Morgana King, the actress who famously played Don Corleone’s wife – and Michael, Sonny and Fredo’s mother – in the first two “Godfather” films, has died at age 87, reports said Thursday.
King, who also sang jazz and recorded multiple albums for Frank Sinatra’s Reprise label, actually died on March 22 of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, according to The Washington Post. However, the death wasn’t made public until a friend wrote about King on Facebook this week.
King played Carmela Corleone in the first two installments of Francis Ford Coppola’s mob epic, notably singing and later dancing with her on-screen husband, played by Marlon Brando, in the iconic wedding scene.
King said she received the part after she met with producer Al Ruddy and Coppola – “just hello and goodbye,” according to The Hollywood Reporter.
“I’ve been a singer for 26 years. I act when I sing,” she stated in a 1971 interview, according to THR. “So you could say I’ve been rehearsing for this part all my life. I read [Mario Puzo’s] The Godfather two years ago and knew I had to be a part of it. I went to my hypnotist to program and condition myself for becoming a member of the cast. It worked!”
Born Maria Grazia Messina de Berardinis on June 4, 1930, in Pleasantville, New York, King released dozens of jazz albums and had notable success with the songs “A Taste of Honey” and “Corcovado.”
It was her role as the Corleone matriarch in both Oscar-winning films, however, that cinema fans will remember best.
King, according to The Post, said she had to be persuaded to do the film (she had not previously acted) but was familiar with “the culture, the psychology” of the Italian family dynamic from her parents, who were born in Sicily.
“Francis would ask me if the set looked like a real Sicilian house,” she said in the 1980s. “I told him to put a statue of St. Anthony on the wall.”
Her character died in the second film but King reportedly refused to get into a coffin to film the funeral scene, citing bad luck.
Coppola’s mother took her place instead.