It is Edward G. Robinson who was the big star in MGM’s (hard to believe this is not from Warner Brothers) film The Last Gangster.
In fact, Robinson was loaned from Warner Brothers to MGM. Robinson plays Joe Krozac and he is leaning into his star-making Little Caesar role that started it all in 1931. Krozac is a racketeer who goes to prison (to Alcatraz) for income tax evasion.
Lionel Stander was in many of these gangster films and he plays Krozac’s second in command Curly. John Carradine is in the cast as well. Second billing after Robinson though was the newcomer James Stewart. Stewart only had a handful of credits under his belt at the time. This is his second archiveable film after Wife vs. Secretary (1936). Stewart is rocking a mustache here (this is the Clark Gable era after all) and looks absurd with it. It is almost 40 minutes into the film before Stewart shows up.
Rose Stradner plays the woman caught between the straight Stewart and crooked Edward G.
Robinson has such screen presence – puffs his chest out just like Cagney and Muni (the gangster trio) with his trademark distinctive voice.
At the 62-minute mark there is a strong shot of Joe’s old gang (led by Stander’s Curly) staggered throughout the warehouse after working over Edward G for money.
This is a moral story- a redemption story of sorts. The mob kidnaps Joe’s son (raised by the mother and Stewart’s character while Joe was in prison). Moments of extraordinary acting from Robinson as he tries to convince himself he does not love his son
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