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Frederico Corleone
FredoCorleone.jpg
John Cazale as Fredo Corleone in The Godfather: Part II
First appearance The Godfather
Last appearance The Godfather II: The Game
Cause/reason Murdered by Al Neri on orders from Michael Corleone
Created by Mario Puzo
Portrayed by John Cazale
Information
Nickname(s) Freddie, Fredo
Gender male
Occupation Gangster
Title underboss
Family Corleone
Spouse(s) Deanna Dunn
Children none officially
Relatives Vito Corleone (father), Carmella Corleone (mother), Santino Corleone (brother), Michael Corleone (brother), 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 middle brother to Sonny (James Caan) and Michael Corleone (Al Pacino), elder brother to Connie (Talia Shire) and son of Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando), head of a powerful Mafia family.

Fredo was portrayed by Italian-American actor John Cazale in Francis Ford Coppola's film adaptation of the novel, as well as in its sequel. Despite playing the middle son, Cazale was actually four and half years older than James Caan, who portrayed Sonny.

Contents

Role in the story

The Godfather

In Puzo's novel, Fredo is thought of in the Corleone crime Family as the weakest of the three Corleone brothers, and therefore is given its unimportant businesses to run. Despite being a weak and sickly child (Part II shows Fredo infected with pneumonia as a baby), however, Fredo is the most obedient and dutiful of the Corleone children.

In a pivotal scene in the novel and film, Fredo attempts to immediately retaliate after the attempted assassination of his father on a New York street by men working for drug kingpin Virgil Sollozzo (Al Lettieri). However, he fumbles with the gun, drops it, and is unable to return fire. He then sits on the street curb next to his unconscious 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 former Murder, Inc. hitman Moe Greene (Alex Rocco). While in Las Vegas, Fredo learns the casino trade and becomes a power in his own right.

After Sonny's assassination and Vito's death, the younger Michael is appointed head of the family over Fredo, causing a deep rift between the two brothers which is expanded upon in Coppola's later sequels to the first film adaptation.

In the original novel, Fredo's primary weakness is his womanizing, a habit which he develops in Las Vegas. In the films, Fredo's feelings of personal inadequacy and his inability to act and negotiate effectively on his own behalf become character flaws of much greater consequence. His apparent anxiety, low self-esteem, poor judgment and lack of common sense make him altogether incapable of adapting to the considerable pressures and dangers of running the family business. Indeed, he is depicted as being far less cunning — and certainly far less ruthless — than his younger brother Michael, who believes that while Fredo has a good heart, he is weak and stupid.

The Godfather: Part II

By the time of the beginning of The Godfather Part II, Fredo has become Michael's underboss. He 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 that he's jealous because he's not "a real man." His wife has to be hauled away by Michael's men, an order Michael asks Fredo if he wants to approve, which Fredo does.

Fredo runs a brothel in rural Nevada. Tom Hagen (Robert Duvall) is called to implicate Senator Pat Geary (G.D. Spradlin) in the murder of a prostitute. Hagen explains that for friendship the Corleone Family can clear the problem. Hagen tells Geary, "My brother, Fredo, owns this place. It is like this girl never existed."

Fredo, however, 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. With Ola and Roth claiming that Michael is being particularly difficult in the negotiations, Fredo secretly agrees to aid Ola and Roth in exchange for compensation. The film never reveals what specific assistance Fredo provided Ola and Roth against Michael, but this betrayal ultimately results in an assassination attempt against Michael at his Lake Tahoe home. Fredo later ambiguously claims that his goal in the secret deal had been simply to enrich himself in a manner that did not require him to be dependent on Michael to "take care" of him, but swears that he did not realize he was being used as part of a larger plot to kill his brother.

Fredo in his final moments

Michael discovers Fredo's role in the plot during his trip to Havana when Fredo, forgetting that he had previously told Michael that he'd never met Johnny Ola, lets it slip out that he and Ola had been in Havana together. Michael confronts Fredo later and tells his older brother, "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 Fredo, remembering that Michael used this tactic to kill Carlo Rizzi, instead runs away. He is eventually tracked down and convinced to return home.

Later, when Michael is being pursued by a Congressional Committee investigating organized crime, he has a talk with Fredo and realizes that Fredo had both withheld important information from him about Roth's connection with the Committee's lawyer and is deeply resentful of Michael's role in the family business; he believes that, being Michael's older brother, he should be the boss. Michael disowns Fredo and tells assassin Al Neri (Richard Bright) that nothing is to happen to him while their mother is alive; the implication is 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 are to go fishing 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 and kills him from behind. As this happens, Michael watches from afar in the den of his Lake Tahoe home.

The film's final scene, a flashback sequence, reveals that Fredo was the only member of the family who supported Michael's decision to drop out of college and join the Marine Corps 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 scene through archive footage. He is also mentioned many times throughout the film, and the dialogue makes it clear that Michael is wracked with guilt over ordering his brother's death, to the point that it has alienated him from his wife, Kay (Diane Keaton), and his son, Anthony (Franc D'Ambrosio), both of whom know what really happened. Michael himself begins to cry while confessing this to Cardinal Lamberto (Raf Vallone), who later becomes Pope John Paul I. At another point in the film, while having a diabetic stroke Michael cries out Fredo's name. 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 Mancini (Andy Garcia), if it is true, but Vincent denies it (although it is never revealed if Vincent was lying, or if he honestly didn't know).

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, it is revealed that Fredo is bisexual, and that he had been molested as a child by his parish priest. Fredo is appointed sotto capo, or underboss, by his brother, an appointment that is seen as unqualified nepotism. Michael Corleone's rivals, chiefly Louie Russo, the mob boss of Chicago, hoped to exploit this rumor of Fredo's bisexuality to make Michael look weak. In Las Vegas, 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 the funeral for Don Molinari of San Francisco, Fredo gets the idea of setting up a necropolis similar to Colma in New Jersey. The Corleone family would be able to buy up the former cemetery land cheap, 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. Later, in San Francisco, Fredo meets a man at a club and presumably sleeps with him. It is later reported that Fredo beat up and killed a man in San Francisco.

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 allowed 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 movie 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. Tom Hagen bails him out, and they get in an argument about Fredo's recklessness and Tom's blind loyalty to Michael.

Nick Geraci, now seeking revenge against Michael Corleone, meets with Don Forlenza, the Don of Cleveland, and discusses how Fredo could fit into their plans to take Michael down. The deal with Hyman Roth has now reached a stalemate, and they figure Fredo could be used as a pawn to let Roth succeed. If Fredo is told they could help him with his Colma vision, he would do anything to help. Fredo meets with Johnny Ola and supplies him with all the information they need, especially financial information, about the Corleone family.

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 Al Neri motor out on the lake aboard a small boat. Anthony hears a gunshot and sees Neri come back on the boat alone, explaining how he knows of Fredo's death in The Godfather Part III.

Family

References








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