The Little Giant (1933) Roy Del Ruth

This is a reprint of a short review from my Weekly Wrap column that I have been doing over at  the “Watching Shadows on the Wall” blog,  I am reposting some of the short reviews I have written over there that fit into the scope of 24frames.


From Little Caesar to Little Giant. Just two years after Edward G. Robinson made celluloid history as Rico in Mervyn LeRoy’s “Little Caesar” he and Warner Brothers were spoofing his tough guy image in this little gem.  With a story line similar to the better known “A Slight Case of Murder”, which was made some five years later in 1938, this film has Robinson as gangster Bugs Ahearn who decides to get out of the bootlegging business and go straight after Roosevelt’s victory over Hoover and the government’s announcement to repeal prohibition.

Rich from his 12 years of bootlegging, he decides to relocate to California and mingle in high society. The film becomes a fish of water story as Bugs, hiding his true identity, become a target for every scam artist on the west coast especially the evil Cass family. From pretty Polly Cass (Helen Vinson) who seduces him hoping to marry so she can get a quickie divorce and a large settlement, to her brother who sells Bugs polo ponies and finally, the father who sells Bugs an investment firm on the verge of bankruptcy and has the law coming down on them for fraud. Also on board and about the only honest person in the film is Ruth Wayburn (Mary Astor) who of course falls secretly in love with our gangster hero.

The mix of slapstick and verbal humor, many that play on Robinson’s gangster screen image, keeps this film moving at a snappy pace. The film is directed by Roy Del Ruth whose career seems to have flourished during the pre-code era while he was at Warners. His works from this period include “The Maltese Falcon” (1931), “Blonde Crazy”, “Lady Killer”, “Blessed Event”, “Employee Entrance” and “Taxi.”

“The Little Giant” is the least known of four comedy gangster films Robinson did in his career, at least with him in the lead, and deserves to be known better than it is. TCM always has the other three in their rotation (The Whole Town’s Talkin’. A Slight Cast of Murder and Larceny Inc.) however, this one seems to have fallen off the map. It deserves better.


7 comments on “The Little Giant (1933) Roy Del Ruth

  1. Sam Juliano says:

    John, as I stated at WitD, I have not (unfortunately) seen this particular film yet, though of course I have seen the other ganster titles with Edward G. Ribinson that you broach. It certainly has an intriguing plot, and perhaps it may find it’s way to a a Warners Archives release.

    In any case, I’ll mention here that I should be getting my Warner Archives copy of FIVE STAR FINALE (E.G. Robinson) in the next few days, which I ordered a few days ago with FOG OVER FRISCO and the Anthony Mann title THE BAMBOO BLONDE, which I just saw at the festival.

    So we will talk.


    • John Greco says:

      Well, I found THE LITTLE GIANT at a local library and knew very little about it, but as you have said anthing with EGR is worth looking at. It is a decent flick. Of the the three films from Warners I have seen the first two and both are good. The Mann flick I am unfamilar with. Thanks again my friend.


  2. Jennifer Bolande says:

    Can you please tell me who took the photo of the Liberty and Empire theater?
    It is SO beautiful.
    Much obliged.


    • John Greco says:

      Jennifer, sorry I do not know who took this photograph. I would gladly give credit where it was due if I knew. i found this picture on the Cinema Teasures website a few years ago.


  3. Judy says:

    This sounds like a lot of fun – as I’ve watched a lot of Warner gangster films I would enjoy seeing spoofs of them too. This reminds me that I do have ‘Brother Orchid’ in the Gangsters 3 box set, but haven’t got round to watching it yet.


    • John Greco says:

      Hope you get to see this Judy. Yes, BROTHER ORCHID is another in the same vein which I did not remember. Thanks!!!


  4. […] John at 24 Frames talks about this one in the pantheon of Robinson’s gangster comedies. […]


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