Little Caesar (1931) is one of the original gangster films and influenced the movies in that genre that were to come. It was directed by Mervyn LeRoy and based on a novel by W. R. Burnett. Edward G. Robinson stars as Little Caesar aka Rico, a small time gangster looking to make it big. He and his good friend Joe (Douglas Fairbanks Jr.) head east to Chicago. But Joe is a reluctant gangster who has dreams of becoming a dancer. Joe falls in love with another dancer, Olga (Glenda Farrell), but finds it difficult to severe ties with his gangster friend Rico who is now establishing himself as the king of the underworld. The cops are hot on the tails of Rico and his gangster buddies and poor Joe gets caught in the middle.
This is my favorite shot from the film. Lots of well-dressed gangsters all in a row.
Looks just like my apartment (in my dreams!).
This film is filled with Art Deco splendor and well-dressed gangsters who rule the city's seedy underworld. The gangsters wear the best suits with all the accessories: tie-pins, scarves, pinkie rings, tie-chains, lapel buttons and pocket watches. Along with the cloche hats and the evening gowns the ladies wear, any vintage fashion enthusiast will swoon when they see these wardrobes.
Little Caesar is a product of the early talkie era. It came from Warner Bros. studio during a time of experimentation. When you watch the film, you are most likely to notice a lot of breaks in sound where there is nothing but silence or the sounds of movement. There is no score. And the film also has a vestige of the silent film era: title cards.
Edward G. Robinson didn't have a contract when he made Little Caesar and the film was such a big hit that it helped him secure a lucrative 2-year deal. Little Caesar also heralded a new genre of film, the gangster movie, that would prove to be popular for many years to come. Ocean's 11 (1960) makes a hat tip to Little Caesar as both involve a heist that takes place during the commotion of a New Year's Eve celebration.
Let's face it, Little Caesar makes gangster life look glamorous. And I can see how that would make some conservative types a bit nervous. This is definitely a pre-code movie because even though the bad guy doesn't win, you can't help but admire him a little bit.
I very much enjoyed Little Caesar. I haven't found very many films with Edward G. Robinson that I did not enjoy. He always does a great job in his roles. I was happy to see Douglas Fairbanks Jr. in this because I'd like to watch more of him. Gangsters, elegant menswear, Art Deco, New Year's, 1930s are all elements that I thoroughly enjoy!
Thanks to Laura of Laura's Miscellaneous Musings who encouraged others to watch this film and review it during the month of February! It was a fun excuse for me to finally watch Little Caesar.