John Cazale did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Fredo Corleone in The Godfather Part II.
It is quite strange that Cazale was completely forgotten for this film as there most certainly was a Godfather love fest by the academy, and it received three nominations in Supporting Actor. Where they honestly more impressed by Michael V. Gazzo in the same film, that seem very unlikely. Was it that he also gave a good, but less substantial performance in the Conversation the problem. Well the way his performance was in that best picture nominated film would only help his chances for this film. His snub is a true head scratcher.
In his early moments Cazale suggest the pathetic nature of Fredo, as he
is unable to control the woman who has come with him, establishing his
weakness. There is also perhaps a bit of naivety that Cazale has
in his interactions with Michael in these early scenes. Cazale shows that Fredo really has failed to fully grasp how much really Michael has changed, and
views him as far somewhat still as his kid brother, and no longer as the
cold man he has become.
One thing great about Cazale is he is never afraid to show that Fredo
really is stupid. He certainly never overplays this lack of
intelligence, but brings it to life without fault. In fact Cazale shows
Fredo's lack of intelligence as the sad truth behind his downfall. In
his phone call at night suggesting what Fredo did to Michael, Cazale is
excellent portraying his complete lack of understanding of the situation as
well, but as well as bringing to life the piercing guilt and fear over what he has done.
Cazale's strongest moments though all come when he directly interacts with
Michael. Firstly in his small moment where he talks to Michael, and
attempts to hide his guilt in an attempted hit against Michael, well
showing what is a genuine love for Michael he does has as well. Cazale
though shows that Fredo really is a jumble of emotions, and cannot
really properly control them at any time, such as in this scene where he
tries to really talk to Michael, but is unable to get over what he done
His single best scene though is when he finally describes to Michael why
he did what he did. Fredo did not do it for anything truly malicious,
but Cazale honestly portrays he wanted something something for himself, and
to be able to have something that would allow him to be something other
than the forgettable dumb brother. Cazale is completely heartbreaking in
this scene becuase he does not show his anger toward Michael from any
ambition of an evil man, but just from a sad child who wanted more.
This a truly tragic depiction of a character, and it certainly is one of the most powerful ever portrayed. Cazale gives a flawless performance here, that is only ever is genuine. His performance stays honest as he never does seem to try to steal the spotlight as Fredo, as that would be incorrect to the character, yet he manages to do it in his own quiet and very moving fashion. This is simply one of the greatest most poignant supporting performances ever given, and the fact he was nominated is one of the biggest mistake in the Academy's history.