Rico is a small-time hood who knocks off gas stations for whatever he can take. He heads east and signs up with Sam Vettori's mob. A New Year's Eve robbery at Little Arnie Lorch's casino ... See full summary »
Edward G. Robinson,
Douglas Fairbanks Jr.,
It's the early days of the F.B.I. - federal agents working for the Department of Justice. Though they've got limited powers - they don't carry weapons and have to get local police approval ... See full summary »
Lou Ricarno is a smart guy. His plan is to organize the various gangs in Chicago so that the mugs will not liquidate each other. WIth the success of his leadership, Louie prospers, marries ... See full summary »
Tom Powers and Matt Doyle are best friends and fellow gangsters, their lives frowned upon by Tom's straight laced brother, Mike, and Matt's straight laced sister, Molly. From their teen-aged years into young adulthood, Tom and Matt have an increasingly lucrative life, bootlegging during the Prohibition era. But Tom in particular becomes more and more brazen in what he is willing to do, and becomes more obstinate and violent against those who either disagree with him or cross him. When one of their colleagues dies in a freak accident, a rival bootlegging faction senses weakness among Tom and Matt's gang, which is led by Paddy Ryan. A gang war ensues, resulting in Paddy suggesting that Tom and Matt lay low. But because of Tom's basic nature, he decides instead to take matters into his own hands. Written by
Edward Woods was originally hired for the lead role of Tom Powers and James Cagney was hired to play Matt Doyle, his friend. However, once director William A. Wellman got to know both of them and saw Cagney in rehearsals, he realized that Cagney would be far more effective in the star role than Woods, so he switched them. See more »
Opening the scene where the building is bombed we see two individuals standing up in an open car preparing to throw the bombs that will destroy the building. They throw the bombs and as the car pulls away both of the bombs have bounced off the building and can be seen rolling in the street immediately behind the car as it accelerates out of the frame and the building blows up anyway. See more »
The Public Enemy is more than just a story about the rise and fall of a crimean lord in the 1920's. Hell, it even says that at the beginning and end of the picture. It states, "The Public Enemy is not a man, nor is it a character, it is problem that we, The Public, must solve." James Cagney gives a magnificent performance as Tom Powers, a man who started off as a petty thief with sidekick Matt Doyle (played excellently by Edward Woods) and rose to become a powerful beer smuggler during the era of Prohibition and Gang Rule. Yet this film is not all about Tom Powers and his rise to power; it is about the vast feeling of change that America was experiencing during the Roaring Twenties. America was attempting to adjust to the aftermath of World War I (which is explored brilliantly in this film in a sequence through which Tom's brother, Mike, refuses to drink from a keg of beer smuggled in by Tom for his dinner party) People like Mike were still trying to feel that sense of loyalty towards the government after World War I. Yet that loyalty somehow vanished with the development of Prohibition and the rise of gang rule in urban society. Director William A. Wellman explores deeply with this subject matter as we analyze Tom's family and how they have adjusted to the effects of change upon American society. In Tom's case, he yearns for power which became a craving for all Americans during the 1920's. Matt also is one of those who yearns for power. Mike, on the other hand, wants to remain conservative about American values. He wants to keep things the way they are with his family. He does not crave for power as much as his brother Tom which allows him to survive at the end of the picture. As a result, we, the American Public, learn at the end of the picture that power is bigger than any one man and that it will smite any man who tries to take full control of it. Tom attempts to do that and ends up losing everything dearest to him. He loses his friends, his girls, but most of all, he loses his soul. "The Public Enemy is not a man, nor is it a character, it is a problem that we, the Public, must solve." James Cagney should have received an Oscar nomination as Best Actor for this film and Edward Woods should have received a Best Supporting Actor nomination as well.
Lenny's Grade: A
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