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Little Caesar: Gangster Life In New York City

2591 words - 11 pages

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 ...view middle of the document...

The American gangster not only personifies what is wrong with America, but he is also an expression of American ideals. He exhibits the same goals such as power, money, fame, and status, that are held within society as symbols of success. The gangster not only had the qualities, but he possessed them in the time of Prohibition where “everyone was breaking the law and by helping them he was, in a sense, performing a public service (Gabree 15).” Little Caesar was simply following the lead of the newspapers that were chronically the battle of civic authorities against the world of organized crime. The only difference was that Hollywood could make the story much more rigid and compelling than any reporter in New York at the time. Director Mervyn LeRoy used innovative technology, style, and the social scene of organized crime to delineate the “gangster” genre of film with his 1930 box office hit, Little Caesar.
In the art of film the goal of directors is to deliver entertainment and information that an audience finds emotionally compelling. It is essential for a director to adapt to the changing interests of the American people and create a piece of art pertinent to the time to the time of production. However, along with the demand for an intriguing subject also came a desire for technological advances and innovations within the industry. Little Caesar was a technical masterpiece in its time because Mervyn LeRoy was able to explore and perfect the failed attempts of his predecessors technological endeavors as well as introduce innovative ideas of his own. With these advancements in Little Caesar, he was able to pioneer the film industry into its historical “Golden Age” in the 1930’s.
Arguable the most polished technical aspect of Little Caesar was the introduction of synchronized recorded sound. LeRoy “bridged the gap between the silent film and the static microphone” (Kuhns 157) with synchronous film-on sound projection. Prior the Little Caesar, the gangster genre was defined by films that were nothing more than a visual depiction of the criminal underworld. The sound of the gangster’s world was able to incorporate yet another tangible aspect the human ears could grasp with their senses. The chattering of machine guns, the explosion of grenades, the screeching tires, the modern jazz music, and the precise delivery of edgy dialogue took the gangster genre to a level never before imaginable (Everson 232). Sound set the bar to a higher standard of realism by introducing the sentimentality of the vicious gangster world. It allowed for a casual depiction of a far less noble and specialized businessman who still possessed a surprising amount of sympathy. The stereotypical hoodlum was replaced by a more sophisticated and well versed character motivated by a twisted yet oddly similar code of ethics most American people possessed.
In order to utilize sound technology to its utmost potential, a new type of camera known as a “blimped camera” was...

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