Vito Andolini Corleone (December 7, 1891 - August, 1955) is a fictional character in Mario Puzo's novel The Godfather(Film), as well as Francis Ford Coppola's trilogy of films based on it.
In the first film, Don Vito Corleone was portrayed by Marlon Brando. He was portrayed as a younger man in The Godfather Part II by Robert De Niro. Both performances won Academy Awards, making the Don the only person, real or imaginary, to be the subject of two Oscar-winning performances. Though comprised of characteristics of many gangsters, the Vito Corleone character is based largely of that of Frank Costello. Costello had a very raspy voice due to throat surgery he received in his youth, also, Vito Corleone is known to have politicians and judges in his pocket, while Frank Costello was nicknamed "The Prime Minister of the Underworld" due to his controlling the judges and politicians of New York., and finally, the Corleones' biggest racket is gambling, Costello, also was big in gambling, having illegal slot machines placed all over the country, as well as having interests in several Las Vegas casinos.
In Puzo's novel, Vito is the head of the Corleone crime family, one of the most powerful Mafia families in New York if not the country. He is depicted as an ambitious Italian immigrant who moves to Hell's Kitchen and builds a mafia empire, yet retains (and strictly adheres to) his own personal code of honor. His youngest son, Michael Corleone, becomes the Don upon his death at the end of the novel. He has two other sons, Santino "Sonny" Corleone and Fredo Corleone, and a daughter, Connie Corleone, all of whom play major roles in the story. He also informally adopted another son, Tom Hagen, who grew up to become the Family's consigliere.
In the chronology of the Godfather saga, Vito first appears in 1901 as a young boy in the small Sicilian town of Corleone. As documented in the novel (and in Godfather Part II), his father, Antonio Andolini, is murdered by a Sicilian mob boss named 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 Andolinis 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 for forgiveness, but 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 murdered 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. In the novel, he deliberately changes his name to Corleone, after his home town. The movie, however, plays that he is renamed "Vito Corleone" because the immigration workers at Ellis Island mistake "Andolini" for his middle name and the name of his town for his last name. According to The Godfather: Part II, he later adopted the middle name "Andolini" to acknowledge his heritage, though this could have been done posthumously by his family.
 Adopted by the Abbandando family
Corleone is later adopted by the Abbandando family in New York City's Hell's Kitchen, Manhattan, and he befriends their son, Genco, who becomes like a brother to him. Corleone begins making an honest living at Abbandando's grocery store on Ninth Avenue, but loses the job, as an intimidated Abbandando is forced to employ the nephew of Don Fanucci, a blackhander and the local neighborhood padrone.
Corleone 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 1919, he commits his first murder, killing Fanucci, who had tried to extort money from him. Corleone 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 drowns out the noise from the gunshots.
As a young man, Corleone starts an olive oil business, Genco Pura (known as simply Genco Olive Oil in the films) 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 and is reunited with his mother, who survived despite being gunned down by Ciccio's men. 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 and brother.
By the early 1930's, Vito Corleone has organized his illegal operations as the Corleone crime family. Genco Abbandando becomes his consigliere, or advisor, with Clemenza and Tessio as caporegimes. Later, his son Sonny becomes a capo as well, and eventually his underboss. While he oversees a business founded on gambling, bootlegging, and union corruption, he is known as a kind, generous man who lives by a strict moral code of loyalty to friends and, above all, family. At the same time, he is known as a traditionalist who demands respect commensurate with his status. Even his three closest friends—Genco, Pete and Sal—never call him "Vito," but either "Godfather" or "Don Corleone." In both the book and the first scene of the first Godfather, he chastises his old friend, undertaker Bonasera, for not coming to him first after his daughter is beaten up instead of going to the police. Although he has a reputation for ruthlessness, he disagrees with many of the vicious crimes carried out by gangs and so seeks to control crime in New York by either consuming or eliminating rival gangs.
