Thursday, 17 July 2008

Little Caesar (Mervyn LeRoy, 1931)

Caesar Enrico Bandello: Mother of Mercy! Is this the end of Rico?

These are the famous last words spoken in this milestone of gangster movies (the seeds of film noir had been planted).

Rico or “little Caesar” (Edward G Robinson) is a small-town gangster (the opening scene with a robbery at a gas station is one of the best moments of the movie). He ambitions to become a big racketeer: I could do all the things that fella does, and more, only I never got my chance. And when I get in a tight spot, I shoot my way out of it. Why sure. Shoot first and argue afterwards. You know, this game ain't for guys that's soft!

He decides to move east with his colleague Joe Massara (Douglas Fairbanks Jr). However Joe doesn’t want to follow Rico’s footsteps the crime league and his ambition is to become a professional dancer together with his loved Olga (Glenda Farrell).

Rico will continue his rise to become a big racketeer - a memorable scene is the killing of gang member Tony on the church stairs (it reminded me of Eddie Bartlett’s death in The Roaring Twenties). The will to have former colleague Joe by his side – seeking true loyalty - will lead to Rico’s downfall.

The rise and fall of Rico Bandello is narrated using the technique of early cinema (for example with the use of written “tableaux”). There are clear references to the Italian American world (as in the 1Club Palermo). Little Caesar became an iconic film and E.G. Robinson would also become one of the references in gangster film and later in noir movies.

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