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 »
Although innocent, reporter Frank Ross is found guilty of murder and is sent to jail. While his friends at the newspaper try to find out who framed him, Frank gets hardened by prison life ... 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
The scene where Tom shoots the horse that threw and killed Sam "Nails" Nathan in a riding accident was based on an actual incident. In 1924 Sam "Nails" Morton, a member of Charles Dion O'Bannion's gang, was thrown from his horse and killed while riding in Chicago's Lincoln Park. Other members of the gang, led by Louis "Two Gun" Alteri, kidnapped the horse, took it to the spot where the accident occurred and shot it dead. Source: Carl Sifakis, "Encyclopedia Of American Crime." See more »
In the scene where Tom Powers and Matt Doyle are strafed by assassin's machine guns, we see Cagney ducking behind the corner of a building. Bullets suddenly and violently hit and tear up the concrete corner into big pock-marked chips an eye-blink after he ducks. But in subsequent shots, the machine gun damage to the concrete is gone. See more »
You are different, Tommy. Very different. And I've discovered it isn't only a difference in manner and outward appearances. It's a difference in basic character. The men I know - and I've known dozens of them - oh, they're so nice, so polished, so considerate. Most women like that type. I guess they're afraid of the other kind. I thought I was too, but you're so strong. You don't give, you take. Oh, Tommy, I could love you to death.
[Tommy and Gwen embrace and kiss passionately]
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The Public Enemy, along with Little Caesar and Scarface, set the standard for the gangster film. Though films about crime had been done in the silent era, sound was what really ushered in this particular genre. I've always maintained that musicals and gangster films are the only two movie genres that date from the sound era.
Of course this film about a young man's rise to prominence in the bootleg liquor business during Prohibition made James Cagney a star. Interestingly enough Edward Woods was originally supposed to be Tom Powers and Cagney was cast as best friend Matt Doyle. After some footage had been shot, Director William Wellman scrapped it and had Cagney and Woods exchange roles. Stars get born in many and strange ways.
Some critics have complained about Beryl Mercer's part as Cagney's mother, saying she's overacts the ditziness. I disagree with that completely. In the prologue section with Cagney and Woods as juveniles, there is a two parent household. The boys have a stern Irish father and a mom who'd spoil them if she could. The older kid who is later played by Donald Cook has more the benefit of the two family home and both influences. That and the fact that World War I leaves him partially disabled prevents him from thinking about the gangster trade. Cagney misses the war and is spoiled by mom.
I knew a woman like Beryl, in her own world with a stream of nonsensical chatter to keep out the reality of things. Her portrayal for me rings true.
Oddly enough in The Roaring Twenties Cagney is a veteran who enters the rackets because he can't get a legitimate job and its easy money.
Both The Public Enemy and Little Caesar are short films, edited down to the essentials so the viewer ain't bored for a minute. Warner Brothers sure knew how to do those gangster flicks.
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