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I can handle things! I'm smart! Not like everybody says, like, dumb. I'm smart and I want respect!
~ Fredo Corleone

Frederico "Fredo" Corleone is a member of the Corleone Family and a major character in the The Godfather novel and subsequent movies, appearing as a major character in The Godfather and as one of the two secondary antagonists (alongside Don Fanucci) of The Godfather Part II.

He was the second oldest child of Vito and Carmela Corleone, and the brother of Sonny, Michael, and Connie Corleone, and the adoptive brother of Tom Hagen.

He was portrayed by the late John Cazale, in one of his few film roles before his early death.

Biography

Early Years

Fredo was born in 1919 in the Hell's Kitchen part of New York City. He had been a sickly child, coming down with pneumonia at a young age.

In the (non-canonical) continuation novel The Godfather Return], it is revealed that Fredo is bisexual, and has many secret liaisons with men. The novel also implies that he was molested as a child by his parish priest.

The Godfather

Fredo was seen as the weakest of the Corleone men, and was given its unimportant businesses to run. When his father was the victim of an attempted assassination Fredo panicked and was unable to return fire, dropping his gun in the process. He was found sitting in the street next to his father, sobbing.

Following the attempt on Vito's life, Sonny sent Fredo out west to Las Vegas to learn the casino business from Moe Greene. Fredo spent most of his time there drinking and womanizing, leaving a trail of pregnant cocktail waitresses in his wake. When Fredo’s womanizing began to effect the business, Greene slapped him in public.

When Michael arrived to convince Greene to sell his business to the Corleone family, Greene angrily refused. Fredo tried to intervene on Greene's behalf, but Michael told him to never take sides against the family again.

Las Vegas

Fredo became underboss to his brother Michael after the death of their father. He had no real power in the family, however, and resented being passed over for the leadership. Fredo's main duties consisted of wining and dining Michael's business associates and running a brothel.

Around this time, Fredo met and married fading movie star Deanna Dunn. It was not a happy marriage, however; Deanna frequently mocked and taunted Fredo, even at the reception for his nephew Anthony's first communion. She was also frequently unfaithful, and made no attempt to hide her indiscretions.

Fredo betrayed his brother to rival gangster Hyman Roth, who used him as a pawn in a plot to destroy the Corleone Family. Fredo provided unspecified information on the Corleone family in return for receiving compensation (what kind is never specified) independently of the family. This gave Roth's associate Johnny Ola the information he needed to make an attempt on Michael's life, albeit a failed one.

Betrayal

I know it was you, Fredo. You broke my heart – you broke my heart!
~ Michael Corleone

While in Havana, Michael learned that Fredo betrayed him when Fredo accidentally let it slip that he and Johnny Ola had been to a sex show in Havana. He confronted Fredo at a New Year's party in Havana, telling Fredo that he knew he was the traitor, and that he broke Michael's heart. When the incoming Cuban rebels forced Fulgencio Batista to resign, Michael tried to convince Fredo to return to the US with him, but Fredo was too afraid to face his brother and ran off into the crowd. Michael's men soon persuaded him to come home, however.

Exile

Fredo, you're nothing to me now. You're not a brother, you're not a friend. I don't want to know you or what you do. I don't want to see you at the hotels, I don't want you near my house. When you see our mother, I want to know a day in advance, so I won't be there. You understand?
~ Michael Corleone

Michael soon came under investigation by a Senate subcommittee investigating organized crime. After arriving back at the Corleone compound at Lake Tahoe, Michael confronted Fredo, who admitted that he withheld information from Michael about the Senate Committee's lawyer being on Roth's payroll.

Michael disowned his brother, and told his enforcer Al Neri that as long as their mother lived nothing was to happen to Fredo, the implication was that Fredo was to be murdered as soon as she died.

Soon afterward, Carmella Corleone died. Fredo came to her funeral services and was told that his brother would not see him, and was waiting for him to leave. Connie went to see Michael and convinced him to see Fredo again, saying he was lost and helpless without his family. Michael went to see his brother, seemingly forgiving him. Michael's forgiveness was a ruse, however, designed to lure Fredo in so it would be easier to kill him.

Death and Aftermath

I've killed men, and I ordered men to be killed. No, it's useless. I killed... I ordered the death of my brother; he injured me. I killed my father's son. I killed my father's son!
~ Michael Corleone

Fredo and Al Neri sitting in a boat on Lake Tahoe, shortly before Fredo's death.

After he was allowed back in to the family, Fredo became close to Michael's son Anthony, often going fishing with him. One day as he and Anthony were about to go fishing, Connie told them that Michael wanted to take Anthony to Reno. After the boy left, Fredo and Neri went out alone on the lake. While they were on the boat, Neri shot Fredo in the back of the head, killing him. Neri then dumped the body overboard.

Michael had been watching to ensure the deed was done. What he did not know was that Anthony also had seen Neri killing Fredo from his bedroom, resulting in a rift between father and son. Anthony told his mother Kay about what he had seen, and years later she would tell Michael that Anthony knew the truth about his uncle's death and it was the reason why Anthony wanted nothing to do with the family business.

The rest of the family were led to believe that Fredo drowned in an accident on Lake Tahoe.

Michael was racked with guilt over ordering his brother killed. In 1979 Michael called out Fredo's name while suffering a diabetic stroke following a failed attempt on his life. He later visited Cardinal Lamberto to warn him about corruption in the Vatican. During the visit Lamberto encouraged Michael to confess his sins for the first time in 30 years, and Michael broke down in tears while confessing that he had ordered Fredo killed. Lamberto told Michael that he deserved to suffer for his terrible sins, and that he didn't believe Michael would ever change; nevertheless, he said that Michael still had hope for redemption, and gave him absolution.

Trivia

  • Fredo Corleone was portrayed by John Cazale. Cazale was a good friend of Al Pacino, who portrayed Michael. While the two lived together in a communal house in Provincetown, Massachusetts, they were cast in the Israel Horovitz play The Indian Wants the Bronx. Their work in this play resulted in Obie Awards for both men. Cazale played the lead in the Horovitz play Line, where casting director Fred Roos took notice of him and introduced Cazale to Francis Ford Coppola. Cazale also acted in plays with Robert De Niro, who played the younger Vito in the second film.

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The Commision
Vito Corleone | Philip Tattaglia | Emilio Barzini | Carmine Cuneo | Victor Stracci | Vincent Forlenza | Michael Corleone

Corleone Family
Vito Corleone | Sonny Corleone | Fredo Corleone | Michael Corleone | Connie Corleone | Vincent Corleone | Luca Brasi | Peter Clemenza | Salvatore Tessio | Tom Hagen | Al Neri | Rocco Lampone | Paulie Gatto | Marty Malone | Willie Cicci | Frank Pentangeli | Joey Zasa | Aldo Trapani | Dominic Trapani

Tattaglia Family
Philip Tattaglia | Bruno Tattaglia | Virgil Sollozzo | Mark McCluskey | Don Altobello

Barzini Family
Emilio Barzini | Emilio Barzini Jr. | Fabrizio

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