IMDb > Little Caesar (1931)
Little Caesar
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Little Caesar (1931) More at IMDbPro »

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Overview

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7.4/10   7,179 votes »
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Director:
Writers:
W.R. Burnett (novel)
Robert N. Lee (continuity)
(more)
Contact:
View company contact information for Little Caesar on IMDbPro.
Release Date:
25 January 1931 (USA) See more »
Genre:
Plot:
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... See more » | Full synopsis »
Awards:
Nominated for Oscar. Another 1 win See more »
User Reviews:
His Glory Was Fleeting See more (82 total) »

Cast

  (in credits order) (verified as complete)

Edward G. Robinson ... Little Caesar - Alias 'Rico'

Douglas Fairbanks Jr. ... Joe Massara
Glenda Farrell ... Olga Stassoff
William Collier Jr. ... Tony Passa

Sidney Blackmer ... Big Boy
Ralph Ince ... Pete Montana
Thomas E. Jackson ... Sergeant Flaherty (as Thomas Jackson)
Stanley Fields ... Sam Vettori
Maurice Black ... Little Arnie Lorch

George E. Stone ... Otero
Armand Kaliz ... De Voss
Nicholas Bela ... Ritz Colonna (as Nick Bela)
rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Ernie Adams ... Cashier (uncredited)
Elmer Ballard ... Undetermined Role (uncredited)
Ferike Boros ... Mrs. Passa (uncredited)
Kernan Cripps ... Detective (uncredited)
George Daly ... Machine-gunner (uncredited)
Adolph Faylauer ... New Year's Celebrant (uncredited)
Ben Hendricks Jr. ... Kid Bean (uncredited)
Al Hill ... Rico's 'Butler' (uncredited)

Lucille La Verne ... Ma Magdalena (uncredited)
Gladys Lloyd ... McClure Guest (uncredited)
Noel Madison ... Killer Peppi (uncredited)
Tom McGuire ... Detective on Phone (uncredited)
Louis Natheaux ... Hood (uncredited)
Henry Sedley ... Scabby (uncredited)
Gay Sheridan ... Nightclub Extra (uncredited)
Larry Steers ... McClure Guest (uncredited)
Landers Stevens ... Crime Commissioner Alvin McClure (uncredited)
Mike Tellegen ... Bodyguard (uncredited)
Robert Walker ... Lorch Henchman (uncredited)

Directed by
Mervyn LeRoy 
 
Writing credits
W.R. Burnett (novel)

Robert N. Lee (continuity)

Francis Edward Faragoh (screen version) (as Francis Edwards Faragoh)

Francis Edward Faragoh (dialogue) (as Francis Edwards Faragoh)

Robert Lord  uncredited
Darryl F. Zanuck  uncredited

Produced by
Hal B. Wallis .... producer (uncredited)
Darryl F. Zanuck .... producer (uncredited)
 
Cinematography by
Tony Gaudio (photography)
 
Film Editing by
Ray Curtiss (edited by)
 
Art Direction by
Anton Grot 
 
Set Decoration by
Ray Moyer (uncredited)
 
Costume Design by
Earl Luick (uncredited)
 
Second Unit Director or Assistant Director
Percy Ikerd .... assistant director (uncredited)
 
Music Department
Erno Rapee .... general musical director
Leo F. Forbstein .... conductor: Vitaphone Orchestra (uncredited)
David Mendoza .... composer: title music (uncredited)
 
Crew verified as complete


Production Companies
  • First National Pictures (presents) (A First National-Vitaphone Talking Picture) (controlled by Warner Bros. Pictures Inc.)
Distributors

Additional Details

Also Known As:
Runtime:
79 min
Country:
Language:
Aspect Ratio:
1.37 : 1 See more »
Sound Mix:
Mono (Vitaphone) (Western Electric Sound System)
Certification:

Did You Know?

