7.3/10
10,235
89 user 60 critic

Little Caesar (1931)

Not Rated | | Action, Crime, Drama | 25 January 1931 (USA)
Trailer
2:08 | Trailer

Watch Now

From $3.99 (HD) on Prime Video

ON DISC
A small-time criminal moves to a big city to seek bigger fortune.

Director:

Mervyn LeRoy

Writers:

W.R. Burnett (novel), Robert N. Lee (continuity) | 2 more credits »
Reviews
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 1 win. See more awards »

Videos

Photos

Learn more

More Like This 

Crime | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  

A young hoodlum rises up through the ranks of the Chicago underworld, even as a gangster's accidental death threatens to spark a bloody mob war.

Director: William A. Wellman
Stars: James Cagney, Jean Harlow, Edward Woods
Scarface (1932)
Action | Crime | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  

An ambitious and nearly insane violent gangster climbs the ladder of success in the mob, but his weaknesses prove to be his downfall.

Directors: Howard Hawks, Richard Rosson
Stars: Paul Muni, Ann Dvorak, Karen Morley
Certificate: Passed Crime | Drama | Film-Noir
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  

Wrongly convicted James Allen serves in the intolerable conditions of a southern chain gang, which later comes back to haunt him.

Director: Mervyn LeRoy
Stars: Paul Muni, Glenda Farrell, Helen Vinson
Certificate: Passed Crime | Drama | Film-Noir
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8/10 X  

A priest tries to stop a gangster from corrupting a group of street kids.

Director: Michael Curtiz
Stars: James Cagney, Pat O'Brien, Humphrey Bogart
Action | Crime | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  

Three men attempt to make a living in Prohibitionist America after returning home from fighting together in World War I.

Director: Raoul Walsh
Stars: James Cagney, Humphrey Bogart, Priscilla Lane
White Heat (1949)
Action | Crime | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  

A psychopathic criminal with a mother complex makes a daring break from prison and leads his old gang in a chemical plant payroll heist. Shortly after the plan takes place, events take a crazy turn.

Director: Raoul Walsh
Stars: James Cagney, Virginia Mayo, Edmond O'Brien
Smart Money (1931)
Crime | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  

Immigrant Greek barber has uncommon skills in playing poker and soon rises in the seedy world of illegal gambling, but pretty blondes remain his Achilles' heel.

Director: Alfred E. Green
Stars: Edward G. Robinson, James Cagney, Evalyn Knapp
Comedy | Drama | Musical
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8/10 X  

A wealthy composer rescues unemployed Broadway performers with a new play.

Director: Mervyn LeRoy
Stars: Warren William, Joan Blondell, Aline MacMahon
42nd Street (1933)
Certificate: Passed Comedy | Musical | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  

A director puts on what may be his last Broadway show and, at the last moment, a naive newcomer has to replace the star.

Director: Lloyd Bacon
Stars: Warner Baxter, Bebe Daniels, George Brent
Drama | Film-Noir | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  

A waitress, a hobo and a bank robber get mixed up at a lonely diner in the desert.

Director: Archie Mayo
Stars: Leslie Howard, Humphrey Bogart, Bette Davis
Drama | Romance | Adventure
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  

On the South Pacific island of Bora Bora, a young couple's love is threatened when the tribal chief declares the girl a sacred virgin.

Director: F.W. Murnau
Stars: Anne Chevalier, Matahi, Hitu
Key Largo (1948)
Action | Crime | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  

A man visits his old friend's hotel and finds a gangster running things. As a hurricane approaches, the two end up confronting each other.

Director: John Huston
Stars: Humphrey Bogart, Edward G. Robinson, Lauren Bacall
Edit

Cast

Complete credited cast:
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 Thomas E. Jackson ... Sgt. Flaherty (as Thomas Jackson)
Stanley Fields ... Sam Vettori
Maurice Black Maurice Black ... Little Arnie Lorch
George E. Stone ... Otero
Armand Kaliz ... De Voss
Nicholas Bela Nicholas Bela ... Ritz Colonna (as Nick Bela)
Edit

Storyline

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 garykmcd

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

His gun was a one-way ticket thru the doorway to hell! (Print Ad- The Standard-Union,((Brooklyn, NY)) 24 January 1931) See more »

Genres:

Action | Crime | Drama | Romance

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »
Edit

Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

25 January 1931 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Mali Cezar See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

First National Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Vitaphone) (Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.20 : 1
See full technical specs »
Edit

Did You Know?

Trivia

Ranked #9 on the American Film Institute's list of the 10 greatest films in the genre "Gangster" in June 2008. See more »

Goofs

Another problem with the scene in which Rico is wounded in the arm: when Rico leaves the newsstand heading toward the scene of his ambush, he's walking from left to right (as seen by the audience, the point of view referred to here throughout). Then we cut to the truck, with its concealed gunman, and it's heading toward him from the opposite direction. The truck's starting point, therefore, must have been in front of Rico, or to his right. But the trail of bullet holes created by the moving gun begins behind Rico, that is, to his left. Or in other words, the bullets striking the plate glass window behind Rico should have moved from right to left, not left to right, as they do in the movie. See more »

Quotes

Caesar Enrico Bandello: Ain't nobody gonna leave this room. You guys are invited to this private party.
Undetermined Role: Suppose we don't want to stay?
Caesar Enrico Bandello: I wouldn't want to stop you for the world. Only these boys of mine have itching fingers.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Sleepers (1996) See more »

Soundtracks

Foret Perfide
(uncredited)
Music by Gabriel Marie
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

 
His Glory Was Fleeting
3 May 2011 | by Bill SlocumSee all my reviews

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.


11 of 16 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 89 user reviews »

Contribute to This Page

Stream Trending Movies With Prime Video

Enjoy a night in with these popular movies available to stream now with Prime Video.

Start your free trial



Recently Viewed