Boardwalk Empire Season 5 Lineup Closeup: Salvatore Maranzano

Boardwalk Empire introduced real life mobster Salvatore Maranzano as a character tonight. Here's what we know about him.

SPOILER ADVISORY: Boardwalk Empire makes it a habit of going by the history books. This is a good way to keep the cast of characters moving. If you don’t want to know who’s not going to making it, stop reading …. now.

“Joe the Boss” Masseria dealt his last hand on the Boardwalk Empire season 5 premiere. The old style Mustache Pete was so intent on being “Joe the Boss” of all bosses he didn’t notice he’d gotten too fat to dodge bullets, as was one his many nicknames. The man who gave the order was an immigrant from Castellammarese, Sicily, Salvatore Maranzano. Masseria’s death put an end to the Castellammarese War.

When Maranzano himself died, four and a half months after Masseria, he was succeeded by the man who would put his name on the family. The new Father, Joseph Bonanno. On Boardwalk Empire, Salvatore Maranzano is played by Giampiero Judica.

Mario Puzo fudged some details in The Godfather, combining Masseria and Maranzano. According to Puzo, Maranzano refused Vito Corleone’s offer to share political contacts and let Maranzano do business in Brooklyn and the Bronx if Maranzano let him wet his beak from Maranzano’s New York gambling monopoly. This sparked the Olive Oil War. The book says Maranzano called on his friend Al Capone to send over two gunsels to whack Corleone, but they got chopped up by Luca Brasi. In reality, Capone was Masseria’s contact. In The Godfather, Maranzano was killed by Corleone family caporegime, Salvatore Tessio.

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When writing up these profiles, I always begin with Joseph Bonanno’s autobiography, A Man of Honor. Sure, he waters down the stories and spins them to his benefit, but Bonanno is the closest thing we get to the inside story from a mob boss himself. Joe Valachi was a button man, yes, but it was Bonanno’s family. In A Man of Honor, Bonanno described Masseria as a pig, but called Salvatore Maranzano a “man of respect,” who was a hero in Sicily but came to America “fleeing the same insufferable political climate that had turned me into an exile.”

Maranzano was probably sent to New York by Vito Cascio Ferro, the Sicilian boss of bosses, to scout the neighborhood for a Ferro takeover. Maranzano was Ferro’s capo consigliere, which, according to Bonanno “is not an executive or an administrator. He is a figurehead whose influence among other Fathers derives not from the imposition of his will on them but from their will cooperation with him. The capo consigliere is at the disposal of the lesser men. He is there for their benefit and not to gain anything from them.”

Bonanno has a bit of a man-crush on Maranzano, saying Don Turidru was handsome, charming, well-read and eager to impart knowledge. Maranzano had a fascination with Julius Caesar and the Roman Empire and when he became boss, he tried to remold the American mafia in its image. Maranzano based his crime structure on the military of the Roman Empire. Maranzano divided his army into squads and each soldier had to pledge loyalty to his squad leader.

Salvatore Maranzano was born on July 31, 1886, in Castellammare del Golfo, Sicily. When he was young, the future Don Turridru Maranzano studied to become a priest, but he found a truer calling in this thing of theirs. Maranzano emigrated to the United States after World War I in 1919. He settled in Brooklyn. His legit business was as a real estate broker, but he made his scratch with booze, prostitution and drugs.

[related article: 21 Real-Life Gangsters From Boardwalk Empire]

The Castellammarese War began in 1930, when Maranzano went up against his rival Joe Masseria. The Castellammarese war started when Nicola “Cola” Schiro, who led a non-Castellammarese Mafia organization under Stefano Magaddino, paid $10,000 to Masseria for peace and disappeared. Sicilian father Don Vito Cascio Ferro sent Salvatore Maranzano to America to take care of things. Masseria sentenced Maranzano to death. Masseria tried replace Schiro with Joe Parrino as head of the group, but Parrino couldn’t hold together the Castellammarese clan. Many secretly defected to a guerrilla organization created by Maranzano. Parrino was gunned down in a restaurant.

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Masseria, believing Luciano and his Jewish and Irish mob ties were getting to big to be controlled, called in hitman Joseph Doto to do the job on Lucky. Problem was Joseph Doto was better known as Joe Adonis, on account of his movie-star good looks, and he was a good friend and associate of Charlie Luciano. On April, 15, 1931, Masseria was murdered by Charles “Lucky” Luciano, Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel and Albert Anastasia.

Two weeks after Masseria’s murder, Maranzano made Luciano his number one man in his new organization. Maranzano called a meeting in the Bronx with 500 Mafiosi and set up the five families, each family would have a boss, a sub-boss, lieutenants and soldiers. The families were Fathered by Luciano, Tommy Gagliano, Joe Profaci and Vincent Mangano. Maranzano was the Father of the fifth family and he declared himself “capo di tutti capi.”

Maranzano had always said that he wanted to end boss rule. The newly anointed bosses began to think Maranzano was going to be a worse “Mustache Pete” than Masseria had been. Maranzano opposed Luciano’s partnership with Jewish gangsters such as Meyer Lansky and Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel. Maranzano knew Luciano would build his own power base with non-Italians. Maranzano made up a hit list that included Luciano, Vito Genovese, Frank Costello, Joe Adonis, Dutch Schultz and Al Capone, who had been friendly with Luciano for years. Maranzano decided to have the job handled by non-Italians. Maranzano contracted Mad Dog Coll to murder Luciano. Maranzano gave Coll $25,000 as a down payment said he’d get another $25,000 after the job.

Maranzano made the mistake of letting it slip to one of Luciano’s friends, Two-Finger Tommy Lucchese, and Lucky acted first. Lucky Luciano and Vito Genovese went to Meyer Lansky, who arranged for Samuel “Red” Levine and three other gangsters to pose as tax officers and visit Maranzano’s office on the 9th floor of The Helmsley Building in Grand Central. On Sept. 10, 1931, the four faux accountants disarmed Maranzano’s guards and shot and stabbed Salvatore Maranzano to death. They ran into Mad Dog, who was on his way to a meeting with Maranzano, as they were making their getaway. They told Coll there was a raid and they all went out to lunch, probably.

After Maranzano’s death, Luciano got rid of the title “capo di tutti capi.” Joseph Bonanno says in A Man of Honor that he didn’t know about the plot to kill Maranzano.  Maranzano’s crime family was inherited by Bonanno, the youngest crime boss in America at the age of 26. The Maranzano family became known as the Bonanno family.

Maranzano is buried in Saint John’s Cemetery, Queens, located in New York City, near the grave of Luciano.

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