LITTLE CAESAR (1930 US) D: MERVYN LeROY W: FRANCIS EDWARD FARAGOH/ROBERT LORD (uncredited) W/P: DARRYL F. ZANUCK (uncredited) P: HAL B. WALLIS (uncredited)
Edward G. Robinson stars as Rico, a (not overtly) Italian-American petty criminal (loosely based on early Prohibition-era Chicago gangster Salvatore Cardinella) who moves to Chicago to work for a mobster (Stanley Fields), who in turn works for "Diamond Pete" Montana (Ralph Ince as a character based on Jim Colosimo, most well-known for having been killed by Johnny Torrio, and allegedly Torio's protege Al Capone). He in turn works for a corrupt political figure (referred to as "Big Boy") played by Sidney Blackmer. Rico`s ambitious craving for money and power is of course ultimately his downfall (in a few years the Hays Code wouldn't even allow crime stories to be told from the point-of-view of criminal-as-protagonist, being delivered firmly from the side of law & order). Douglas Fairbanks Jr. is Rico's longtime pal who would rather dance on stage than ascend the ranks of crime (this character was allegedly based on actor George Raft, who would soon be memorable in that other pre-code crime milestone SCARFACE (1932), and would later be immortalised in 1961's THE GEORGE RAFT STORY). Thomas E. Jackson is great as nemesis Sgt. Flaherty. With Glenda Farrell (also memorable in 1933's MYSTERY OF THE WAX MUSEUM), William Collier Jr., Lucille La Verne (stage and screen veteran most well-known for the voice of the witch in Disney's animated 1937 version of SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS), Maurice Black, George E. Stone, Armand Kaliz, Ernie Adams, Kerman Cripps, Ferike Boros, Ben Hendricks Jr., Al Hill, Noel Madison, Tom McGuire, Louis Natheaux, Henry Sedley, Larry Steers, Landers Stevens and Robert Walker. The b/w LITTLE CAESAR (from First National/Warner Bros.) was based on W. R. Burnett's 1929 novel. It of course established Robinson (who had already been in Tod Browning's 1930 gangster flick OUTSIDE THE LAW) as a star, but also led the way for other crime hits such as THE PUBLIC ENEMY (1931) (also from Warners) and the aforementioned SCARFACE (which Burnett worked on, but first his novels THE BEAST OF THE CITY (more gangsters) and LAW AND ORDER (a western) were filmed) that shaped our perception of the gangster film. For the modern viewer it still works reasonably well, but without all the history attached it's not likely to wow many anymore. Director LeRoy also directed Robinson in FIVE STAR FINAL the next year, and also helmed that still potent pre-code classic, I AM A FUGITIVE FROM A CHAIN GANG. Screenwriter Faragoh worked on the script for FRANKENSTEIN (1931). In 1973 Larry Cohen and Fred Williamson gave us BLACK CAESAR.

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