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This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

Tipsy, Topsy, Turvy

Little Caesar (1931) on IMDb

Plot Overview

Small potatoes hoodlum Caesar Enrico ‘Rico’ Bandello (Edward G. Robinson) and his partner-in-crime Joe Massara (Douglas Fairbanks Jr.) rob a small town gas station at mid­night and then discuss their plans at a diner. Rico figures, “This game ain't for guys that's soft,” and he's going east to “be some­body.” He goes to the big city and drops in on mob boss Sam Vettori (Stanley Fields) at his Club Palermo to try out for his gang. Sam accepts his recruitment figuring, “Guess you're good with a rod, too.” The word from under­world over­lord ‘Big Boy’ (Sidney Blackmer), though, is to cool it with the violence until zealous Crime Commissioner Alvin McClure (Landers Stevens) leaves town.

Meanwhile, his friend Joey has taken a job as an exhibition dancer at The Bronze Peacock run by rival gang leader ‘Little Arnie’ Lorch, while he maintains a low key association with Rico, as well. When Vettori's gang decides to rob the Pea­cock, they use a reluctant Joey as a look­out, but he witnesses Rico shooting McClure. Rico's ruth­less­ness earns him the respect of the mobsters, and he advances in the gang hierarchy eventually getting noticed by Big Boy, him­self, who gives him the whole North Side. Joey, how­ever, has fallen under the influence of his dance partner & girl­friend Olga Stassoff (Glenda Farrell) who wants him to break with the life of crime altogether. Rico won't let that happen (“You can't go back on a gang”) because he knows too much. This places a strain on their friendship.


Joey had failed to follow the paternal advice of:
(Prov. 1:10-19) “My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not. If they say, Come with us, let us lay wait for blood, let us lurk privily for the innocent with­out cause: Let us swallow them up alive as the grave; and whole, as those that go down into the pit: We shall find all precious substance, we shall fill our houses with spoil: Cast in thy lot among us; let us all have one purse: My son, walk not thou in the way with them; refrain thy foot from their path: For their feet run to evil, and make haste to shed blood. Surely in vain the net is spread in the sight of any bird. And they lay wait for their own blood; they lurk privily for their own lives. So are the ways of every one that is greedy of gain; which taketh away the life of the owners thereof.”

Little Caesar for all his bluster is in danger of running afoul of this saying of Jesus: (Matt. 26:52) “for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword,” quoted as an inter­title at the beginning of the picture.

Production Values

The movie, “Little Caesar” (1931) was directed by Mervyn LeRoy. It was based on W.R. Burnett's novel, Little Caesar. The screen version was written by Robert N. Lee, Robert Lord, Darryl F. Zanuck, and Francis Edward Faragoh. It stars Edward G. Robin­son, Douglas Fair­banks Jr., and Glenda Farrell. Edward G. Robinson delivered a memor­able per­for­mance. Douglas Fair­banks Jr. had little exposure; his character doesn't stand out. Glenda Farrell's Olga is seen only briefly. The rest of the cast each makes a good contribution.

“Little Caesar” came out when "the code" was in its infancy and didn't have teeth. Still, it's pretty tame by today's standards. The violence was relatively abstract. In the first days of talkies the cameras were bulky and noisy necessi­tating further bulk for sound shielding. Consequently, in films such as this one, the camera stayed stationary and movement was portrayed through editing. This being one of the first talkies, the actors in this new milieu projected their voices unneces­sarily, as was done on a stage theater to a seated audience. These were historical necessities. On the good side this was the beginning of the crime genre which makes it interesting. It pretty much lacked any musical back­ground. The dancing, though, was elegant. Much of the film was in a dark light reflecting the mood.

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

This one rates high for drama, but it's necessarily dated with respect to film technology. I liked it, but the modern marvels of movies some­what spoils the impact of an ancient film. See it if it's your bag.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Decent action scenes. Suitability for children: Not rated, pre-code. Special effects: Wake up and smell the 1990s technology. Video Occasion: Good for a Rainy Day. Suspense: Keeps you on the edge of your seat. Overall product rating: three stars out of five.