At the mid stage of his mafia career, he met Hyman Roth (based on real life Jewish mobster Meyer Lansky) who wanted help from him. Vito had a lot of trucks that were driven all across America for his olive oil distribution purpose. Roth wanted to use some spaces in each trucks to transport his smuggling goods all over the America. Vito accepted this offer and became a friend to Roth. But later, Frank Pentangeli (an ex-Clemenza soldier later head of the Clemenza Family, succeeding Peter Clemenza) stated this years later to Vito's son Michael that, "Your father did business with Hyman Roth, your father respected Hyman Roth. But your father never trusted Hyman Roth." This implies that Jewish mobsters were never trusted by Italian or Irish Irish mob bosses.
In 1945, Corleone is nearly assassinated when he refuses the request of Virgil Sollozzo to invest in a heroin operation and use his political contacts for the operation's protection.
Prior to the assassination, Vito Corleone leaves his office in the Genco Pura Olive Oil warehouse. He is supposed to be driven back to his Long Beach home by his bodyguard, a Clemenza's regime man Paulie Gatto along with his son Fredo. When the Don find that Paulie is not there, Fredo lets him know that Paulie has bunked his duty of that day due to a cold. The Don crosses the street to buy oranges with other fruits from an Asian hawker. At that time, three Solozzo's hitmen from two sides of the street appear with their guns drawn. Realizing the situation, the Don tries to sprint back to his Alfa Romeo but he is shot five times in his thighs and arms. While these events are taking place, Fredo sits inside the car. He gets out of the car to try to help his father, but by the time he can get out of the car the attackers are gone. Fredo is stunned in astonishment and horror, and sits down on the curb, sobbing loudly.
The assassination attempt is simultaneous to other multi-directional attacks to the family. The Don's personal hitman and fanatically loyal Luca Brasi is killed by Bruno Tattaglia and Solozzo while trying to infiltrate the rival Tattaglia Family. Consigliere and Don's adopted son Tom Hagen is kidnapped by Solozzo himself after the attack on the don. Informing Hagen of the Don's presumed death, Solozzo proposes a deal to Hagen and advises him to convince Sonny, the acting don of the family. During the meeting Solozzo is informed that the attempt was a failure and the Don has survived the assassination attempt. Solozzo is furious and frustrated, and releases Tom, warning him that it's "bad luck for you (him) if you don't make that deal!"
There is a second attempt on the Don two days after the first one. This time, Solozzo bought the help of New York Police Captain McCluskey. The don's cabin at the French Hospital was being heavily armed guarded by Tessio's regime and other hired private detectives. All of a sudden on the day of the second attempt, McCluskey locked up all of Tessio's men at the hospital and sent all private guards away, leaving the don endangered. However, unfortunately for Solozzo, Michael came to see his father just minutes before 10 o'clock that night, the time which Solozzo and McCluskey want to assassinate the don. Minutes later Michael was accompanied by another unexpected visitor, Enzo the baker, son-in-law of the Don's childhood friend Nazorine. The two realised the situation immediately and took position in front of the Hospital complex. Solozzo's second wave of hitmen thought them to be guards of the family still havn't been put away by McCluskey. At this time, McCluskey rushed to the spot outragedly. He put a strong poke at Michael's face as a result of a straight forward argument and wanted to lock Michael up. Don survived that second attempt.
Injuries from the attack made the Don unable to join the action for next three years, where Sonny was the acting don. These consecutive attempts sent shock waves to every corner of American mafia and fired a chain of event, like, Paulie Gatto was found to be traitor to be under Solozzo's payroll to help the killing of the don and later was killed by Rocco Lampone, another of Clemenza's regime. Tessio's men killed the underboss of the Tattaglia Family and Philip Tattaglia's eldest son Bruno. This also forced Michael to shoot Solozzo and McCluskey in an Italian restaurant at Bronx and then escape to Sicily. The assassination of Sonny and the attempts to kill Michael's newly wedded wife Apollonia in Sicily were also important aftermaths of the attempt on the don.
