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USA 1931
Directed by
Mervyn LeRoy
78 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4.5 stars

Little Caesar

Released the year as James Cagney's The Public Enemy, Little Caesar made a star of Edward G. Robinson, as Cesare "Rico" Bandello, a two-bit gangster who hits the big time only to crash and burn.

It is rather perfunctory as morality play but as an archetype of the gangster genre and the screen anti-hero, and providing source material for many modern instances (note particularly the shooting of  Rico's accomplice, Tony, on the cathedral steps and his funeral procession, sequences which get re-cycled in Coppola's Godfather series). On the downside, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr (in a role originally considered for Clark Gable) is miscast as Rico's pal and director Mervyn LeRoy fumbles the up-close action, the shooting of McClure, and the attempted killing and then successful killing of Rico all going to waste whilst overall the production is stilted by today's standards.

On the other hand, given that Hollywood was still making its transition to sound (the film uses inter-titles) the film has much that technically and directorially impresses and there is no doubt that, particularly thanks to Robinson's performance, the film is a classic that still holds up today.

 

 

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