Julius Sizzer (1931)

US / 18 minutes / bw / RKO Pathé Dir: Edward I. Luddy (i.e., Edward Ludwig) Pr: Lew Lipton Scr: Benny Rubin, Edward I. Luddy (i.e., Edward Ludwig) Cine: Harry Forbes Cast: Benny Rubin, Gwen Lee, Lena Malena, Mathew Betz, Maurice Black, Pat Collins (i.e., G. Pat Collins), Tom McGuire, Clifford Dempsey.

Julius Sizzer - 0 opener

A parody of the Melvyn LeRoy-directed, Edward G. Robinson- and Douglas Fairbanks Jr-starring LITTLE CAESAR (1931), this offers a few chuckles but really not nearly enough. The original was doing great box office at the time, so a parody must have seemed a sure-fire winner. Alas, it seems that Ludwig and Rubin had their eyes on merely the quick buck, because this bears all the signs of having been thrown together quickly, witlessly, and without love.

Bootlegger boss Liddle Sizzer (Rubin) is shot by his treacherous sidekick Faye (Betz); initial assumptions are that Liddle is dead, but in fact he’s merely been injured in the hip and the attentions of the mob’s doctor soon fixes matters. Liddle decides to lie low for a while, but knows that his brother Julius (Rubin again) is soon to arrive in town from the Old Country; he tells his henchmen Tony (Black) and Nick (Collins) to meet Julius off the boat and give him enough money to get him started in business.

Julius Sizzer - 1 Faye triesto gun down Liddle

Faye (Mathew Betz) tries to gun down Liddle.

So Julius, intent on becoming as successful as his big brother ‑‑ who he thinks is innocently in the “bottle industry” ‑‑ sets up a street stall selling haberdashery in hopes of marrying one day the lovely Olga (Malena), whom he met on Ellis Island. But his head is at least temporarily turned by tartish femme fatale Cleo (Lee), big brother Liddle’s two-timing moll, who in cahoots with Faye wants to take over the Sizzer empire. Would Julius run an innocent little errand for her for $50? You bet he would. From here it’s but a step to a final showdown where a lot of extras pretend to sock a lot of other extras on the jaw, while Liddle throws pairs of scissors ‑‑ his weapon of choice ‑‑ at all and sundry.

Julius Sizzer - 2 Julius wants nothing more than to make a success of himself

Julius (Benny Rubin, channeling his inner Nick Cage) wants nothing more than to make a success of himself.

The movie isn’t boring, but neither is it very funny; it seems to be struggling to escape from the quicksand of not-very-goodness, and failing.

Benny Rubin was a comedian who better made a name for himself in radio and TV, doing a lot of work with Jack Benny. In this movie, as part of his ethnically stereotyped portrayal of the two Italian American brothers Sizzer, he has a ball creatively mangling language; the result is very much like Italianate broken English, but has a sort of surreal inventiveness that might just about be worth the movie’s ticket price. Gwen Lee’s forte was playing the brassy, sassy best friend of prettier girls in movies like Alias Mary Smith (1932) and The Intruder (1933) ‑‑ a sort of poor man’s Joan Blondell. Oddly, although here she for once has a leading rather than supporting role, she seems wasted; her talent deserved better than this. She and Lena Malena had worked together a few years earlier in Diamond Handcuffs (1928), a more significant outing, albeit still a minor one. Malena would make one more short after Julius Sizzer and then end her brief and undeservedly undistinguished Hollywood career; here she holds her own in trading creatively fractured English with Rubin.

Julius Sizzer - 3 The two brothers Sizzer face off

The two brothers Sizzer (both Benny Rubin) face off. Oo-er.

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On Jimbo Berkey’s site: here.

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4 thoughts on “Julius Sizzer (1931)

  1. Another I have never heard of, but seem your review isn’t making a strong case for me to remedy that oversight, even with some lesser positive attributes. Sound like it as far away as possible from the stellar subject of its parody. As always a trenchant, brilliant piece!!

    • Thanks for dropping by and for the kind words, Sam! Yep, this is one it’s really not worth going out of your way for. On the other hand, one of the purposes of this site (when I’m mentally organized enough to think of it having anything so grandiose as purposes!) is to put on record, as it were, stuff that’s been understandably forgotten.

  2. Fascinating to hear about pre-Code rarities like this. I had never heard of this parody of ‘Little Caesar’ – sounds as if Eddie G himself does a better job of parodying his own role in films like ‘The Whole Town’s Talking’.

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