Throughout the run of The Sopranos, there was obviously much discussion between Tony and Dr. Melfi on the influence Livia had on her son, both in his formative years but so too in her last years. There can be no doubt that she was an "albacore" on his neck, but what was explored but never fully fleshed out was the relationship and true formative influence that Tony's father figures might have had on his life. It was something he never really wanted to talk about, though it was explored briefly at times during his therapy. More so, we see it through flashbacks and now through this film The Many Saints of Newark. I use the plural above and in the title of this thread as question. Who indeed was the true male influence in Tony's life? I'd be a poor attorney because I don't know the answer to the question posed. But it does seem to me that one could look at three men - his father, his uncle and then his "uncle."
I have maintained in the past (you can see many of this here on this forum) that Tony's inability to reckon with the memory of his father has much to do with his inability to "be prepared" in his future. He'd much prefer to discuss the troubles with his still living and then dead mother than he was to talk about his father. SHE was the easy target for his unanswered questions about himself or why things troubled him rather than actually looking at those that actually formed him mentally and most especially, as a mobster. Sure, Livia did a number on him emotionally (as she did with all of her children) but for a man like Tony, he had three men to look up to and so how did they truly influence him?
In an effort to come to a conclusion, I've gone back to watch the series once more. From my review of the film, you might know that I'm not certain what Tony could have learned from Dickie Moltisanti, but we can guess I suppose. And from the show, we can see what he actually says himself about both Johnny and Junior (and Dickie.) There is what is shown and assume that is either something he said to Melfi or what he was thinking about from his dreams. I'm still early on again in the run, but from the very first season it is discussed. Again, Livia is the focus in his therapy (as far as his parents are concerned), but some of the weeds are pulled as they continue to talk and he continues to grapple with his psyche.
So what I want to do here is go bit by bit as we move through and see how these three men contributed to the formation of Tony and really get down to who and how they were an influence as his male figure. To be sure, I've no doubt that his friends in the mafia - Sil, Paulie, Pussy, etc. - have had some formative influence, but these men were older brothers rather than father figures. I still have some question as to actual ages with all of these because I was under the impression Tony was closer to age than is presented in the film, but so be it. Let us assume that his peers in the show were of an age that Tony could both look up to them in his teens and then be their leader as an adult. Some of that likely has to do with his name and some might be that he was an actual leader of men, despite his lack of preparedness and the suggestion that he never had the makings of a Varsity athlete (debatable.)
In this, we begin at the beginning as it were. Season 1. I will look at all three:
Johnny - The most impactful has to be Down Neck clearly. It's in this episode that we hear Tony tell Melfi about the first time he saw his father smack someone around. The same man that Johnny wants to move the family to Reno with to start up a new business before Livia shoots him down. This is 1967, according to the episode. If it is true that Tony was born in 1959, he would have been 8. One could say that he finds a respect for his father here, but so too recognizes that his mother was far more formidable as she not only tears Johnny down but has already threatened to poke Tony's eye out with a grilling fork. More to that, he then witnesses his father taking Janice to the fair (I called it a circus before, but it's actually 'Ride Land' in which Johnny, Junior and others are using as a meeting place and get busted.) He sees his father get arrested and another mobster get shot but not killed as they run away. Heady things for a young boy. Scary even. The film recreates this later bit.
The second thing we find from season 1 is just a simple notion. Johnny was a silent partner along with Hesh in the music business. It doesn't really say much other than fill in more backstory. Hesh does not feature or cameo in the film, which may say something. Yet given that Hesh also features as an influence on Tony over the years, we must look at it.
Junior - Obviously the events of season 1 as it relates to Junior are huge. His own uncle puts out a hit on Tony! A failed attempt but that Tony does not get the retribution he declared he would get says something. Of course, Junior gets arrested before Tony can exact said revenge, but he never tries to do anything about it after Junior goes into house arrest. Clearly Tony loves his uncle even with such betrayal. A vestige of his love for his father? A real love for his uncle? I mean, Carmela is more angry about it after the fact than Tony. There is a lot more to unpack here as the seasons move on, but there is no doubt that Tony has some affection for Junior. I'll say that we see little of why during the film, but in the same above episode of Down Neck we see Tony tossing the ball with Junior. There is an interesting moment in the film which I'll discuss below but we can say that Tony has a true familial bond with his natural uncle and so is loathe to truly destroy as he might do to some others.
Dickie - If Christopher's father is even mentioned in the first season, it is in a passing nature and nothing truly said. At this moment in time, Tony does not even tell Chrissy how much he respected or looked up to his father. In the film, however, we see that Dickie was there for some time. Young Tony was there when the Moltisanti pater returned from Italy with a new bride. We see that Tony is out and about with a basketball during the race riots...after SEEING what his father has done...and nearly stumbles along Dickie killing his own father. In the film, we do see that Dickie takes a special interest in the young Tony and especially when Tony gets caught for running numbers at school and Livia would rather Dickie talk to him than Junior because as she suggests, "You just confuse him" when responding to Junior.
So what to make of all this? I need to add one other (perhaps missed continuity) because in the show, Tony talks about his father being sent to jail when he was young and in the film, he goes to jail after the arrest at 'Ride Land.' That was time spent away between father and son and those years, depending on when they were, are certainly formative. By blending the two (film and show) we can see that Johnny remains the impactful figure, Junior remains Junior and Dickie is an influence, but what kind of influence? That remains a question.
I'm already into season 2 and will have more words to say about it when done. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this as well. We've a great space in which to discuss this amazing creative endeavor so please feel free to offer your own two boxes of ziti.
Johnny vs. Junior vs. Dickie1
"Leave the gun...take the cannoli." - Clemenza
Think Tony Died? Consider this...
Visit my Blog at Hear the Hurd
Think Tony Died? Consider this...
Visit my Blog at Hear the Hurd