I was at the mall recently with my wife when she pointed out to me that Funko’s come out with a line of Godfather figures. Now, I’m not really a POP fan. I started collecting NECA figures first, and sorta feel like I’ve invested too much in that line to switch loyalties now. But, I’ve always wanted Godfather figures, so she figured I might be interested since this is probably the closest I’m ever going to get. I decided to take a look at the offering, and, after scanning through all the figures in the store’s inventory, saw that something—or rather someone—was missing. There was, of course, Vito; Sonny; Fredo (from Godfather II, with the ‘stache); and three Michaels (one in a grey suit, a color swap of that figure in a blue suit, and one with a cute little Homburg). But where was Tom Hagen?
In a way, I wasn’t surprised. For as long as there’s been a Godfather franchise for people to discuss, Hagen has always been the forgotten son. While Sonny Corleone’s name has become a pop-culture byword for volatile hotheads and Fredo is shorthand for “family fuckup,” Tom Hagen is… just sorta there. Even his own movie gives him the short shrift—take a look at all of the “family” publicity stills and he’s conspicuously absent. The only one he really turns up in is the massive wedding photo production still, and that’s got just about the entire damn cast in it. Poor Tom Hagen just can’t get any respect; it’s a shame. Because aside from Robert Duvall being an immensely talented actor, Hagen is just as interesting and important a character in the Godfather saga as the three biological children of Vito Corleone.
While he may not be a wartime consigliere, let’s not forget that going to the mattresses isn’t the Corleone family’s default setting. Vito actively wants to prevent an all-out war—when the movie begins, the Five Families have been at peace for several years—and it’s notable when the bullets start flying. Wars are bad for business, and ultimately, that’s what the Corleone’s are. The whole point of the first film in the trilogy is bringing an end to the conflict between the Families and Michael cementing himself as the undisputed crime lord of New York. Once that happens, the wartime mentality goes out the window—it’s back to business as usual, and, when things are going well, Hagen demonstrates himself to be the most capable and pragmatic of the Corleone boys. He’s the one who takes care of Tessio in the aftermath of the Five Families slaughter, and, in a deleted scene, lays out the uncomfortable practicalities of Kay’s situation and convinces her to return. He gets Michael off the hook with the freakin’ US Government, essentially whacks Frankie Pentangelli with nothing but a history lesson, and he’s the one who recognizes at the end of Part II that the family may finally have gotten in over his head with all of this “kill everyone” business. If Sonny is the type of guy who’s always ready to fly off the handle and Fredo is the sweet but dumb guy, then Hagen is the type of guy who’s a born second-in-command. There are some folks who can’t handle a position of power, but damn if they aren’t the person that someone in power needs in their corner. No matter how smart, experienced, or wise someone is, they all need an advisor and confidante—someone close enough to the situation to see the realities of it but removed just enough to still take a practical standpoint. Michael demonstrates himself to have too much cunning to appropriately call Tom the “brains” of the Corleone family, but he comes very damn close.
In a way, it’s understandable that Tom’s often left out of the fan love. He’s not a biological Corleone (though the films and especially the book make it clear he’s every bit a part of the family as Michael, Sonny, and Fredo), he doesn’t have any big action scenes like Michael or Sonny, and he doesn’t get to give any really memorable big lines. The closest he comes is his Roman Empire speech in Part II, but it’s too long to be as quotable as the franchise’s many one-liners. Too, while Robert Duvall is a handsome man, he’s got to share scenes with James Caan, John Cazale, and Al Pacino at the height of his Botticellian beauty. (I’m guilty myself of forgetting Tom Hagen on this count—in my own book there’s a brief discussion on the attractiveness of the Godfather cast, and Duvall is the only one of the main men not to become the subject of late-night valley girl lust). Yet Hagen is there, and every bit as deserving as the other Corleone boys of audience respect and fascination.
So, the next time you watch The Godfather (Thanksgiving is HERE, which means it’ll be playing nonstop on AMC), try and give Tom some special consideration. He’s been deprived of affection for all these years, and he needs it. And Funko—give the boy his due. I’ll make an exception and shell out for a Tom Hagen POP Vinyl. That’s an offer I wouldn’t be able to refuse.