#49. Little Caesar (1931)

I watched Little Caesar twice because I liked it so much, and also cuz I’m enchanted by the newness of sound in the Project, and I think I realized, with the second viewing, that Caesar Romano (Edward G. Robinson) is gay. He says a few times that he isn’t interested in girls, and he’s got this one henchman who looks at him with a more-than-professional adoration (even joins him in bed at one point). Then, toward the end, Caesar tries to kill his best friend for running away with a woman. There’s some Freudian stuff you can point out, but it’s not heavy-handed; the filmmaker, Mervyn LeRoy, doesn’t suggest it in a winking nudge-nudge kinda way. It’s just there. It’s cool.

little caesar 2
Rico’s boyfriend in the foreground, assuring him that he looks great, and of his tumescence.

My friend Bob doesn’t like stories about men climbing some kinda power ladder (which pretty much covers every crime epic there is) and so, when I had to stop myself from telling him he should Little Caesar, it was kind of a bummer, because I liked it so much and generally we’ve got the same taste when it comes to these things. But it got me to consider what I loved about the movie (lotsa things) and what I thought was so relatable (one particular thing). I don’t feel like I’m involved in some rapacious ladder climb toward power but, in trying to spread the word about this Project through social media, setting aside all the time and money it requires and even trying to figure out how I might host a few public screenings, has definitely put me in a mindset where, when Caesar talks in the opening scene about becoming some bigshot and being respected and deferred to and maybe feared, there’s a part of me that wants to smack a fist against my chest in like some kind of underdog solidarity. Cuz I guess I wanna be a bigshot like that, too. I wanna be respected, want my work (ethic) to be admired. I want a big social media following and I want my opinions to have some influence, some power.

But then I wonder if like it’s wrong of me to crave that kind of attention? I don’t think it is. Vain? Yeah, kinda, but I’m cool with that. Do I want people to fear me, like Caesar does? Well yes and no, because I always wanna be approachable and regarded as a friendly guy, but yeah there’s something titillating about the idea of being regarded as so formidable, or so influential, that certain people are on their best behavior whenever you come around. Like when Kevin Smith got kicked off of Southwest Airlines, started tweeting about it in the terminal, and an airline rep literally ran up to him and begged him to stop. That kinda power; that kinda fear.

little caesar 1
Not sure what I love so much about it, but this is one of my favorite frames in all of film.

So there’s that. I know it’s cliche to say that a movie feels “dreamlike” but there’s definitely something dreamlike about the sound here. I’ve gotta read more about how it was done — I noticed there’s almost no environmental noise. It’s like the only things we hear in the entire movie are car engines, dialogue, doors closing and gunshots.

But anyway, yeah, Little Caesar is amazing. Back-to-back with Blackmail, it also makes the chart for my top five favorites from the List so far.


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