- "I thought I got all you Guinea hoods locked up. What the hell are you doing here?"
- ―Mark McCluskey[src]
Mark McCluskey's father was also a police captain who took his son on visits around the district, where he would be given gifts of cash by the shopkeepers, who were under his father's protection. It was then that his son decided to follow in his father's footsteps.
McCluskey served 20 years on the force. At first he was an honest and tough cop. However, while he was still a patrolman, he became easily susceptible to bribes in order to supplement his salary, particularly once he needed to support his four sons. Even when he rose to captain, he only took home $100 a week. He was also good friends with Bruno Tattaglia, who had gone to Fordham with one of McCluskey's four sons. McCluskey would clear the records of Bruno's employees in return for large cash rewards, and free trips to Bruno's nightclub. This friendship led to McCluskey meeting Virgil Sollozzo. Under the pretext of cultivating Sollozzo as an informer, he agreed to become the drug dealer's bodyguard, the money paying for the funeral of his sister-in-law back in Ireland.
McCluskey and Sollozzo
- "What's the Turk paying you to set up my father Captain?"
- ―Michael Corleone[src]
McCluskey assisted Sollozzo by removing the guards from Vito Corleone's hospital room and throwing them in jail, so that Sollozzo and his men would have a clear shot on the wounded Don. However, the Don's youngest son, Michael happened to visit that evening and noticed the lack of guards. Michael called his brother Sonny about the problem and moved Vito to a different hospital room.
Once outside, he managed to scare off Sollozzo and his men with the help of Enzo Aguello, which caused Sollozzo to call McCluskey. Michael questioned McCluskey as to how much he was being paid by Sollozzo, which resulted in the police captain breaking Michael's jaw. Before he could harm him further, the Corleone family consigliere Tom Hagen arrived with men licensed to carry firearms in order to protect the Don. Hagen also told McCluskey that if he interfered, he'd have to explain his actions before a judge. McCluskey backed down and disappeared into the night.
- "I guess I'm gettin' too old for my job. Too grouchy -- can't stand the aggravation. You know how it is..."
- ―Captain McCluskey[src]
Sollozzo called Sonny and asked Michael to be sent to hear a proposition which would settle the business. Hagen had learned via the family's contacts on the force that McCluskey was not only on Sollozzo's payroll, but serving as his bodyguard. In Hagen's view, Sollozzo was practically invincible as long as he is being guarded by McCluskey; it has long been a hard and fast rule in the American Mafia that policemen are not to be harmed. To add to it, all the protection from the judges and other higher ups would be gone. Michael then made a shocking proposal--he'd kill both Sollozzo and McCluskey. Sonny joked that he was sensitive due to having his jaw broken and that he didn't understand what would be involved since he had only shot people from far away while in the Army. But Michael appealed to Tom that since McCluskey was dirty, that after the job was done that they could have their newspaper contacts revealing his corruption.
In the car on the way to Louis Restaurant, McCluskey frisked Michael before apologising for his crankiness the other night.
While at dinner, Michael asked for permission before going to the bathroom, which Clemenza told him to do so Sollozo would think he was subservient to him. Even so, Sollozo stopped him to frisk him. McCluskey then spoke up to remind him that he had already frisked him in the car and that he was clean. However, one of Peter Clemenza's men planted a gun behind the old school toilet in the lavatory. Michael retrieved it, and returned as if nothing was amiss. He then rose up and shot Sollozzo in the head, then shot McCluskey once in the throat and once in the head. Sollozo died instantly; McCluskey pitched forward onto the table, breaking it in half. While Sollozo died on his seat, McCluskey died on the ground.
After Michael Corleone killed McCluskey, the police came down hard on the Five Families, which hit the Corleone family particularly hard, as most of their businesses were in the open. This was also the only reason why the Cuneo and Stracci families went to war with the Corleones. However, after Tom Hagen planted stories through the media of corruption and linking McCluskey to Sollozzo and the Heroin trade, the police's search for revenge subsided.
Personality and traits
McCluskey was a corrupt cop. His father was a police sergeant who would take little McCluskey to collect bribes from storekeepers. Mark's education was funded by the bribe money itself. In this way his father taught him bribing from an early age. Mark wanted to be a policeman from his childhood and hence he studied for the police force after high school. Mark was a good and brave cop. He handled young punks roughly; he was tough, but fair, and never missed his foot duty. He gave his stores a lot of protection and services and protected them from drunkards and winos. He took only clean graft and never tried to make extras. McCluskey also steadily rose in the department. He raised a family of four children who all went to Fordham. McCluskey saw nothing wrong with graft and saw it as a necessary source of income. He was good friends with Bruno Tattaglia and they both did favours for each other often. McCluskey never showed how much he understood about other people's plans. He never confided anything to his family, and paid money to treat his sister in law's cancer. Around the time he was killed, he was planning to go to Ireland to his uncle's place for a holiday with his family.
Behind the scenes
McCluskey's first name is only mentioned briefly in one chapter of the novel and not at all in the film, where he is played by Sterling Hayden. In The Godfather: The Game he is voiced by Doug Abrahams, though he has no original lines of dialogue.