Little Caesar (1931)

 

"I... I have a premonition, the sound of broken beauty..."
"I... I have a premonition, the sound of broken beauty..."

Genre: Gangster Crime Drama

Starring: Edward G. Robinson (Double Indemnity; Key Largo), Douglas Fairbanks Jr. (Gunga Din)

Directed By: Mervyn LeRoy (I Am A Fugitive From A Chain Gang; Gold Diggers of 1933)

Overview: Caesar's rise to underworld fame is cinched, see? He's going to BE somebody, gonna rule the roost see? He's gonna own this town!

Divider Gangster

Performance:

Is it the actors' fault or is it the director? Wandering eyes looking for assistance and overzealous expressions aside, the stage direction was lacking. Is Edward G. Robinson really that nasal a guy? If not, the almost laughable voice was asked of him, which makes it kitschy-cute, but just a little too farcical to enjoy as the serious drama it should have been. I won't say the acting was severely lacking, but it was certainly not in the 'inspirational' class.
Rating: 5

Cinematography:

Crime mobster stuff should be less about the hats and more about the gats. Having said that, the diamond pinky rings, the tie studs, button down vests and tuxedos, the classic Fords, it's all great period stuff, even though it's not a period piece. I was looking for more action, more dramatic shootout scenes, that sort of thing. I found this rather typical.
Rating: 7

Script:

"Do yourself a favor, will you, Rico? Leave your gat home on the piano the next job you pull. Yeah, park it next to your milk bottle."

Ok this was gold. Heaters, gats, they said 'swell' about 6 times, there's all this face to face stuff with the cops, veiled threats and broken promises. I will certainly give the script the kudos it deserved. The writing is the best part. Gold I tells ya!
Rating: 8

Plot:

As predictable as all other gangsters films of this era, but still enjoyable. We have this upstart with this huge chip on his shoulder who vows he's going to make it big in the scene. He starts working for a little fish, then meets the bigger fish, so on and so on towards his rise to fame. I won't go and ruin the ending, but I will say it has strong elements of the morality play.
Rating: 7

Mood:

How best to explain the mixed emotions this brings? It's entertaining, engrossing, full of the themes of crime versus law and the drive of a man who knows his place in the pecking order of the world, but at the same time you're chuckling at these voices and the words they speak. This, today seems to border more on the cult classic comedy than the gangster drama, which is alright, but wow this voice has become cliché as all hell.
Rating: 6

"Nooo! The pain of seeing such lovely plates taken before their time!"
"Nooo! The pain of seeing such lovely plates taken before their time!"

Overall Rating: 66% (Nyah... See?)
Aftertaste:

There's a picture on the cover of the box with a short little guy leaning out of a Ford with a Tommy gun. Well that never happens in the movie, and I was disappointed big-time. There's a neat machine gun scene where someone shoots through the eyes of the cow on the side of a dairy truck, but seems to me that audiences of the early thirties were more impressed that there was actual sound than anything else going on...

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Oh, you shortchanged this film, its more than just a cult gangster film, its a perfect embodiment of the gangster mentality, in Robinson's (and his goonies') performance. It's silly to evaluate it on being cliche, when it was the first of its kind. It's all those other films that made it cliche...ya see?!


Thanks Chris!


Squish, there's a bit more to the story here-I was given a DVD set called "Hollywood vs The Mob-fact vs fiction" which stated:
Robinson's character, Caesar, was based on an actual mobster who was rumored to be secretly gay-in the movie Caesar 'doesn't have time for dames' like the rest of his gang. His sparing the life of his former partner who went into showbusiness as a dancer(!) was because he loved the guy.
There's a scene where Caesar is being fitted for a new tuxedo and, looking into the mirror, the tough guy turns a little...fey.
Recently found your site through Movie Morlocks-good stuff-please have a good day.


The "short little guy" leaning out of the ford is named Otero, played by George E Stone, and yes he does gun down Tony Passa from the window of the ford in the movie. Remember? It's a drive by shooting, and Little Caesar is driving the car. Re-watch it!

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