Hailed as the very first gangster movie, this Warner Brothers classic from 1930 captured the essence of the burgeoning Chicago mob scene as it was happening. The 80-minute black and white film was the first directorial hit for Mervyn LeRoy, who went on to direct The Wizard of Oz and countless other films in a legendary motion picture career that spanned nearly a half century.
Edward G. Robinson most likely did not know that his portrayal of the Capone-like Rico would serve as fodder for decades of hackneyed impersonations. Robinson also had such a problem with uncontrollably squinting during gunfire scenes that his eyelids had to be set in place with tape.
For the role of Rico's sidekick, director LeRoy had originally planned for Clark Gable to play the part, but Warner mogul Darryl F. Zanuck thought Gable's ears looked too big on film, and chided LeRoy for "wasting" US$500 on Gable's screen test. Instead, the part of Joe Massara went to Douglas Fairbanks Jr.
Unfortunately, the film's bold, thinly veiled criticism of the Chicago underworld received little more than a nomination for best writing adaptation at the Oscars. Perhaps a better measure of the film's impact is the entire genre that Little Caesar spawned and continues to influence to this day.