The 1001 Movies Podcast

From Garrett Chaffin-Quiray, 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die:

"Genre can be used to read history and interpret moments in time.  Accordingly, Mervyn LeRoy's Little Caesar helped to define the gangster movie while serving as an allegory of production circumstances because it was produced during the Great Depression.  Within the film is inscribed a wholesale paranoia about individual achievement in the face of economic  devastation.  Leavening this theme alongside the demands of social conformity during the early 1930s means that LeRoy's screen classic is far more than the simple sum of its parts.

"Caesar 'Rico' Bandello (Edward G. Robinson) is a small-stakes thief with a partner named Joe (Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.).  Recognizing a dead-end future, they move to the heart of Chicago where Joe becomes an entertainer and falls in love with a dancer named Olga (Glenda Farrell).  In contrast, Rico gets a taste of the 'life' and enjoys it.  Possessing a psychotic ruthlessness, he gradually looms as the new power on-scene before finally succumbing to an ill-tempered ego and the police.  Gut shot and dying beneath an ad for Joe and Olga's dinner act, Rico sputters some final words of self-determination, underlining how he won't ever be caught because he lived according to the terms of his own ambition.

"For audiences, Rico's killer was undoubtedly a clear call of recent tensions about the state of the world at the time.  Limited by the feature film's structure, but not dulled by censorial practice in the days before the Production Code Administration, Little Caesar offers a scornful look at free enterprise taken to an extreme.  Seen through the long view of history and the focus on ill-gotten gains, it's a perfect corollary for Wall Street's collapse, itself the result of poor regulation, mass speculation, and hysteria manipulated to benefit the few at the expense of the many.

"Acting out to get a bigger piece of the pie, Rico expresses the wish for acceptance and the drive toward success in an otherwise indifferent world.  Simultaneously terrorizing innocents and devastating the society he desires to control, he ends up illuminating the demands of power with homicidal shadows in this, a seminal film of the early sound era."

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Direct download: Episode_85_Little_Caesar_1931.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00am CST