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Film: Little Caesar

"Mother of Mercy. Is this the end of Rico?"

This Warner Bros. 1931 classic of the gangster genre chronicles the rise and fall of a hardened criminal in Prohibition Era Chicago. The legendary Edward G Robinson plays Caesar Enrico "Rico" Bandello, a small time crook that rises to the top of the big city underworld. He quickly comes to realize that nothing lasts forever.

Star-Making Role for Robinson, which also led to him being typecast in gangster roles for years after this. A Trope Maker for the gangster genre.


Tropes:

  • Badass in a Nice Suit
  • Character Title
  • Damn It Feels Good to Be a Gangster / Do Not Do This Cool Thing: Rico certainly seems to be having fun.
  • Establishing Character Moment: In the first scene, Rico robs a gas station, killing the attendant.
  • Famous Last Words: See above quote
  • Gayngster: See Homoerotic Subtext below.
  • Get It Over With: Said when Rico tries to force Joe to join him.
    Joe: "Shoot, Rico, get it over with."
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!: The famous last words of the titular character were originally meant to start "Mother of God," but the line was vetoed by the censors.
  • Homoerotic Subtext: It is not hard at all to interpret the film this way. Rico's lack of interest in women. Rico's obvious fondness for Joe and jealousy of Joe's relationship with Olga. Rico, who is usually very hard-boiled, being emotionally upset when faced with the necessity of killing Joe. Apparently the author of the source novel, who had no such intention, wrote a letter of protest to Warner Brothers. Otero's fawning admiration for Rico can also be seen this way.
  • Minion with an F in Evil: Tony, one of Rico's goons, has an attack of conscience and tries to confess to a priest. Rico shoots him for it.
  • Names to Run Away From Really Fast
  • New Year Has Come: The robbery of the nightclub takes place during the New Year's celebration.
  • Resignations Not Accepted: Rico refuses to let Joe leave the gangster life.
    Joe: You don't run out on a gang.
  • The Starscream: Rico is this throughout the film, continually plotting to overthrow whoever he's working for. He supersedes Vettori through sheer alpha-male agression. He's plotting to overthrow the city crime boss (the "Big Boy") but his empire collapses before he gets the chance.
  • Sycophantic Servant: Otero worships Rico. See Homoerotic Subtext above.
  • Third-Person Person: Rico has a habit of doing this.
  • Title Drop: Rico's nickname.
  • Trigger Happy: Before the nightclub robbery, Rico is specifically ordered not to shoot anyone, in order to avoid extra attention being focused on the mob. What does Rico do? Shoot someone. Whom does he shoot? The police commissioner.
  • Verbal Tic, see? Edward G. Robinson practically invented the stereotypical gangster voice.
    • Became iconic enough that 80 years later, Walter from The Muppets imitated criminals by talking like that.
  • Villain Protagonist


Dashiell HammettFilm NoirM
LeatherheadsThe Roaring TwentiesMetropolis
Edgar Allan PoeNational Film RegistryDracula (1931)
Le MillionFilms of the 1930sM

alternative title(s): Little Caesar
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