John Cazale as Fredo Corleone
|First appearance||The Godfather|
|Last appearance||Godfather II|
|Created by||Mario Puzo|
|Portrayed by||John Cazale|
|Title||Soldier, Capo, Underboss|
|Occupation||Mobster, Hotel & Casino Manager, Brothel Owner|
|Children||One illegitimate son with Marguerite "Rita" Duvall|
Tom Hagen (adopted brother)
Frederico "Fredo" Corleone is a fictional character in Mario Puzo's novel The Godfather. Fredo is portrayed by American actor John Cazale in the Francis Ford Coppola film adaptation and in the sequel, The Godfather Part II.
He is the second son of the mafia don Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando and Robert De Niro). Fredo is the younger brother of Sonny (James Caan) and the elder brother to Michael (Al Pacino) and sister, Connie (Talia Shire). Corleone family consigliere Tom Hagen (Robert Duvall) is his informally adopted brother.
Being weaker and less intelligent than his brothers, Fredo has little power or status within the Corleone crime family. The infant Fredo had pneumonia. In the novel, Fredo's primary weakness is his womanizing, a habit he develops after moving to Las Vegas and which earns his father's disfavor. In the films, Fredo's feelings of personal inadequacy and his inability to act effectively on his own behalf are character flaws leading to greater consequences.
In a pivotal scene in the novel and film, Fredo is with his father when assassins working for drug kingpin Virgil Sollozzo (Al Lettieri) gun down Don Corleone in the street. Fredo, terrified, drops his gun, failing to return fire. He sits on the curb next to his severely wounded father, weeping. In the novel, Fredo is sickened after witnessing his father being shot, going into shock. To aid Fredo's recovery and protect him from possible reprisals, Sonny sends his younger brother to Las Vegas under the protection of Don Anthony Molinari of San Francisco. While in Las Vegas, Fredo learns the casino trade and becomes acquainted with former hitman Moe Greene (Alex Rocco), who runs a major Vegas hotel that the Corleone family bankrolled. When Fredo's womanizing starts affecting business, Greene slaps him in public.
After Sonny is assassinated, Vito chooses Michael as his successor of the Corleone Family. This creates a lasting rift between the two surviving brothers. When Michael learns that Greene slapped Fredo, he is angered and confronts Greene, but is also dismayed that Fredo has fallen under Greene's influence. Michael berates Fredo for openly taking sides against the family during a meeting with Greene, warning him never to do so again.
By the beginning of The Godfather Part II, Fredo has become Michael's underboss, though he has nominal power. During a large family gathering, Fredo is unable to control his intoxicated wife, Deanna Dunn (Marianna Hill). When she dances and flirts with another man, he furiously drags her off the dance floor and threatens to hit her, though Deanna drunkenly mocks him until one of Michael's staff hauls her away.
Hagen is ordered to bring Senator Pat Geary (G. D. Spradlin) under the Corleone Family's control to gain his assistance in obtaining gambling licenses. After the senator refuses to help, he is implicated in a prostitute's murder, which the film implies was a setup by Michael to bring the senator to heel. Hagen offers the Corleone family's help in eliminating the problem in exchange for the senator's "friendship". Hagen tells Geary that Fredo operates the brothel, and "it will be as if she never existed". Geary agrees to their terms.
Fredo later betrays Michael after being approached by Johnny Ola (Dominic Chianese), an associate of rival gangster Hyman Roth (Lee Strasberg). Ola and Roth tell Fredo that Michael is being particularly difficult in business negotiations between Roth's organization and the Corleone family. Fredo secretly agrees to aid them in exchange for compensation. An attempt is made on Michael’s life. The film never reveals what specific assistance Fredo provides Ola and Roth against Michael, or what he was offered in return.
While in Havana negotiating with Roth, Michael discovers that Fredo is the family traitor behind the assassination attempt on him. After telling Michael that he had never met Ola before, Fredo later starts drinking and carelessly blurts out to Geary that he had been to a nightclub with Ola. Michael overhears the conversation and realizes that Fredo is the traitor within the family. He confronts Fredo, delivering the kiss of death. Amid the chaos of American-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista fleeing Fidel Castro's rebel army, Michael pleads with Fredo to leave the country with him. Frightened, Fredo runs away into the crowd. Michael's men eventually locate Fredo and convince him to return home.
