Rico is a small-time hood who knocks off gas stations for whatever he can take. He heads east and signs up with Sam Vettori's mob. A New Year's Eve robbery at Little Arnie Lorch's casino ... See full summary »
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Edward G. Robinson,
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Rico is a small-time hood who knocks off gas stations for whatever he can take. He heads east and signs up with Sam Vettori's mob. A New Year's Eve robbery at Little Arnie Lorch's casino results in the death of the new crime commissioner Alvin McClure. Rico's good friend Joe Massara, who works at the club as a professional dancer, works as the gang's lookout man and wants out of the gang. Rico is ambitious and eventually takes over Vettori's gang; he then moves up to the next echelon pushing out Diamond Pete Montana. When he orders Joe to dump his girlfriend Olga and re-join the gang, Olga decides there's only one way out for them. Written by
Rico Bandello, a petty crook nicknamed LITTLE CAESAR, plots his rise to become crime boss of the Big City.
Edward G. Robinson made a tremendous impact in this star-making saga of a thoroughly detestable little man who bandies his way through society's underbelly for a short time until fate brings him his just reward. The evil spawn of a deplorable age, Rico cares for neither booze nor dames, only pure raw power. Even loyalty & friendship are weaknesses to be deplored since no one can be ultimately trusted. Robinson, with his frightening eyes and large ugly mouth, makes this human scum fascinating to watch - a cheap little monster in expensive suits, a moral nonentity with a big gun.
Douglas Fairbanks Jr does a fine job with what little the script gives him as Rico's longtime buddy; the bland nature of his performance contrasts nicely to Robinson's florid acting style. Even more compelling is Glenda Farrell in an important early role as Fairbanks' girlfriend - this talented actress would soon become one of Hollywood's premiere tough talking brassy blondes.
Stanley Fields, Sidney Blackmer & George E. Stone all deliver vivid portraits of crooks & criminals that Rico must intimidate or use. Special mention should be made of William Collier Jr who gives a touching portrayal as the mob's getaway driver who loses his nerve and attempts to go straight.
Movie mavens will recognize an unbilled Lucille La Verne as the old crone who intimidates Rico near the end of the picture.
With LITTLE CAESAR and PUBLIC ENEMY (1931) Warner Brothers established themselves as the Studio that could produce topnotch, gritty crime dramas. The reputation was well deserved and the films were appreciated by movie viewers already enthralled by the headline exploits of real life Depression desperadoes.
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