Did Fredo know about the hit, or was he duped?

As you can probably guess, I’m watching Godfather movies.

Godfather part II starts off with a hit on Michael inside the Corleone compound. The Don is convinced there is a traitor on the inside, and this is supported when the assassins turn up dead somewhere in the gardens.

The traitor famously turns out to be Michaels older brother Fredo, although precisely what Fredo did is unspecified.

Fredo himself claims to have been unaware that there was going to be a hit, that he was duped into betraying Michael. Ultimately this is irrelevant, as the only penalty for betrayal is death, and this isn’t the first time Fredo fucked up.

However…there is still the matter of the dead assassins. Who killed them? I really cannot figure it out. The obvious answer is Fredo, but that is not really believable. Killing two heavily armed men by yourself, concealing the bodies, then calmly going back to bed does not seem like something Fredo is capable of, certainly not if he was taken unawares as he claims. So, two options:

  1. There is someone else in the compound that night. He was either helped to escape by Fredo, who still hadn’t put 2 and 2 together (which might take a while - this is Fredo, after all), or is another traitor, unspecified.

  2. Fredo knew about the hit all along, somehow managed to kill the assassins, and then lied, hoping for mercy. This is supported by the assassins apparently being discovered by Fredo’s wife - did they come to his window, hoping he would hide them? It does, however, seem a bit to competent for Fredo, but given enough time to prepare, I guess it’s possible.

What I do not believe is:

  1. Fredo had no idea it was a hit, but killed the assassins to cover his tracks, because he is just that cold-blooded and smart underneath the stupid exterior.

So, what did I miss? Is it really obvious, and I’m just Fredo-level oblivious? Or is this unanswered?

It was Hyman Roth (and his muscle, Johnny Ola) who tried to kill Michael. I don’t know exactly what information Fredo gave Ola that set up the hit, but it got the assassins into the compound.

I’m guessing Ola then had another team kill the first team, so they wouldn’t talk if they got captured.

It’s unanswered far as I know. But remember on paper Fredo was Michael’s underboss. You actually see him on the organized crime chart when Michael is testifying. He has his “own people” - he didn’t have to kill the assassins himself, just order them whacked when they are tracked down. Presumably he had control ( partial or full ) of security at the compound, which is why Roth needed his cooperation in the first place. Once he realized it was a hit ( or just that it failed ) he may have just told his guards “kill them when you find them” in a panic and could always play it off as a mistake. Because that is just the sort of reactive fuck up Fredo would make, right?

Why would he have that kind of control over security? Because while he was dense, Michael thought he was loyal to family and overseeing guards doesn’t take tons of brain power.

Fredo was duped by Johnny Ola. Roth wanted to frame Pentangeli.

But f you have one team you can’t trust, and one team you can trust, why send both into the compound? Why not let the trustworthy team do it alone, since the chance of capture is equal either way?

Sure, I can buy Fredo as head of compound security - but this leaves a bunch of guards who were either in on the hit, or, at the very least, were given a direct order by Fredo in contradiction of Michaels order to take them alive. Did no-one debrief the guards? If Michael didn’t do it, surely Tom would have? Or are we to assume that Fredo - having just been in charge of a major security breech on his watch - was allowed to debrief the guards alone? If so, more people than Fredo are bad at their jobs at the compound.

We only have Fredos word that he didn’t know about the hit. Again, who killed the guards, if Fredo wasn’t in on it?

It’s been a while since I’ve seen it, but there is a scene after the attempted hit when Fredo is in bed with his wife and he gets a call from someone presumably on Roth’s team. We only hear Fredo’s end of the conversation, but it’s pretty clear he didn’t know what was going to happen.

My theory has been that he gave them some information, maybe more than he realized, that they were able to use to try and kill Michael. Maybe he talked too much about the security set up at the compound. He knew he was giving them info, but he thought it was more like corporate espionage, not to organize Michael’s murder; partly because Fredo was always shown to be a dumb, but loving member of the family. He’s the only one who congratulates Michael for joining the Marines after Pearl Harbor.

There is nothing in the book or the movie to give any kind of factual answer to this. Fredo’s place in things just doesn’t add up when his characterization is considered. He’s just the author-designated chump.

Previous related threads on topics related to the hit. In some, the issue of Fredo, the curtains, etc. pop up a bit into the thread.






I just went thru the recently run Godfather Saga version.

