Little Caesar (1930)


A small time criminal moves to the big city and works his way through the ranks to become a criminal kingpin.

One of the earliest portrayals of a criminal dynasty, Little Caesar was also the big break for Edward G. Robinson. The star quality of he and an unusually immobile Douglas Fairbanks Jr. certainly shine through but like The Public Enemy, this is more an interesting period piece than a truly involving story. Like many early talkies, the supporting cast ham it up like they think they are still in silent pictures and many plot points hinge upon overheard conversations as the bad guy explains his plans in explicit detail to a crony. Rico’s implausibly meteoric rise is also aided by the fact that he is told that another in the mob hierarchy is “out” with no further explanation of any kind. Many of these so-called “heavies” are also amusingly camp by today’s standards to the point where I couldn’t help wondering if there was a deliberate homosexual subtext; on this evidence, it would be easy to conclude that Rico, Joe and Otero were caught in some kind of a gay love triangle!

Interesting as a snapshot into the birth of the gangster genre but Little Caesar just doesn’t cut it as believable drama in this day and age.



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