||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|
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 Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando and Robert De Niro), head of a powerful Mafia family. He is the second oldest of Vito's four children; 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 given the Corleone family's unimportant businesses to run. Nevertheless, Fredo is the most obedient and dutiful of the Corleone children. In The Godfather Part II, it is revealed in flashbacks to Vito Corleone's younger days, that Fredo was afflicted with pneumonia as an infant.
In the novel, Fredo's primary weakness is his womanizing, a habit which he develops in Las Vegas and which puts him out of favor with his father. In the films, Fredo's feelings of personal inadequacy and his inability to act effectively on his own behalf become character flaws of much greater consequence. He is depicted as being far less cunning and resourceful than his younger brother Michael, weaknesses that other characters are very aware of. One such example is early in The Godfather Part II, when Michael explains to his consigliere, Tom Hagen (Robert Duvall), that "Fredo has a good heart, but he's weak and he's stupid".
Role in the story
In a pivotal scene in the novel and film, Fredo is with his father when men working for drug kingpin Virgil Sollozzo (Al Lettieri) attempt to assassinate Vito, but Fredo fumbles with his gun and fails to return fire. He then sits on the street curb next to his badly wounded father and weeps. In the novel, he becomes sick after his father's shooting, going into shock after the incident. To help him recover and to protect him from any possible reprisals, Sonny sends him to Las Vegas under the protection of Don Anthony Molinari of San Francisco, where he makes the acquaintance of former hitman Moe Greene (Alex Rocco), who runs one of the major Vegas hotels. While in Las Vegas, Fredo learns the casino trade. When Fredo's womanizing starts to affect business, Greene hits him in public.
After Sonny's assassination, Vito chooses Michael to succeed him as head of the Corleone Family, which creates a rift between the two brothers.
The Godfather Part II
By the beginning of The Godfather Part II, Fredo has become Michael's underboss, but has little real power. During a family gathering, Fredo is unable to control his intoxicated wife, Deanna Dunn (Marianna Hill). After she dances with another man, he furiously drags her off the dance floor and threatens to hit her. Deanna mocks him by saying "you couldn't belt your momma," and accuses him of being jealous because he's not "a real man." His wife has to be hauled away by one of Michael's men, an order Michael asks Fredo if he wants to approve, which Fredo does.
Fredo runs a brothel in rural Nevada. Hagen is called to implicate Senator Pat Geary (G.D. Spradlin) in the murder of a prostitute in order to bring him under the family's thumb. Hagen explains that, in return for the senator's "friendship", the Corleone Family can take care of the problem. Hagen tells Geary, "My brother, Fredo, runs this place... It will be as though she never existed."
Fredo later betrays Michael when approached by Johnny Ola (Dominic Chianese), an agent of rival gangster Hyman Roth (Lee Strasberg), during the negotiation of a business deal between Roth's organization and the Corleone family. Ola and Roth claim that Michael is being particularly difficult in the negotiations, and Fredo secretly agrees to aid them in exchange for compensation; the film never reveals what specific assistance Fredo provides Ola and Roth against Michael, or what he receives in return. In any event, Roth's men use this information to make an attempt on Michael's life at Michael's home.
While in Havana negotiating with Roth, Michael realizes that Fredo is the family traitor he had been looking for. Despite twice telling Michael that he had never met Ola, Fredo drunkenly lets slip that they had met in Havana earlier that year. Michael confronts Fredo later, giving him the kiss of death and telling him, "I know it was you, Fredo. You broke my heart. You broke my heart!" In the ensuing fray after dictator Fulgencio Batista's flight from Fidel Castro's rebel army, Michael pleads with Fredo to come with him, but a frightened Fredo runs away. He is eventually tracked down and convinced to return home.
Later, Michael is being pursued by a Senate subcommittee investigating organized crime. Michael's former caporegime, Frank Pentangeli (Michael V. Gazzo), is due to testify against Michael at the hearing. A few days before the hearing, Michael has a talk with Fredo to find out what he knows about Roth's plans. Fredo says that Ola had promised him that there was "something in it for me, on my own" if he would help them. He then tells Michael that he resents having been passed over when Michael was chosen as their father's successor; he believes that, as the older of the two brothers, he should have taken over the family. When pressed by Michael, Fredo tells him that the Senate commission's lawyer is on Roth's payroll, revealing that he had known all along that the investigation could send Michael to prison.
Michael disowns Fredo, coldly informing him that "you're nothing to me now", and instructs assassin Al Neri (Richard Bright) that nothing is to happen to him while their mother is alive; the implication is that Fredo will be murdered once she dies. At their mother's funeral, and at their sister Connie's urging, Michael seemingly forgives Fredo; however, it is only a ploy to draw Fredo in so as to have him murdered.
Towards the end of the film, Fredo befriends his nephew, Michael's son Anthony, and is to go fishing with him on Lake Tahoe. However, Anthony is called away by Connie, who tells him that his father wants to take him to Reno. Fredo is left alone in the fishing boat with Neri, and he takes the boat far out onto the lake. As Fredo prays the Hail Mary, Neri shoots him in the back of the head, killing him. As this happens, Michael watches from afar in his den.
Fredo makes a final appearance in the movie's penultimate scene – a flashback to December 1941 – it emerges that Fredo was the only member of the family who supported Michael's decision to drop out of college and join the Marines after the Japanese 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 wracked 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), however, appears to be unsure whether or not Michael was behind Fredo's death; she asks her cousin and love interest, Vincent Corleone (Andy García), if it is true, 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 of some of the 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 had known the truth about Fredo's death.
In the novel, he meets Marguerite "Rita" Duvall, who was sent up to his room by Johnny Fontane 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 would propose this plan to Michael and impress him, reassuring him and others of his abilities. To Fredo's dismay, however, Michael dismisses the plan as unrealistic.
At Christmas, Fredo shows up at the Corleone Christmas party with Deanna Dunn, a famous, yet fading, movie starlet. A few months later they get married. Dunn gets Fredo to make appearances in 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. One day, 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 goes to jail. Hagen bails him out, and they get in an argument about Fredo's recklessness and Hagen's blind loyalty to Michael. Despite this, Hagen again gets Fredo out of trouble by claiming self-defense.
Michael's enemies, including Roth and traitorous Corleone family caporegime Nick Geraci decide to use Fredo as a pawn to get Michael out of the way; if they promised to make Fredo's necropolis idea a reality, he would do anything to help them. Ola meets with Fredo, who is blind drunk after having a fight with his wife. Fredo then supplies Ola with all the information he needs about the Corleone family, particularly financial information.
Fredo's death plays out in the novel exactly as filmed in The Godfather Part II. Anthony, who is called by his Aunt Connie to go to Reno, actually never goes there; instead, he is sent to his room, where, from his window, he sees Fredo and Neri motor out on the lake aboard a small boat. Anthony hears a gunshot and sees Neri come back on the boat alone, explaining Godfather Part III's revelation that he knows the truth about his uncle's death.
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.