Goodfellas: The Real Life Gangster Behind Frankie (& Why He Was Killed)

Goodfellas tells a true story but with some major changes to the names of most of the characters and their stories as well, including those of Frankie Carbone, whose death is one of the few shown on screen – but who was the real Frankie Carbone and why was he killed? The gangster genre is one of the most popular ones, and one of the biggest names in this realm is that of Martin Scorsese, who has contributed a lot to it with a couple of movies that are now considered classics. However, the one that is often regarded as his best – both in the gangster genre and in general – is Goodfellas.

Released in 1990, Goodfellas is based on the book Wiseguy by Nicholas Pileggi and chronicles the life of Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) – from his days as a teenager fascinated by the mafia presence in his neighborhood to his involvement with the Lucchese crime family, starting by running errands for Paul Cicero (Paul Sorvino) and his crew, to becoming a proper member of the crew and later an FBI informant. During his time in the mob, Henry became acquainted with various big names, most notably Jimmy “The Gent” Conway (Robert De Niro) and Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci), and there were many others who were minor characters but got some attention as they were part of the Lufthansa heist crew, such as Frankie Carbone (Frank Sivero).

Related: Goodfellas: How Henry Subtly Teased The Death Of Frankie

Goodfellas is packed with memorable scenes, and among those is a continuous shot at the lounge the crew used to hang out at and in which Henry introduces the audience to some of the crew members, among those Frankie Carbone. Carbone appears in other scenes but has no lines, and his biggest moments in Goodfellas are those related to the Lufthansa heist. Unfortunately, Carbone was one of the many crew members that were killed by Jimmy in an effort to cover their tracks, and he was found frozen in a meat truck. Frankie Carbone was based on real-life mobster Angelo Sepe, and his death wasn’t like the one shown in Goodfellas.

Angelo Sepe was part of Burke’s crew for the Lufthansa heist and was also killed but not under Burke’s orders. In Goodfellas, Jimmy ordered the crew not to spend the money right away as that would catch the police’s attention and lead them to them, but many of them didn’t listen, including Carbone, who bought a coat for his wife. Angelo Sepe was a very close friend of Tommy DeSimone (DeVito in Goodfellas), Tony Rodriguez, and Burke, and was one of their most loyal and trustworthy friends, to the point where he was responsible for most of the murders ordered by Burke to cover their tracks. Sepe (along with his girlfriend, Joanna Lombardo) was killed by unknown members of a Lucchese hit squad not because of how he used the heist’s money (though he did buy a 1979 Ford Thunderbird) but because he reportedly robbed a Lucchese-affiliated drug trafficker of thousands of dollars in cocaine (he was said to have been a heavy cocaine user) and cash that was reserved for the crew.

Some suspect that the ones behind Sepe’s murder were linked to the Gambino crime family, as Sepe had been seeking revenge for the murder of his uncle Ralph “Shorty” Spero, who was killed by Gerard Pappa, a member of the Genovese crime family. It’s unknown why Pileggi and Scorsese decided to give a completely different ending and role to Angelo Sepe/Frankie Carbone in Goodfellas, and in the end, viewers will decide which one was more terrifying: the death of Frankie Carbone or that of Angelo Sepe.

Next: Goodfellas: Every Character Who Dies (& Why)

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