||This article describes a work or element of fiction in a primarily in-universe style. (May 2014)|
|First appearance||The Godfather|
|Last appearance||Godfather II|
|Created by||Mario Puzo|
|Portrayed by||John Cazale|
|Occupation||Mobster, Hotel & Casino Manager, Brothel Owner, Actor, Television Host|
|Title||Soldier, Capo, Underboss|
|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. In the fictional universe of the novel and its film adaptation, he is the second son of Don Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando and Robert De Niro), head of a powerful New York Mafia family. He is the younger brother of Sonny (James Caan) and elder brother of Michael (Al Pacino) and Connie (Talia Shire).
In both Puzo's novel and its film adaptations, Fredo is characterized as the weakest and least intelligent of the three Corleone brothers, and therefore is often given the Corleone family's menial tasks. Fredo is the most obedient and dutiful of the Corleone children. In The Godfather Part II, it is revealed in flashbacks that Fredo was afflicted with pneumonia as an infant.
In the novel, Fredo's primary weakness is his womanizing, a trait 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. He is depicted as being far less cunning and resourceful than his younger brother Michael, weaknesses that other characters exploit and use against the Corleone family. In The Godfather Part II, Michael explains to his consigliere, Tom Hagen (Robert Duvall), that, "Fredo has a good heart, but he's weak and he's stupid".
In a pivotal scene in the novel and film, Fredo is with his father when assassins working for drug kingpin Virgil Sollozzo (Al Lettieri) attempt to gun down Don Corleone in the street. Fredo, panicked, fumbles his gun, failing to return fire. He sits on the curb next to his badly wounded father, sobbing. 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 is also learning 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's assassination, 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 also berates Fredo for openly taking sides against the family during a meeting with Greene, warning him never to do so again.
The Godfather Part II
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 uncooperative senator refused to help, he is implicated in a prostitute's murder. Hagen offers the Corleone family's help in eliminating the problem in exchange for the senator's "friendship". Hagen tells Geary that his brother, Fredo operates the brothel, and it will be as if the woman never existed. The senator 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). During business negotiations between Roth's organization and the Corleone family, Ola and Roth tell Fredo that Michael is being particularly difficult. Fredo secretly agrees to aid them in exchange for compensation; the film never reveals what specific assistance Fredo provides Ola and Roth against Michael, what he was offered in return, or whether he knew that Roth's men would make an attempt on Michael's life.
While in Havana negotiating with Roth, Michael discovers that Fredo is the family traitor behind the assassination attempt on him. After previously telling Michael that he had never met Ola, Fredo carelessly blurts out to another person that they had met. Michael confronts his brother, delivering the kiss of death, saying he knows Fredo betrayed him. 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 instead disappears 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, Michael asked Fredo what he knows regarding Roth's plans. Fredo reveals that Ola had promised him something in exchange for his help. 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 coldly disowns Fredo, saying he is dead to him. Michael privately instructs 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 a ploy to gain Fredo's trust. Soon after, while Fredo and Neri are fishing on Lake Tahoe, Neri executes him 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.
The Godfather Part III
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 racked 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 what really happened. Michael himself cries out Fredo's name while having a diabetic stroke. 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.
In The Godfather Returns
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 rumours 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 lover to death after the man recognizes him from a newspaper photo. Tom 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 a drunken Fredo. They 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 how his uncle was killed.
In The Godfather's Revenge
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 his ex-girlfriend Rita Duvall.
- Vito Corleone — Father; played by Marlon Brando in The Godfather and by Robert De Niro in The Godfather Part II
- Carmela Corleone — Mother; played by Morgana King
- Santino 'Sonny' Corleone — Elder brother; played by James Caan
- Constanzia 'Connie' Corleone-Rizzi — Sister; played by Talia Shire
- Michael Corleone — Younger brother; played by Al Pacino
- Tom Hagen — Adopted brother; played by Robert Duvall
- Mary Corleone — Niece; played by Sofia Coppola
- Anthony Vito Corleone — Nephew; played by Anthony Gounaris in The Godfather, played by James Gounaris in The Godfather Part II, played by Franc D'Ambrosio in The Godfather Part III
- Vincent 'Vinnie' Mancini-Corleone — Illegitimate nephew; played by Andy García.