John Cazale as Fredo Corleone, insecure Mafia casino manager
Las Vegas, Summer 1954
Film: The Godfather
Release Date: March 14, 1972
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Costume Designer: Anna Hill Johnstone
“New year, new you” is a theme constantly touted by clickbait articles and lifestyle magazines through early January so, in the spirit of #MafiaMonday and the start of the 50th anniversary year of The Godfather, let’s take a look at one of the more startling reinventions in the world of mob movies: Fredo Corleone’s attempted transformation from forgotten brother to flamboyant swinger.
Sure, Fredo may still need the occasional “straightening out”—after all, banging cocktail waitresses two at a time is hardly good for business—but Las Vegas presents him with the opportunity to shed his middle child syndrome and explore a more independent side of himself… for better or worse.
Unfortunately for Freddie, he’s overestimated how much his brother would appreciate ostentatious displays of his newfound success, and neither the glitzy showgirls, chilled champagne, nor celebratory accordions are enough to impress Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) during his overnight business trip to the future Sin City. Instead, Michael recognizes the potential danger of his spineless sibling drifting too far from under the influence of the Corleones… and hints at the potentially tragic consequences.
Fredo: Mike! You don’t come to Las Vegas and talk to a man like Moe Greene like that!
Michael: Fredo… you’re my older brother, and I love you. But don’t ever take sides against the family again. Ever.
What’d He Wear?
The move to Las Vegas proves beneficial to Fredo Corleone’s once-dwindling sense of identity, as he abandons the business suits favored by his brothers and adopts a playboy-adjacent style more consistent with his new mentor, Moe Greene (Alex Rocco). Note that when Moe swaggers into the “party”, he and Fredo are sartorially aligned in their yellowing sport jackets against the dark-suited Corleone contingent of Michael, Tom Hagen (Robert Duvall), and Al Neri (Richard Bright). Indeed, yellow seems to be the uniform for those accustomed to Las Vegas, not just for Fredo and Moe but also the casino bellhops and band and even the golden-hued turtlenecks of Moe’s lackeys that line the walls of the suite.
Mario Puzo’s source novel also draws attention to how Las Vegas changed Fredo’s appearance, though Puzo’s vision suggests more alignment with the Corleone uniform, describing the “far more dandified” Freddie now clad in “an exquisitely tailored gray silk suit and accessories to match.” The costume could hardly be more different in the cinematic adaptation.
Fredo welcomes Michael to Las Vegas while wearing a yellow jacket, a likely unintentional but still significant indication that Fredo may be the one attempting to “sting” Michael during their next meeting at a gambling haven. Though yellow isn’t the traditional color, Fredo’s single-breasted jacket fits a more liberal description of a “blazer” with its metal buttons and solid-colored cloth.
Two brass buttons shine from the front, matched by three smaller vestigial buttons on each cuff. Sporty details include “swelled” welted edges along the wide notch lapels and around the squared top yokes and rounded bottoms of the patch pockets on the hips and left breast.
Yellow is a less conventional color for men’s tailoring, but it doesn’t necessarily need to be loud depending on how it’s worn. Of course, Fredo turns up the volume by layering his yellow blazer over a pitch black shirt, completing the image of an annoying bumblebee “buzzing” around the table while the real power players negotiate. The shirt’s silky texture suggests a synthetic fabric like rayon, detailed with a front placket, button cuffs, and a long point collar worn open at the neck to show his colorful scarf.
Knotted in the front to let the tails flay over the top of his open-neck shirt, Fredo’s black silk scarf is printed in a gray and magenta paisley.
Fredo’s beige trousers are checked in a black-and-gold tattersall that unites the colors of the rest of his outfit while adding a pattern that enhances the formality divide between he and the somberly dressed Corleones. He holds up these trousers with a smooth brown leather belt that closes through a polished gold square single-prong buckle.The trousers are plain-hemmed on the bottoms, which have a full break over the back of his white leather loafers, an ostentatious choice that only serves to further dress down the outfit to something more appropriate the leisurely afternoon he expected rather than the business meeting that Michael demanded. As Freddie dances into the suite, we get brief glimpses of his black socks.
A new addition to Fredo’s wardrobe is the gold ring on the third finger of his right hand, with channel-set diamonds gleaming from around the band. For a man who has so welcomed yellow in his wardrobe, it’s no surprise that Fredo favors yellow gold, as also seen by the brief glimpse of his metal-banded watch that shines under his left shirt cuff.
Fredo also spends much of the scene taking off and putting back on his gold-framed aviator sunglasses, with amber-tinted lenses hiding his eyes. Wearing his sunglasses indoors—as well as constantly fussing as to whether or not to keep them on or off—indicates just how conscious Fredo is of the image he’s trying to cultivate, alternating between projecting nonchalant success or his hapless quest to be taken seriously.
While Michael Corleone dresses to look powerful, he doesn’t necessarily dress to look like a mob boss, still choosing white or off-white shirts and conventional ties even when clad in his flashier silk suits. Instead, Fredo embraces louder threads in the hope of communicating to the world that he’s every bit the gangster as the rest of his family.
Fredo would maintain this loud Las Vegas attitude in his attire the rest of his life, with sartorial highlights in The Godfather Part II to include a plaid silk dinner jacket for his nephew’s communion, a pink sports coat in Havana, and adopting full-on “gangster style” for New Year’s Eve in a white suit, black shirt, and white tie that totally inverses his more serious younger brother’s black suit, white shirt, and black tie.
How to Get the Look
Fredo Corleone dresses loudly to make up for his lack of an authentic voice, instead buzzing around the hotel suite in the yellow blazer that defines his new position standing in solidarity against his more seriously dressed brothers. Though much of Freddie’s costume would have also been contemporary to the early 1970s production, the excesses of ’50s sportswear often portended the trends of the “disco decade”.
- Yellow single-breasted blazer with wide notch lapels, two brass buttons, rounded patch breast pocket, rounded patch hip pockets, 3-button cuffs, and single vent
- Black silky rayon long-sleeved shirt with long point collar, front placket, and button cuffs
- Black silk neckerchief with a gray-and-magenta paisley print
- Beige gold-and-black tattersall check flat front trousers with belt loops, side pockets, and plain-hemmed bottoms
- Brown leather belt with polished gold square single-prong buckle
- White leather loafers
- Black socks
- Gold-framed aviator sunglasses with amber lenses
- Gold ring with channel-set diamonds
- Gold wristwatch on gold bracelet
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Funko fans can also buy a figure of Fredo Corleone, clad in his Las Vegas livery of yellow blazer, black shirt open at the neck to show his knotted scarf, white shoes, and aviators clipped to his pocket, albeit with the addition of the mustache he wouldn’t grow until The Godfather Part II.