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Little Caesar is a 1930 Warner Bros. crime film made during the Pre-Code era, which tells the story of a man who works his way up the ranks of the mob until he reaches its upper heights. It was directed by Mervyn LeRoy and stars Edward G. Robinson, Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Glenda Farrell. The movie was adapted by Francis Edward Faragoh, Robert N. Lee, Robert Lord and Darryl F. Zanuck (uncredited) from the novel by William R. Burnett.

Little Caesar was Robinson's breakout movie: it catapulted him to stardom.


Small-time crook Caesar Enrico Bandello, aka "Rico", (Edward G. Robinson), and his friend Joe Massara (Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.) head for Chicago to find their fortune. Joe, who wants to be a dancer, is more interested in fame and women and eventually meets Olga (Glenda Farrell). Rico joins the gang of Sam Vettori (Stanley Fields) and quickly gains control of the group. He then proceeds to push his way to the top. Rico becomes worried that his friend, Joe Massara, will betray him. He threatens Joe that he must forget about Olga and tries to bring him back into a life of crime. Rico is then shaken from his throne when Joe Massara betrays him to the cops. Hurt though he may be, Rico cannot bring himself to kill his former best friend. Desperate and alone, he retreats to the gutters from which he sprang. But when newspapers label him a coward, the defiant thug comes out of hiding with guns blasting. Escaping from the police, he is gunned down in front of a billboard by his archrival Sergeant Flaherty (Thomas Jackson). The film ends with a shot of the billboard showing Joe and Olga as famed dancers, whereas Rico dies poor and alone, an unspoken prophetic message that hard work will pay off, but crime will not.


Award and honors

Little Caesar was nominated for an Academy Award for Writing Adapted Screenplay.

In 2000, Little Caesar was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congressmarker as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". In June 2008, the American Film Institute revealed its "Ten Top Ten" – the best ten films in ten "classic" American film genres – after polling over 1,500 people from the cinematic creative community. Little Caesar was listed as the ninth best in the gangster film genre.


"Mother of mercy, is this the end of Rico?" – Rico's final words.

This quote is an early example of Hollywood censorship: in the novel the line reads "Mother of God, is this the end of Rico?", and a take was also filmed with Robinson saying it verbatim. However, the studio felt that the line would be blasphemous coming out of the mouth of a murderous villain, and the alternate take was used instead.

This line is ranked on the American Film Institute's AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movie Quotes at #73.


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