Little Giant, The (1933)

Little Giant, The (1933)

“I came from the gutter, and I guess you can still smell it on me.”

A reformed Chicago gangster (Edward G. Robinson) heads to Santa Barbara, where he falls for a society dame (Helen Vinson) from a corrupt family while renting a house from a poor but kind young woman (Mary Astor). Will ‘Bugs’ (Robinson) achieve his dreams of “legitimate” social success, or will his sordid past come back to haunt him?


  • Cross-Class Romance
  • Edward G. Robinson Films
  • Gangsters
  • Mary Astor Films
  • Roy Del Ruth Films
  • Social Climbers

Roy Del Ruth directed this gangster-comedy which starts off somewhat predictably but builds to an enormously satisfying conclusion. Robinson’s ‘Bugs’ is established right away as such a genuinely good guy (he says goodbye to his moll by giving her $25K in appreciation, without a hint of condescension), it’s hard to watch him being so instantly duped and taken advantage of by “high society”. With loyal Astor by his side, we know it’s only a matter of time before he recognizes who’s really right for him — and thankfully, that all plays out nicely. I’m sure Depression-era audiences were thrilled to see corrupt socialites and money-men get their due. Meanwhile, there are numerous zingy pre-Code moments and lines to enjoy:

“Three days, and we don’t even get a tumble.”
“Polly — she’s been a sister-in-law to the world.”

As DVD Savant writes, “You’ll be throwing the remote into reverse to make sure you heard some of these lines correctly.”

Note: Robinson would spoof his gangster-persona again in A Slight Case of Murder (1938) and Brother Orchid (1940).

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Edward G. Robinson as ‘Bugs’
  • Mary Astor as Ruth
  • Many racy Pre-Code moments

  • A satisfying finale

Must See?
Yes, as an unexpectedly enjoyable “good show”.



One thought on “Little Giant, The (1933)

  1. First viewing. Agreed – a once-must, as a unique twist on Robinson’s hoodlum persona and an interesting ‘revenge on the upper-class’ tale.

    Though, for a comedy, it may be a little lighter than might be satisfying, this is certainly a different spin on ‘hoodlums’ – as it pits the criminal type against the respected ‘hoodlums’ who operate somewhat more legitimately in life. It makes for uneasy viewing, seeing Robinson awkwardly trying to adapt to a way of life that, in part, is systematically seeking his ruination.

    ~ and there are times when disbelief may need to be suspended. After all, Robinson is playing a top-drawer criminal from Chicago. It’s occasionally disconcerting the way his street smarts are undermined.

    The real ‘dark horse’ here is Astor, giving real depth and subtlety to a role that isn’t overtly demanding either quality.

    What’s also of interest is the side-bar content that gay viewers may want to note. As I wrote in my fb group GMO40:

    A little history re: the word ‘fag’. It wasn’t always a slur against homosexuals – or, rather, *only* homosexuals. For example, in the 1933 film ‘The Little Giant’, Edward G. Robinson plays an ex-hoodlum who – when Prohibition ends – attempts to acquire a name for himself in high society. He is cheated by a crooked family on the verge of bankruptcy. When he discovers how he’s been duped, he lets out with:

    “The toughest mug in Chicago comes out here and gets trimmed by a lot of *fags* with handkerchiefs up their sleeves!”

    Here, the word ‘fag’ takes on a meaning equivalent to ‘jerks’ or ‘assholes’.

    The same film does, however, (briefly) have some genuine gay guys in it. One is a bit of a nervous type who fits Robinson for a suit. Another is a ‘sailor’ who cruises Robinson’s seasick bud on-board Robinson’s yacht:

    “Good evening, ‘Commodore’.”

    “What’s good about it?”

    “Why don’t you suck a lemon?”

    “Suck one yourself, you silly-lookin’–” (gets sick over the side of the yacht)

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