How did Michael Corleone, Dartmouth class of 1949 and scion of the fictional crime family, end up in Hanover? (Did an admissions officer find a horsehead in his bed?)
Future scholars may uncover the answer thanks to Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner. Rauner, Dartmouth class of 1978, gave the special collections library that bears his name, his collection of Godfather author Mario Puzo’s papers.
Godfather protagonist and Mafia boss Michael Corleone is portrayed in the book and films as a Dartmouth graduate, and Hanover and Dartmouth appear in many of Puzo’s writings—a puzzling detail, considering Puzo himself was not an alumnus.
Hazel-Dawn Dumpert, who curated a library exhibit around the papers, found a clue in The Fortunate Pilgrim, Puzo’s fictionalized memoir. “One of the characters gets sent to live in New Hampshire via the Fresh Air Fund”—a nonprofit that helps New York City children spend summer vacations in the country. “I thought, I bet he was a Fresh Air Fund kid.”
Dumpert confirmed that Puzo—the son of Italian immigrants who grew up in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of New York City in the 1920s—did, in fact, spend summers in New Hampshire through the Fresh Air Fund. Hanover seems a plausible guess.
“I’m dying to know who his host family was. My guess is that there might still be some people who at least knew the family,” Dumpert says.
Selections from the papers will be on display from April 5 to June 30 in the Berry Main Street lobby of Baker-Berry Library. And in celebration of the gift, the Hopkins Center for the Arts will be screening The Godfather at 4 p.m. Saturday, May 12, in Loew Auditorium at the Black Family Visual Arts Center.