Sunday, 13 October 2013

Alternate Best Actor 1931: Edward G. Robinson in Little Caesar

Edward G. Robinson did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Caesar Enrico "Rico" Bandello the titular Little Caesar.

Little Caesar is a good film about the rise of a gangster even though, like many films of the early 30's, the acting ensemble leaves something to be desired.

Edward G. Robinson just like the other three performances I have reviewed so far is on another level from his supporting cast. Robinson may hold the greatest distance though in that at times he seems like he is in another, better, movie. Most of Little Caesar's problems comes from the fact that film ever focuses on anyone other then Rico and his rise to power because Robinson, in his star making role, makes the most of every second as he depicts Rico's journey. Rico begins the film in a fairly low place as just a stick up artist who makes rather lowly gains as he wishes he could be something more then he is.

The early scenes are excellent showcases for that powerful intensity that Robinson is able to bring to a part. He's small but a ball of fire and the ambition of Rico can be seen at all times from the way he barely seems comfortable in his own skin, ready to jump at any opportunity to build himself up further, but as well there is the violence in the man. Robinson makes Rico a man ready to make something for himself at an instance and as well suggests the level of brutality that he is ready to commit to ensure that he commits the task. Robinson importantly though has very little manner showing Rico to be a lowly gangster without a hint of pretense.

Rico quickly makes the rank in a gang though by being the most efficient of them all and being the one man who seems to have the ambition to go where the others won't. Rico taking over the gang is made particularly believable because Robinson absolutely owns the screen when he is on it. No one else should even speak up because Robinson controls everything within reach and he makes it so that Rico's rise simply is something that is merely inevitable. Robinson brings the power behind the man to life with a great aplomb, and builds up Rico to be the head mobster in an incredibly effective fashion.

Once Rico is on top Robinson is on top. Robinson builds up Rico magnificently as the full mobster. On one side he becomes the "legitimate" business man, and carries himself perfectly with a false sense of bravado as Rico shows himself to the public. Robinson is at his very best though showing the power hungry Rico also with bravado but Robinson shows it to be true in these circumstances. Robinson is terrific in all of these scenes as he prods his company to go further to control the city, and the all time classic moment where Rico threatens a rival mob boss telling to leave town or "else you won't ever leave it except in a pine box.". 

Rico though does fall and interestingly it is not because he tries to go too far, but rather the fact that underneath his hard shell is a heart after all. This cause of the downfall could have fallen short, especially since these moments are fairly limited moments in the scheme of the film, but Robinson delivers the few second thoughts of Rico flawlessly. Robinson relies well on giving subtle reactions in the otherwise rather, purposefully so, flamboyant Rico. Robinson is actually quite moving in his portrayal of Rico's conscience in a few pivotal scenes that brings a lighter shade to the hard Rico in an honest fashion.  

The end of the film is rather rushed unfortunately as Rico is very quickly thrown down from his pedestal. Robinson does not lose a step in his portrayal of the bitter end of Rico as a washed up gangster no longer with any pretense of power, and Robinson almost manages to be heartbreaking in showing the pride Rico has for himself that won't entirely go away. Robinson is incredible in his portrayal though as he creates the pathetic state Rico finds himself in where he has to actually actively force his pride out as it is the last thing that Rico can still attach himself to in his final end. Robinson makes Rico's final words manages to create a really tragedy through the disbelief as Rico sees where his best laid plans have left him  and cries "Mother of mercy, is this the end of Rico?"

1 comment:

Psifonian said...

Really good work from Eddie G., and it's perhaps his definitive performance.