- "I'm your older brother, Mike, and I was stepped over!"
- ―Fredo Corleone[src]
Frederico "Fredo" Corleone was the second oldest of the Corleone brothers.
Fredo was the second child of Vito and Carmela Corleone, born in 1919. In his youth he was a sickly child, contracting pneumonia as a baby. In The Godfather Returns, it is implied that Fredo was molested as a child by his parish priest, and he is portrayed as having secret sexual relationships with men.
Growing up, he was an aggressive young man, though he lost this trait as he became older. After dropping out of school, he continued to live with his parents. His father eventually decided to give him menial tasks in the "family business".
Fredo and the Family
As an adult he was seen as the weakest of the three brothers and was given relatively unimportant business to run. However, he was also known as a charismatic young man, and was usually sent to pick important people up at the airport and entertain them before business meetings. Although not tough enough to earn his father’s approval, he was dearly loved by his mother.
In December 1945, after the Don's usual driver, Paulie Gatto, called out sick, Fredo volunteered to drive his father. While they were out, assassins shot the Don. Fredo fumbled with his gun and was unable to return fire. After the assassins left, instead of going for help, Fredo sat on the street and cried. After witnessing this, he did not leave his room for some time. His failure to protect his father from an assassination attempt contributed to his sense of inferiority.
Move to Nevada
- "Mike, you don't come to Las Vegas and talk to a man like Moe Greene like that!"
"Fredo, you're my older brother, and I love you, but don't ever take sides with anyone against the family again, ever."
- ―Fredo Corleone and Michael Corleone[src]
Fredo later moved to Las Vegas under the protection of Don Francesco and was taken in by Moe Greene as a favor to the family, who were funded by Anthony Molinari from the West Coast. Greene never treated Fredo as an equal partner however, becoming irritated by Fredo's womanizing, and even put him in danger by having him dispose of a business partner's body.
When Moe refused to sell out to Michael, Fredo attempted to defend Greene and was told never to side against the family again. Greene was later killed in 1955. Fredo's behavior in Vegas was considered embarrassing to the family, largely because of his notorious habit of impregnating showgirls and prostitutes.
Life after Las Vegas
Fredo was appointed sotto capo, or underboss, by his brother, an appointment that was seen as unqualified nepotism, though Fredo was given little real power and the title was mostly ceremonial. 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 met Marguerite Duvall, who was sent up to his room by Johnny Fontane. Though hesitant at first, Fredo paid her three thousand dollars to tell Johnny it was the best sex she ever had, before eventually succumbing and sleeping with her. Shortly after, with Fredo's knowledge, Marguerite had a baby, whom she put up for adoption.
Plans for the family
At the funeral for Don Molinari of San Francisco, Fredo got 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 dismissed the idea as unrealistic. 
At the Christmas of 1956, Fredo showed up at the Corleone Christmas party with Deanna Dunn, a famous but fading movie starlet. A few months later they got married. Dunn got 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 successful TV show, "The Fred Corleone Show", which aired irregularly, usually on Monday nights, until his death in 1959, on a local television station in Nevada. Fredo's drinking problems continued and accelerated. One day, he discovered Deanna cheating on him with her movie co-star Matt Marshall, and Fredo shot-up the Corvette he had bought her. When Deanna's co-star tried to attack him, Fredo ended up knocking him unconscious with a pistol whip and went to a local jail. Tom Hagen came to bail him out and got in an argument about Fredo's reckless activity and Tom's blind loyalty to Michael. Tom again got the charges dropped as self defense after paying off Marshall and the hotel.
Nick Geraci met with Don Vincent "The Jew" Forlenza, the Don of Cleveland, and discussed how Fredo could fit into their plans to take down Michael. The deal with Hyman Roth had now reached a stalemate, and they figured Fredo could be used as a pawn to let Hyman Roth succeed. If Fredo was told they could help him with his Colma vision, he'd do anything to help. Fredo met with Johnny Ola and supplied him with all the information they needed, especially financial information, about the Corleone family. Fredo ambiguously claimed that his goal in that deal was simply to get something for himself, on his own, and swore that he did not realize he was being used as part of a larger plot to kill his brother. However, in the event of Michael's assassination, Fredo would likely have led the Corleone family, at least as a figurehead. It is unknown if Fredo knew that they planned to assassinate Michael.
- "Fredo, you're nothing to me now. You're not a brother. You're not a friend. When you see our mother, I wanna know a day in advance so I won't be there."
- ―Michael Corleone[src]
Michael discovered Fredo's role in the plot during his trip to Havana, when Fredo let it slip out that he and Johnny Ola had been in Havana together earlier that year and they went to the sex show together.
Michael confronted Fredo later and tells his older brother, "You broke my heart." Fredo flees in fear of his life, but he is actually in no danger because Michael believes that Johnny Ola and Hyman Roth had lied to Fredo and manipulated him. 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 Hyman Roth's connection with the Committee's lawyer Questadt, was deeply resentful and jealous of Michael's role in the family business as well as the fact that he was treated as an errand boy and that he was stepped over. Michael therefore disowns and banishes him from the family, although not wanting any harm to happen to him while their mother was still alive.