The assassination of Sonny provoked the Don to return to full command of the family. He brought back Michael from Sicily by making peace with other families. Spies and private eyes of the other families closely observed Sonny's funeral and sent reports to their heads that the Don has fully recovered and was ready to retake control of the Corleone family. As Don's sickbed allowed Corleone rivals to create pressure on some of family's business interests and Corleone family was being chased in garment sector and labor union matters, rival families now started reconsidering their moves.
After Sonny's funeral and other formalities, Don ordered Tom Hagen to contact Emilio Barzini in order to arrange a meeting of heads of all families of America. The novel says that Al Capone was brought into consideration to be invited to the meeting but other dons insisted against it, calling Capone as the blacksheep of mafia. At the will of Don Corleone and he summoned the Bocchicchio clan for intra mafia negotiation, Barzini contacted all the dons and arranged this meeting, which took place in the board room of a local American bank at Manhattan, which's President was a close friend and under debt of Don Corleone.
In that meeting, Don declared in front of all that he is dismissing all retrospective acts of due vengeance to his son's death. He also said a light yes to the drug operations although he mentioned he never believed in drugs. He straight forwardly stated that he has to accept this for 'selfish reasons', that he must bring back his son Michael from his exile in Sicily.
In this part he said,
“But let me say this. I am a superstitious man, a ridiculous failing but I must confess it here. And so if some unlucky accident should befall my youngest son, if some police officer should accidentally shoot him, if he should hang himself while in his jail cell, if new witnesses appear to testify to his guilt, my superstition will make me feel that it was the result of the ill will still borne me by some people here. Let me go further. If my son is struck by a bolt of lightning I will blame some of the people here. If his plane show fall into the sea or his ship sink beneath the waves of the ocean, if he should catch a mortal fever, if his automobile should be struck by a train, such is my superstition that I would blame the ill will felt by people here." 
After the return of Michael from Sicily, Don Corleone installed him in the family business as a learner associate. Michael learned things from his father for more than a year. After Michael's marriage with earlier girlfriend Kay Adams, Don went to a semi-retirement and Michael became the acting head of the family. Since then, the don acted as a consigliere to Michael and sent the ex-consigliere Tom Hagen to Las Vegas as family's lawyer there. To mention, Don settled it that after his death the family would move to Las Vegas selling all of the family business interests in New York. Things may turn bad and violent which Don didn't want to be participated by Tom Hagen, so he sent him out of it to Las Vegas to prepare the future ground for the family. The Don also approved the release of his longest serving friends and caporegimes Peter 'Pete' Clemenza and Salvatore 'Sal' Tessio from the Corleone Family to create their own families in New York. Michael's bodyguard Albert 'Al' Neri and Rocco Lampone were promoted and chosen to be the future caporegimes of the family. Willi Cicci was another option to this consideration but he allowed to go with the new Clemenza Crime Family.
At the end of the novel and in the movie, he dies of a heart attack while playing with his grandson Anthony in his garden. His last words in the novel are, "Life is so beautiful." The funeral of Vito Corleone was royal where all of the five families were invited. All five families sent their Dons, consiglieries and caporegimes to attend the funeral.
Vito Corleone told Michael some days before his death that the Barzini Family will approach him for a meeting after his death to 'fix up things'. In that meeting Michael will be assassinated. The Don told Michael that whoever inside the family will carry the meeting offer to him, would assure his safety and ultimately would be the traitor to have him killed. Amid the funeral, the Don's longtime friend and most trusted soldier operating in Brooklyn, Salvatore 'Sal' Tessio, came to Michael saying Barzinis wanted a meeting which would take place in Tessio's 'ground' as Tessio would arrange 'security'. The Don's predictions came true and guided Michael to detect Tessio's treachery. Two-three days later, Willi Cicci along with some other of button from Clemenza's regime captured Tessio after which he was killed. Al Neri was chosen to replace Tessio in the family and takeover his Brooklyn territory.