Was Frank Sinatra Exposed in the Godfather?

Mario Puzo’s novel The Godfather is arguably one of the best crime novels ever written. When the book was released in 1969, it received wide acclaim worldwide, but not everyone was a fan of it. Frank Sinatra, one of the greatest singers of all time, was not pleased. You’re probably wondering what could a musical legend and a world-known crime movie possibly have in common? The connection between the two is staggering, and you’ll be surprised to hear that one of the main characters from the cult movie was actually based on the legendary singer. The story is quite compelling, so stay tuned!

Similarities Between Sinatra and Fontane 

Like Sinatra, Fontane was a local boy who made good by being rescued from an unfair contract by a “friend” with criminal connections. And like Fontane, Sinatra’s acting career was resurrected by his role in a war film called From Here to Eternity. However, Sinatra didn’t have to resort to such a drastic measure like putting a horse’s head into a studio executive’s bed. 

Sinatra’s connections to the underworld are undeniable. FBI legend, J.Edgar Hoover, has openly accused Sinatra of having a “hoodlum complex”. He (Sinatra) did certainly enjoy playing the tough guy, and his buddies provided the muscle needed for the role. 

Both Fontane and Sinatra have suffered serious vocal injuries in their careers. With each passing year, Sinatra’s career plummeted further, while Fontane’s career was also on a downside later on. 

No one ever dared to accuse Sinatra of racketeering, but he was a part of a muzzle-sniffing mob of the most devoted stripe. And, in spite of his dislike of the movie (and the novel), he was actually considered for the role of Vito Corleone and was on a verge to sign a contract with Coppola.

Were the Similarities Just a Coincidence?

In the book, Johnny Fontane’s story culminates with him winning an Oscar, but the film doesn’t include this scene, or any other scene after his wedding. From the drastic change of portrayal to the elimination of any further information about Fontane, several logical conclusions can be drawn. 

Sinatra obviously had a connection with the Mafia and it’s possible that he didn’t want his public image to be hurt by criminal allegations. And because he was very influential in Hollywood at the time the film was made, he could have influenced Coppola to minimize the usage of Fontane’s character because of its similarity to the Sinatra itself. This way, no one could connect the dots and realize the striking similarities between them. 

However, we won’t exclude the possibility that the commonalities between Sinatra and Fontane were just a series of bizarre coincidences. Perhaps Coppola simply wanted to focus more on the life and times of the Corleone family, rather than providing more information about the pop singer. 

While it has never been proven that Sinatra’s comeback had anything to do with his underground connections, one cannot doubt in its possibility. Sinatra was known to have connections with notorious mobsters across the globe, and he was closely monitored by the FBI until his death. In fact, it even went so far as to FBI amassing over 1200 pages on him. 

As you can see, Sinatra and Fontane share a lot of similarities. Were these commonalities just a series of extremely strange coincidences or was there much more to it? Was Puzo actually trying to expose “the real Sinatra” by creating Johnny Fontane to the world that showed nothing but love for him? 

According to Puzo, the whole story behind the Godfather was purely fictional, but we’ll never know that for sure.