike721

      You’re correct that the quintessential leisure suit was indeed a product of the ’70s, and Carlo’s outfit differs from that.

      However, casual garments like what Carlo wears here were often marketed during the postwar years as a “leisure coat” or “Hollywood jacket”. With his matching trousers, I think we’re seeing the origins of the leisure suit that brightly shone during the disco era!

      Like

  1. Shaiaz Shah

    Sir , l have always been curious about the shirt Material . How can one be sure that it is silk and not a high twist cotton with Satin Stripes ?

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.