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.
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 Vegas under the protection of former Murder, Inc. torpedo Moe Greene. 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 only in Las Vegas (According to Moe Greene, "He was banging cocktail waitresses two at a time"). 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 openly considers him as an idiot.
In a flashback to the early days of the Corleone family, there is a scene where an infant Fredo is treated for pneumonia.
Fredo betrays Michael when approached by Johnny Ola, an agent of rival gangster Hyman Roth 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.
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." 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 and jealous of Michael's role in the family business. Michael disowns and banishes Fredo from the family. Upon their mother's death, and at Connie's urging, Michael seemingly forgives Fredo. However, it is only to draw Fredo in so as to have him murdered, something Michael would not permit while their mother was alive.
Towards the end of The Godfather Part II, Fredo and his nephew, Michael's son Anthony, develop a 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 Reno. 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 him in the back of the head. It is implied that Fredo's body is thrown overboard after being chained to weights. Family members outside of Michael's inner circle are told that Fredo drowned in a boating accident.
Ordering Fredo's death would haunt Michael for the rest of his life, and further alienates him from his wife Kay (Diane Keaton) and son Anthony. In The Godfather Part III, Michael expresses deep remorse at ordering his brother's death years later while confessing his sins to Cardinal Lamberto, who later becomes Pope John Paul I.
Within the pages of The Godfather Returns, and followed up on in The Godfather's Revenge, also by Winegardner, it is stated that Fredo had a child before he died, and the child was given up for adoption by the mother, Margurite Duvall, Michael's girlfriend for the duration of The Godfather's Revenge.