Little Caesar (1930)

Little Caesar (1930)
Little Caesar (1930)
Running Time: 80 Minutes
Dir. Mervyn LeRoy
Cast: Edward G. Robinson, Glenda Farrell, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.
Genre: Action, Crime, Drama

Screening Time: Friday, May 12, 2017 at 10:40 a.m.

Storyline
Robinson’s portrayal of a merciless killer is a masterpiece which has withstood years of mimicry. One of the great gangster films.

4 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    January 10, 2017 at 9:18 am

    Rico Bandello, a petty crook nicknamed LITTLE CAESAR, plots his rise to become crime boss of the Big City.

    Edward G. Robinson made a tremendous impact in this star-making saga of a thoroughly detestable little man who bandies his way through society’s underbelly for a short time until fate brings him his just reward. The evil spawn of a deplorable age, Rico cares for neither booze nor dames, only pure raw power. Even loyalty & friendship are weaknesses to be deplored since no one can be ultimately trusted. Robinson, with his frightening eyes and large ugly mouth, makes this human scum fascinating to watch – a cheap little monster in expensive suits, a moral nonentity with a big gun.

    Douglas Fairbanks Jr does a fine job with what little the script gives him as Rico’s longtime buddy; the bland nature of his performance contrasts nicely to Robinson’s florid acting style. Even more compelling is Glenda Farrell in an important early role as Fairbanks’ girlfriend – this talented actress would soon become one of Hollywood’s premiere tough talking brassy blondes.

    Stanley Fields, Sidney Blackmer & George E. Stone all deliver vivid portraits of crooks & criminals that Rico must intimidate or use. Special mention should be made of William Collier Jr who gives a touching portrayal as the mob’s getaway driver who loses his nerve and attempts to go straight.

    Movie mavens will recognize an unbilled Lucille La Verne as the old crone who intimidates Rico near the end of the picture.

    With LITTLE CAESAR and PUBLIC ENEMY (1931) Warner Brothers established themselves as the Studio that could produce topnotch, gritty crime dramas. The reputation was well deserved and the films were appreciated by movie viewers already enthralled by the headline exploits of real life Depression desperadoes.

  2. Anonymous

    January 10, 2017 at 9:18 am

    LITTLE CAESAR was made at a critical time in U.S. history. Prohibition was in, the depression was overwhelming, and mobsters were running rampant. I don’t think the filmmakers realized it, but they have made a movie that paints the "Mafia" as glamorous and flashy. A message appears before the flick, telling the public how "we" must stop gangsters like Tom Powers (James Cagney,PUBLIC ENEMY) and Rico, (Edward G. Robinson, LITTLE CAESAR). The movie probably had youngsters and adults alike wanting to live the life of a man who had a city in his grasp, and no one who was anyone was "yellow". All seriousness aside, this blueprint of a long history of mob pictures is silly, dated, and damn watchable. You can’t take your eyes off the screen.

    A film with dialogue like the ultimate cliche "Go on. I’m…done for" must be a waste of time right? Not if you appreciate pre-historic cinema and the Vitaphone films of the early talkie period. Actors like the great Edward G. Robinson were born to talk and deliver lines at machine gun pace. This is what the audiences of the time were looking for. And that mug. Audiences would not see such a face on a gangster until Brando’s GODFATHER. If you love GOODFELLAS, THE GODFATHER, Cagney and Bogart films, and even PULP FICTION, this is a must see. Experience an American original – the first potent "La Cosa Nostra" movie. Rat tat tat tat tat!!!

    RATING: 10 of 10

  3. Anonymous

    January 10, 2017 at 9:18 am

    Boy, is this gangster movie dated but Edward G. Robinson makes it so entertaining! Robinson, like James Cagney, can dominate a film. He certainly does that in this movie, and is sure fun to watch as "Enrico Bandello."

    Everything about the movie, including the DVD transfer (although a lot better than the VHS) is dated-looking and sounding, but that helps make it interesting. The dialog is so passe that it's almost weird. I put on the English subtitles so I could understand everything because the slang of those days is something foreign to us nowadays. The different expressions of the day are fun to hear (and read).

    The acting by the man (Thomas Jackson?) who plays the main cop is also strange, very wooden-like. He just didn't sound natural. Some of the other actors were likewise, others were fine. It was one of the early "talkies" so maybe things were still needed to be smoothed out, film-wise and acting-wise. In other words, some of the actors sounded professional and others amateurish.

    The following year, James Cagney's "Public Enemy" came out and was much better, production-wise. What a big difference in the camera-work, for one. This film may not be the caliber of "Public Enemy" but it's still good and one to have in your collection.

  4. IMDBReviewer

    January 10, 2017 at 9:18 am

    Technically it is not the first gangster movie. D.W.Griffith's MUSKETEERS OF PIG ALLEY was, and after that there were films in the silent period dealing with gangs and crime. But the cycle of anti-hero gangsters began in the sound period with LITTLE CAESAR (1930/31) followed by THE PUBLIC ENEMY (1931) and SCARFACE: SHAME OF THE NATION (1932). Each made a movie star out of the lead actor: Edward G. Robinson as Enrico Bandello in LITTLE CAESAR; James Cagney as Tom Powers in THE PUBLIC ENEMY; and Paul Muni as Tony Carmonte in SCARFACE.

    The interesting thing about these three sound classics is that the central anti-heroes are not the same (except in their willing use of violence). Cagney enjoys the violence as much as Muni, but Cagney has a great sense of loyalty to his friends and a deep love for his mother. Muni respects his mother, but his family love is centered on his sister (Ann Dvorak), and his loyalty to friends ends the moment he suspects they are no longer obeying him or are threatening him. And Robinson? He has no close contact with any family in the story (his last words are addressed to the Virgin Mary ("Mother of mercy"), not his own mother), and never has a girlfriend (a fact made more clear in the novel). However, he has very strong feeling dealing with his close friend Joe Massara (Douglas Fairbanks Jr.), and actually hesitates only once in killing anyone: when he might have to shoot Joe to get at Joe's girlfriend Olga (Glenda Farrell). Suddenly his eyes get teary – one wonders how close he felt towards Fairbanks. His loyal associate, Otero (George E. Stone) does not hesitate to try to shoot Fairbanks, and he wounds him, but they are forced to flee before Otero can finish the job. Interestingly, Rico/Robinson is not as moved when Otero, fatally wounded, tells him to flee a scene or two afterward.

    The gangs in PUBLIC ENEMY and SCARFACE are successful and organized, but we never fully see this. Not so in LITTLE CAESAR. One critical approach to the film has likened it and the rise of Rico to Andrew Carnegie's advise to young businessmen at the turn of the century. And we do see the organization going from Joe and Rico and Otero to Sam to Diamond Pete Montana to "the Big Boy" (who lives in a mansion with accoutrements). Interestingly when the gang is destroyed, the news of the trials and executions do not include Montana (who has always kept a low profile – he never has his picture taken), or "the Big Boy". The ones who learn the rules of corporate America, as applied to crime gangs, survive: the Lucianos and Costellos, not the Siegels or Anastasias or Schultzs.

    The film set stardom for Robinson, although (like Cagney, but oddly not like Muni) Robinson was stuck mostly in crime movies in the 1930s. It wasn't until the later 1930s that he was able to show he could play other types of characters, although even when not a gangster he was cast as the villain (THE SEA WOLF). He never did win an Oscar for this part, still his best known), but he did have a long distinguished career in movies, capped (after his last film, the under appreciated SOYLENT GREEN, with a life achievement Oscar. Not bad for a man whose best known character died in a gutter wondering why he was ending this way instead of on top.

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