Trivia:
In one scene, Edward G. Robinson had to fire a pistol while facing the camera. Try as he might, he was unable to keep his eyes open each time he pulled the trigger. The problem was eventually solved by having Robinson's eyes held open with cellophane tape.See more »
Goofs:
Crew or equipment visible: Microphone shadow moves across Tony as he closes door just after his mother has left room.See more »
Quotes:
Little Arnie Lorch:Do yourself a favor, will you, Rico? Leave your gat home on the piano the next job you pull. Yeah, park it next to your milk bottle.
Sam Vettori:Hey, run your own mob, Arnie. I'll take care of mine.
Caesar Enrico Bandello:Yeah, I'll park it. I don't need no cannon to take care of guys like you, Mr. Lorch.
See more »
Movie Connections:
Referenced in Our Sons (1991) (TV)See more »
Soundtrack:
NeapolitanaSee more »

FAQ

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful.
His Glory Was Fleeting, 3 May 2011
Author: Bill Slocum (bill.slocum@gmail.com) from Greenwich, CT United States

As the first mobster to make a big dent in cinema, Rico "Little Caesar" Bandello deserves respect. But does he make for a great movie? I say no.

After a final gas station hold-up, Rico (Edward G. Robinson) and pal Joe Massara (Douglas Fairbanks Jr.) breeze into the big city to score with mob boss Sam Vettori (Stanley Fields) and his crew. Soon Rico is the one running things, but will his itchy trigger finger and habitual line-stepping run him afoul of police Sergeant Flaherty (Thomas E. Jackson)?

"The bigger they come, the harder the fall," Rico boasts. "I ain't doin' bad in this business so far."

The problem with "Little Caesar" is obvious from the start and more so as the film progresses: Rico is an idiot. He only makes it as far as he does because all the hoods he messes with, like Sam, are even dumber. When he takes over Sam's gang, he just tells Sam he's through and that's that. When he wants to make a statement about running things, he throws a party and invites the papers. When he starts shooting, he zaps the new crime commissioner and then tells everyone to mind not to say nothing about it.

Maybe if the film showed this to be dumb behavior, I'd feel a little different. But instead this is suggested as being the typical road to hoodlum hegemony, and highly effective if not for a human foible or two that slip Rico up.

Robinson stands out in the flawed proceedings almost as much by default as by his considerable talent. He's great with his rough banter, and his flourishes with his cigar, but he is playing a Snidley Whiplash caricature and it shows.

It reminds me of another Romanian-born actor who made his big splash in movies the same year, Bela Lugosi in "Dracula." Both films are atmospheric potboilers focused on a single over-the-top villain. Both are sadly diminished by time with their formulaic conventions, weak supporting cast, and creaky early-sound production.

When "Little Caesar" wants to project menace, we see Rico warn people "my gun's gonna speak its piece," only he doesn't really do much with it. Fairbanks is lost as a lamb in a hurricane playing Joe, especially when he hooks up with Glenda Farrell and tries to make his break from Rico, a matter the film pushes into the background until the last 15 minutes. Watching Fairbanks and Farrell have their clinches reminds you of what was so wrong with early talkies: Even in a clinch, the lovers always shouted at each other.

Though a Pre-Code film, "Little Caesar" makes strange concessions to regional censors. When someone is shot, director Mervyn LeRoy is careful not to show Rico or anyone else actually pulling the trigger. There's no mention of booze, or vice, or any other illegal activity. Apparently these guys make all their money holding up each other's parties.

Critics looking at the film today scrape for matters of interest such as Rico's possible homosexuality, and the matter of how mob activity might be seen as mirroring big business. But in the end, what you get here is a thin story featuring a character who defies gravity and convention without doing very much of anything interesting.

Maybe I should be more grateful to "Little Caesar" for paving the way to other, better gangster films of the 1930s. By itself it is a curio more than anything else, testament to one big talent who left a lasting impression but would make his mark on better films to come.

Was the above review useful to you?
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Message Boards

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Recent Posts (updated daily)User
Telephone trace wayc
Man that man is vis vis with his own movie. pmstreetheaven
Spaghetti and Coffee for Two? Chesterfield_Invincible
Little Caesar is gay? Dire_Straits
Flaherty the detective an odd counterpart to Rico? mlraymond
Somebody tell me if this is a film-noir or not tayman104
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