Upon their mother's death, and at the urging of their sister Connie, Michael relented toward Fredo and seemingly offered reconciliation. However, it was only a deception to draw Fredo in so as to have him murdered by Al Neri.
Fredo and his nephew, Michael's son Anthony, developed a relationship with Michael's consent as part of a plan to kill Fredo and were 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 Al Neri and he takes the boat far out onto the lake. His suspicions prior to his death are left up to interpretation. As Fredo prays the Hail Mary (which he claimed brought him luck whilst fishing), Neri shoots him in the back of the head, not knowing that Anthony was watching from his bedroom window.
- "I ordered the death of my brother. He injured me. I killed my mother's son. I killed my father's son."
- ―Michael Corleone[src]
Michael was wracked with guilt over ordering Fredo's murder for the rest of his life. When Michael had a stroke, he called out for his brother. Michael broke down in tears when confessing the crime to the future Pope, Cardinal Lamberto, in 1980 while at the Vatican. It also irreparably harmed Michael's relationship with his son and Kay, who found about it through their son Anthony.
Personality and traits
- "Fredo has a good heart, but he is weak... and stupid, and this is life and death."
- ―Michael Corleone[src]
Described as the child Italian parents prayed to the saints for, Fredo was the weakest and least intelligent of the Corleone brothers; his own brother, Michael, dismissed him as weak and stupid. Fredo was also known for being incredibly gullible and making poor decisions, as evidenced by his secret dealings with Johnny Ola, thinking he was helping the family.
As with all Corleones, Fredo had a temper and would lash out at anyone that insulted him or his family, namely his wife. However, as Michael had commented on Fredo's weakness, he let Moe Greene slap him around in public and even defended Greene for the act at his own expense, which upset Michael greatly.
After Michael became Don, Fredo held a grudge about being stepped over and would show it when Michael berated him for choosing Hyman Roth over the Corleone family.
Despite his flaws, Fredo was very sociable and had a great understanding of local hangouts, which made him the meet-and-greet business liaison for important figures and guests, of which significance to the family Fredo wasn't even aware, thinking he was just an errand boy for Michael. Michael saw potential in Fredo's role in the family business, but was too wary to give his older brother any real power.
Fredo proved to be the most sensitive and caring member of the Corleones. In Part I, Fredo volunteered to stand in for Paulie Gatto to drive Don Vito, which unexpectedly led to the assassination attempt on the Don and Fredo's subsequent breakdown. When Don Vito returned home from the hospital, Fredo was the only one to silently remain with his father when everyone else had left, though Don Vito was probably too heartbroken about the news of Sonny's murder to notice Fredo.
Fredo also recognized that he had made a mistake in betraying Michael to Hyman Roth, and desperately tried to earn his forgiveness during the later half of Part II. It is revealed that Fredo was the only one who supported Michael's enlistment in the Marines during the Second World War. Fredo also spent time with and helped Anthony deal with his suffering because of the events surrounding The Roth Affair shortly before being killed, when no one else did or could.
In sequel novels
In The Godfather Returns
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 implies that he was molested as a child by his parish priest, Father Stefano. 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 aired 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
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 (before Michael and Rita's relationship).
In the video games
- "Ah, I, thought Moe was one o' the good guys. What the hell is Michael thinking?"
- ―Fredo Corleone to Aldo Trapani[src]
In The Godfather: The Game, Fredo is a secondary character, seen in only a few scenes. In 1945, when Don Corleone is shot, Fredo asks Aldo Trapani to help him escort the ambulance to the hospital. Later on, he is seen at the hospital with Sonny Corleone, who sends Aldo away. Not long after he fell into trouble with the Jersey police after they impounded his car while he was disposing a body for Moe Greene.
Due to the car's destruction by Trapani (under orders from Detective Campbell) the department weren't able to convict Fredo. Later, while he is aiding in the management of the Peak Hotel for Greene, he meets the now Capo Trapani who came there to meet Michael who wants Greene gone so he can expand into Vegas. Despite disagreeing and arguing with Michael's plan, Fredo goes along with it and soon after the underground casino is raided and shut down, the Hotel taken over and (unbeknownst to Fredo) Moe is killed at Orchid Inc. by Trapani.
In this game, he is mistakenly referred to on the family chart as "Alfredo".
The Godfather II
- "Jesus Christ Dominic! I've never be so scared in my life!"
- ―Fredo Corleone to Dominic Corleone[src]
In the The Godfather II, Fredo is featured more prominently. He is ordered by Michael Corleone to look after Aldo Trapani's mother, and later to go to Miami to look after a couple of hotels there. Fredo often advises Dominic on how to run a business. Hyman Roth convinces an unwitting Fredo to help him set his two greatest competitors (Dominic and Samuele Mangano) against each other, by setting up an assassination attempt that was supposedly arranged by Mangano. After Roth's assassination later that year, it is implied that it is Dominic, who kills Fredo at Lake Tahoe.
Notes and references
|Underboss of the Corleone crime family|
|1955 - 1959||Succeeded by:|