‘The Godfather II’: Fredo’s Death After Michael’s New Year’s Eve Kiss Almost Never Happened
One of the most important stories in The Godfather II happens between the remaining sons of the Corleone family. Things don’t end well between Fredo (John Cazale) and Michael (Al Pacino). But Fredo’s death almost never made it into the movie for an interesting reason.
Fredo Corleone is killed in ‘The Godfather II’
The sequel shows Michael being the head of the Corleone crime family. He is almost assassinated and he thinks the family’s business partner, Hyman Roth (Lee Strasberg) is behind it.
Fredo was moved to Las Vegas and was taken in by Moe Greene (Alex Rocco). Moe refused to sell out to Michael, which caused tension and Fredo sided with Moe. Michael told his older brother to never side against the family again.
That moment was foreshadowing of Michael and Fredo’s terrible fate. Michael realizes at a New Year’s Eve party in Havana that Fredo betrayed him. He kisses Fredo and tells him, “I know it was you, Fredo. You broke my heart. You broke my heart.”
They later talk and Fredo reveals that he resents how he was passed over and has to take orders from his little brother. Michael then decides to wait for their mother to die to have his brother killed.
Fredo almost made it out alive
Fredo’s death symbolize a huge turn for Michael’s character. He claims to be all about the family, but then makes the ultimate move to destroy it.
The author of the book, Mario Puzo, actually didn’t want Fredo to die. “I didn’t want Fredo to be killed, but [director] Francis [Ford Coppola] was adamant. So I said ok, but you can’t kill him until the mother dies,” Puzo said in the documentary, Behind the scenes of The Godfather 2.
The author thought if Michael did it before then he would be unforgivable to the audience. Coppola also wrote about this disagreement for Entertainment Weekly.
“Not all of my ideas went over so well,” the director revealed. “Mario was dubious about the idea that it was Fredo who betrayed Michael; he didn’t think it was plausible. But he was absolutely against Michael ordering his own brother to be killed. It was a stalemate for a while, as nothing would happen unless we both agreed.”
He continued, “Finally I tossed him the idea that Michael wouldn’t have Fredo killed until their mother died. He thought about this for a moment, and then said okay, it would work for him. He was the arbiter of what the novel’s characters would do, while I was offering a kind of interpretation from the perspective of what a movie director would do.”
That’s not the only part of the movie’s family drama that made Coppola and Puzo disagree. Puzo didn’t want Kay (Diane Keaton) to tell Michael she had an abortion at first. But Coppola also won out on that discussion.