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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.

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 quite 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 Vegasmarker under the protection of former Murder, Inc. boss 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 lack of intelligence plays a greater role than it does in the novel. He is seen as far less mentally acute 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. After she dances with another man, he furiously drags her off the dance floor and threatens to hit her. Deanna mocks him by saying that he "couldn't belt [his] 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 Nevadamarker. 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 Tahoemarker 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 Havanamarker 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 during Fidel Castro's coup, 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 Al Neri 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 Godfather Part II, Fredo and his nephew, Michael's son Anthony, develop a close friendship 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 Renomarker. Fredo is left alone in the fishing boat with Al Neri (Richard Bright) 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.

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, who later becomes Pope. 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.

In The Godfather Returns

In Mark Winegardner's novel The Godfather Returns, 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 Chicagomarker, hoped to exploit this rumor of Fredo's bisexuality to make Michael look weak. In Las Vegasmarker, he meets Marguerite "Rita" Duvall, who was sent up to his room by Johnny Fontaine 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 Franciscomarker, Fredo gets the idea of setting up a necropolis similar to Colmamarker in New Jerseymarker. 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 Franciscomarker, 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 Hollywoodmarker 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 Clevelandmarker, 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 sail out to the lake alone. 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.

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