The only scenes where we learn something about Fredo’s role are the late night phone call he gets from Johnny Ola and during the lakehouse “I was passed over!” scene. Both times Fredo seems to sincerely deny knowing it was a hit.

His reason for assisting Roth seemed only to have a little side deal of his own.

It also seems that if Michael thought Fredo was knowingly in on the hit attempt he would have killed him much sooner. Instead he was allowed to live but not have a job in the family anymore as long as Mama Corleone was alive.

The main counter-argument is that it seems that Fredo is the only likely candidate for being the curtain opener. What possible reason would Roth and Ola* want the curtains open if it wasn’t for a hit? Even Fredo wasn’t that stupid.

OTOOH, if it was so clear that it had to be Fredo that opened the curtain, then Michael would have figured that out sooner.

Also, if Fredo assisted the shooters in getting in and/or killed them afterwards, his complicity would be much higher. But we have no info about that.

There is a little inconsistency regarding Fredo’s status in the family at the time of the hit. During the conversation between Michael and Tom. Michael pretends to turn things over to Tom, telling him that he will have control over Fredo and his people, Rocco and Neri. I.e., Fredo is at the ~capo level.

But in the lakehouse scene, Fredo complains about being given only minor stuff to do.

  • Belated Happy Birthday to Dominic Chianese, 85 years young.

Probably not two teams–instead, one team, one member of which had been taken aside and told ‘when the job is done, take out the others.’

With that set-up the guy ordering the hit needs only one guy he trusts completely. (Though of course if he actually doesn’t trust him completely, he can always ‘thank’ him for a job well done with a bullet in the head. Not much security in a life of crime, after all.)

I think he was betrayed by Pippin.

I don’t necessarily think that was inconsistent. Fredo was a capo/underboss by virtue of blood and loyalty, but not competency. For appearances sake he was apparently given day-to-day tasks ( including being a PR flack for visiting dons ) and employees to boss around. But at the end of the day it was Al Neri and Rocco that actually did the serious management, with Clemenza/Pentangeli running the local New York franchise as a semi-autonomous unit.

Fredo was apparently just smart enough to realize that his position was mostly for show and resented the hell out of it. Tom Hagen was also carefully excluded from the inner circle for strategic reasons. But he was much smarter, more loyal, far less ambitious and most critically not an older brother completely overshadowed by his younger sibling.

Even considering he was the Don’s bodyguard the day Sollozzo’s men put 5 bullets into Vito?

And after the way he acted in front of Michael with Moe Green? And even after considering he couldn’t even keep his own wife under control at a family party? And that the only job he seems to be good at is getting people laid?

Fredo is Michael’s brother, and he loves him, but I don’t see him as head of security.

He was subbing for Paulie, who called in sick that day (third time in a month). It gets Vito’s antenna up, asking if they should get a healthier man but Freddie vouches for Paulie.

But as Sollozzo tells Tom, Vito was slipping that he could never have gotten to him in the old days (Actually in a gang war with an Irish mob ten years later, one self-sacrificing gunman did get to Vito and wounded him). But before getting Vito, Sollozzo and Tattaglia get Luca Brasi. The war council of Sonny, Tom, Clemenza, Tessio and Michael can’t imagine Brasi is dead until they get the message that he sleeps with the fishes.

In the beginning of the book, Freddie is described as the type of dutiful, loving son that parents pray to the saints that they get, although he is lacking something to take Vito’s place. I suppose Michael is hoping those traits return but they don’t.

No, we hear both sides of the conversation, it’s Johnny Ola who calls him. Ola addresses him as ‘Don’ Fredo to butter him up knowing he’s going to be upset. Fredo is scared out of his mind, says, “You guys lied to me!”, and Ola keeps reassuring him that nobody’s going to find out and tries pumping him for info about the upcoming meeting Michael’s requested (asking, “Will he come alone!”). Fredo eventually hangs up on him.

Roth and Ola played Fredo like a cheap violin. He felt overlooked and Roth tapped right into that. But whatever arrangement Fredo made with Ola was just out of incompetence, not revenge. He genuinely thought he could arrange something on his own with Roth that would help the family and make him look worthy of respect. But it simply showed the complete opposite.

I saw what you did there.

One does not simply walk into the Corleone compound.

Man, have one bad moment in the NBA Conference Finals and nobody ever forgets!

Or, to be exact, out of it.

Wow, I’m kinda glad I’m not the only one to waaay overthink this. Just proves what a great movie this is, huh?