Michael is indicted by a Senate subcommittee investigating organized crime. Michael's former caporegime, Frank Pentangeli (Michael V. Gazzo), is scheduled to testify against Michael at the hearing. A few days before the hearing, Michael asks Fredo what he knows regarding Roth's plans. Fredo claims that he did not know they would make an attempt on his life, and that if he helped Roth, "there was something in it for me, on my own". He tells Michael that he resented being passed over to succeed their father; he believes that, as the older brother, he should have taken over the family business. When pressed by Michael, Fredo reveals that the Senate commission's lawyer is on Roth's payroll. Michael disowns Fredo, and privately instructs his personal assassin Al Neri (Richard Bright) that nothing is to happen to Fredo while their mother is alive; the implication being that Fredo will be killed after her death. At their mother's funeral, and at their sister Connie's urging, Michael seemingly forgives Fredo; however, it is merely a ploy to draw Fredo in and have him killed. Soon after, while Fredo and Neri are fishing on Lake Tahoe, Neri executes Fredo as he is reciting the Hail Mary prayer, and as Michael watches from his house.
Fredo makes a final appearance in the movie's penultimate scene, a flashback to December 1941. It emerges that Fredo was the only family member supporting Michael's decision to drop out of college and join the Marines after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Fredo appears only once in the third film, in a flashback depicting his death through archive footage. He is also mentioned many times throughout the film; the dialogue makes it clear that Michael is tormented with guilt over ordering his brother's death, and that it has alienated him from his ex-wife, Kay (Diane Keaton), and his son, Anthony (Franc D'Ambrosio), both of whom know that Michael had Fredo killed. The official explanation of Fredo's death, as related by Connie, is that he drowned, although it is left ambiguous whether Connie actually believes this. Michael himself cries out Fredo's name while having a diabetic coma due to diabetic hypoglycemia. Later in the film, he breaks down in tears while confessing having ordered Fredo's death to Cardinal Lamberto (Raf Vallone), who later becomes Pope John Paul I. Michael's daughter, Mary (Sofia Coppola), asks her cousin and love interest, Vincent Corleone (Andy García), if Michael had Fredo killed, but Vincent says it is "just a story" and changes the subject.
Mark Winegardner's novel The Godfather Returns further expands upon the character of Fredo Corleone. It includes explanations for some questions left open by the films, such as the details of Fredo's betrayal of Michael in The Godfather Part II, and how, as was revealed in The Godfather Part III, Anthony knew the truth about Fredo's death.
The novel reveals that Fredo is bisexual, and implies that he was molested as a child by his parish priest. Rival gangster Louie Russo exploits rumors of Fredo's sexuality to make Michael look weak, and tries to have him killed while he is with a male lover. The novel also reveals that, in San Francisco, Fredo beats one of his lovers to death after the man recognizes him from a newspaper photo. Hagen covers up the resulting scandal by claiming Fredo killed the man in self-defense. Fredo also has liaisons with many women, having "knocked up half the cocktail waitresses in Las Vegas". He meets Marguerite "Rita" Duvall, who Johnny Fontane sent to his room as a prank. Though hesitant, they have sex, and Fredo pays her to tell Johnny it was the best she had ever had.
At Colma during the funeral for Don Molinari of San Francisco, Fredo gets the idea of setting up a necropolis in New Jersey. The Corleone family would buy the former cemetery land, now prime real estate, and also be a silent partner in the graveyard business. Fredo proposes his plan to Michael, wanting to impress and convince him and others of his abilities. Michael, however, dismisses the plan as unrealistic.
Fredo arrives at the Corleone Christmas party with Deanna Dunn, a fading movie starlet. A few months later they are married. Dunn gets Fredo bit parts in some of her movies. Later, in September 1957, Fredo's Hollywood connections allow him to get his own unsuccessful TV show, "The Fred Corleone Show", which airs irregularly, usually on Monday nights, until his death. Meanwhile, Fredo's alcoholism worsens. He discovers Deanna cheating on him with her co-star, and shoots up the car he bought her. When Deanna's co-star tries to attack him, Fredo knocks him unconscious and is arrested. Hagen bails him out, and they get in an argument about Fredo's recklessness and Hagen's blind loyalty to Michael. Despite this, Hagen gets Fredo cleared by claiming the incident was self-defense.
Roth, Ola and traitorous Corleone family caporegime Nick Geraci use Fredo as a pawn to eliminate Michael. Geraci and Ola meet with Fredo, who is blind drunk after having a fight with his wife, and promise to make his necropolis idea a reality in return for information about Michael. Fredo supplies them with information about the Corleone family, particularly financial interests.
Fredo's death plays out as it was filmed in The Godfather Part II. Anthony, about to go fishing with his uncle, is called away by his aunt Connie to go to Reno. He actually never leaves and instead, he is sent to his room, where, from his window, he sees Fredo and Neri out on the lake. Anthony hears a gunshot and sees Neri returning alone, explaining Godfather Part III's revelation that Anthony knows the truth about his uncle's death.
In Winegardner's 2006 sequel, The Godfather's Revenge, Fredo appears in one of Michael's dreams, warning him about an unspecified threat and asking him why he had his own brother killed. Much of the novel portrays Michael dealing with his guilt over Fredo's murder.
In the final chapter of the book, Michael learns that Fredo had an illegitimate child with Michael's ex-girlfriend Rita Duvall.