Fredo Corleone

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Frederico Corleone
FredoCorleone.jpg
John Cazale as Fredo Corleone
First appearanceThe Godfather
Last appearanceGodfather II
Created byMario Puzo
Portrayed byJohn Cazale
In-universe information
NicknameFredo, Freddie
GenderMale
TitleSoldier, Capo, Underboss
OccupationMobster, Hotel & Casino Manager, Brothel Owner
FamilyCorleone family
SpouseDeanna Dunn-Corleone
ChildrenOne illegitimate son with Marguerite "Rita" Duvall
FatherVito Corleone
MotherCarmela Corleone
BrotherSonny Corleone
Michael Corleone
Tom Hagen (adopted brother)
SisterConnie Corleone

Frederico Corleone is a fictional character in Mario Puzo's 1969 novel The Godfather. Fredo is portrayed by American actor John Cazale in the Francis Ford Coppola 1972 film adaptation and in the 1974 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.[1]

Being weaker and less intelligent than his brothers, Fredo has little power or status within the Corleone crime family. 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.

Appearances[edit]

The Godfather[edit]

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. When Fredo scolds Michael for being openly hostile to Greene, Michael in turn 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[edit]

By the beginning of The Godfather Part II, Fredo has become Michael's underboss, though he has only 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, how much he knew of their intentions, 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 carelessly tells 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 Michael's life, and that if he helped Roth, "there was something in it for me, on my own". He tells Michael that he resents being passed over to succeed their father; he believes that, as the older brother, he should have taken over the family business after Vito's death. 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, 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 to support Michael's decision to drop out of college and join the Marines after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

The Godfather Part III[edit]

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 ordered Fredo's death. 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 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.

Sequel novels[edit]

In The Godfather Returns[edit]

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 it also 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 The Godfather's Revenge[edit]

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.

Family[edit]

In popular culture[edit]

  • In reference to Fredo Corleone being the weaker and less intelligent of his brothers, the term "Fredo" has come to refer to a weak member of a group, especially one of a number of siblings in a family, regardless of ethnicity.[2][3][4]
  • An episode of the British comedy series The IT Crowd entitled "Jen the Fredo" references the character.
  • In The Sopranos episode "Sentimental Education", when A.J. Soprano's guidance counselor tells his English teacher to raise the grade of his term paper that was "90 percent CliffsNotes", the English teacher refers to A.J. as "Fredo Corleone", alluding to the fact that he is the least intelligent member of a powerful Italian crime family.
  • The official website of the Donald Trump 2020 presidential campaign offered "Fredo Unhinged" T-shirts following a viral YouTube video of CNN television journalist Chris Cuomo taking offence to being called "Fredo" by an apparent stranger, claiming it to be an ethnic slur.[5] Cuomo's comparison of the usage of "Fredo" to an ethnic slur caused debate on Twitter.[2] Edward Falco, the author of 2012 novel The Family Corleone said he agreed with Cuomo that "Fredo" was directed as an ethnic slur, not just meaning someone weak and incompetent but a weak and incompetent Italian. It sounds close to "Guido," he said, a more prominent insult toward Italian Americans, though he said Cuomo went "overboard" when he had compared it to the n-word.[6] Others did not agree with his purported claim of it being an ethnic slur.[7]

See also[edit]

  • The Godfather (2006 video game) – Fredo appears in the video game, and is voiced by Andrew Moxham. One mission in the game has the player driving Vito Corleone to the hospital after he is shot by Sollozzo's men, while Fredo shoots at the gangsters shooting at the car.[8]

Bibliography[edit]

  • Puzo, Mario (1969). The Godfather (First Berkley ed.). Berkley Books. ISBN 978-0-451-20576-6.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "The Godfather, Part II (1974)". nytimes.com. Retrieved 2014-06-24.
  2. ^ a b Bote, Joshua (August 13, 2019). "Chris Cuomo said 'Fredo' is an ethnic slur as he erupted in anger in a viral video. Is it?". USA Today.
  3. ^ Kellermanns, Franz W.; Hoy, Frank (September 13, 2016). The Routledge Companion to Family Business. London, England: Routledge. ISBN 9781317419990 – via Google Books.
  4. ^ Kozakis, Chris (December 15, 2003). Firing Fido!: How Radically Redefining Loyalty Unleashes True Leadership. Bloomington, Indiana: Trafford Publishing. ISBN 9781412005654 – via Google Books.
  5. ^ Santucci, Jeanine (August 13, 2019). "Trump campaign site sells 'Fredo Unhinged' shirt following viral Chris Cuomo video". USA Today. McLean, Virginia: Gannett. Archived from the original on August 14, 2019. Retrieved August 15, 2019.
  6. ^ Horton, Alex (August 13, 2019). "How Fredo, the tragic 'Godfather' character, became an insult wielded by Trump". The Washington Post. Washington, D.C.: Nash Holdings.
  7. ^ Nari, William Z. (August 14, 2019). "'Fredo' Is Not an Ethnic Slur". National Review. New York City: National Review, Inc.
  8. ^ "The Godfather (Video Game 2006) - IMDb". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 4 January 2019.