In The Godfather Part II, at some point during the events in Vito's past, his child was sick.

In the book, there is no implication that Fredo is of below average intelligence but in both The Godfather films, Fredo is pretty clearly slow and in more than one scene behaves not just "weak" but frankly dumb: Vegas when he suggests a clueless solution to Michael's disagreement with Moe.

So for sure, the movie has Fredo as, compared to his siblings, being the least of them intellectually.

Was the sick child indeed Fredo? He was the oldest, so that is pretty clear. Did the director decide to show us that Fredo as an adult suffered yet from childhood illness, and here's reason that just occurred to me: FFC himself had polio which of course sure did not affect his intelligence but must have been a powerful force for shaping his own psyche.

Actually, I read that Sonny was the oldest and if there was no older kid in the household, it was Sonny who was sick. So probably I am wrong about this unless we saw a young Sonny and an infant Fredo in The Godfather 2.


1 Answer 1


The sick child was Fredo

but this is only revealed in the subtitles.

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He was the oldest, so that is pretty clear.

No he wasn't. Santino was the oldest, then Fredo and Michael and finally Connie.

Just after Vito kills Fanucci we see him and his growing family (pre-Connie) on the stoop.

enter image description here

There's no indication that this childhood illness affected Fredo's mental or emotional capacities but I suppose it's possible.

The novel indicates that although Fredo was fairly tough, certainly enough to be an active Family member, he never quite matched the intelligence and hard-nosed nature of his brothers.

Additionally, witnessing the assassination attempt on Don Corleone seems to have broken something inside him.

Sonny said grimly, “Freddie is no use to us. The doctor says he’s in shock so bad he has to have complete rest. I don’t understand that. Freddie was always a pretty tough guy. I guess seeing the old man gunned down was hard on him, he always thought the Don was God. He wasn’t like you and me, Mike.”

and later...

Michael shrugged. He had seen soldiers in the same condition on the battlefield. But he had never expected it to happen to Freddie. He remembered the middle brother as being physically the toughest one in the family when all of them were kids. But he had also been the most obedient son to his father. And yet everyone knew that the Don had given up on this middle son ever being important to the business. He wasn’t quite smart enough, and failing that, not quite ruthless enough. He was too retiring a person, did not have enough force.

The Godfather - Mario Puzo

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    While not a direct medical relation, it seems very much adding to the abstract idea of Fredo being a "weakling".
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Commented Aug 2, 2019 at 9:26
  • 1
    I think there is little doubt in Godfather I and II that Fredo is supposed to be unintelligent and he certainly has done some very dumb things. That the director shows us the sick child is significant -- is any scene in any movie without purpose? In real life, even with a very young child, you can sometimes see that the child is not the same intellectually after a severe illness even if it can't be proven that they are less than they otherwise would have been -- I can tell you that it haunts families decades after the event.
    – releseabe
    Commented Jun 17, 2020 at 12:20
  • @CGCampbell: He was pretty dumb, this is seen more in II than in I.
    – releseabe
    Commented Jun 18, 2020 at 2:11
  • @CGCampbell: Just to be clear, when in II Fredo says, "I'm smart, not dumb like everyone says!" This is a strong indication of his in fact being dumb. Or even that he is sent to pick up people at the airport, why not send someone who is not the eldest son of Vito? But clearest is how is stupidly shows that he had met Johnny Ola before -- that is not a mistake that a person of average intelligence would make, considering the stakes just keeping one's mouth shut is something anyone should have been able to figure out.
    – releseabe
    Commented Jan 24, 2022 at 19:11

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