Little Caesar: Gangster Life in New York City

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Film has evolved into one of the most popular forms of entertainment mediums in America today. Beginning from a “moving picture” that lasted no more than a few seconds, the industry has sprouted into a goldmine of technologically advanced major motion pictures. While Hollywood was still in an adolescent stage, a certain genre caught the eye of a United States eager for trendy entertainment: the “gangster” film. No film better defined the genre than Mervyn LeRoy’s Little Caesar. The movie was released in 1930 and largely due to the industries technological advancements the silent film had started a slide down the slippery slope to extinction as “talkies” were becoming all the rage. Although gangster films existed previous to the talkie era, there was something about the audible rat-tat-tat of machine guns and the stylized argot of tough guy talk that made an electrifying concoction. In addition, the gangster’s disregard for established society seemed fitting for a population who was beginning to lose its trust in institutions such as banks after being severely shaken by the depression (Giannetti 143). The circumstances were ideal for the rise of the gangster film. Little Caesar masterfully sculpted the defining parameters of the genre. Guns and cars are the tools. Women are nothing more than an outlet for either passion or rage. Lastly and most importantly, the plot details the rise and fall of Catholic immigrants recklessly ignoring or annihilating any obstacles that stand between them and fortune. The film introduces the famous cliches notorious to gangster life such as the poor Italian mother who wants her gangster son to go straight; the basically decent gangster is who turned off by the killings and the violence and who mee... ... middle of paper ... ...netti, Louis, and Scott Eyman. “The Talkie Era.” Flashback: A Brief History of Film. Ed. Leah Jewell. 4th ed. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 2001. 140-145. Print. Jacobs, Lewis. “Refinements in Technique.” The Rise of the American Film. New York: Teachers College Press, 1974. 433-452. Print. Jones, Preston Neal. “Robinson, Edward G. (1893-1973).” St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture. Ed. Sara Pendergast and Tom Pendergast. Vol. 4. St. James Press, 2000. 229-230. Gale Biography in Context. Web. 16 Apr. 2011. Kuhns, William. “The Movie Columnists.” Movies in America. London: The Tantivy Press, 1975. 142-73. Print. “Little Caesar.” Magill’s Survey of Cinema (June 1995): n. pag. eLibrary Curriculum Edition. Web. 14 Apr. 2011. Sklar, Robert. “The Golden Age or Turbulence And The Golden Age of Order.” Movie-Made America. New York: Random House, 1975. 175-194. Print.

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