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USA 1931
Directed by
Mervyn LeRoy
78 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars

Little Caesar

Released the same 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.

Although a rather perfunctory morality play (complete with inter-titles), as an archetype of the gangster genre along with Howard Hawk's Scarface which was released the following year it is the well-spring for many modern instances (note particularly the shooting of  Rico's sometime accomplice, Tony, on the cathedral steps and his funeral procession, sequences which get re-cycled in Coppola's Godfather series).

Whilst Robinson is outstanding as the would-be crime king-pin (and, from today's perspective, a closet homosexual) on the downside, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr (in a role originally considered for Clark Gable) is miscast as Rico's pal in a subplot which is no more than roughly sketched in. Director LeRoy wastes the up-close action, notably the shooting of McClure, and the attempted, and then successful, killing of Rico all being no more than schematically handled..

Although overall the production is stilted by today's standards, given that Hollywood was still making its transition to sound the film is a deserved classic of the genre.




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