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The Public Enemy (1931)

 -  Crime | Drama  -  23 April 1931 (USA)
7.8
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Ratings: 7.8/10 from 10,794 users  
Reviews: 97 user | 66 critic

A young hoodlum rises up through the ranks of the Chicago underworld, even as a gangster's accidental death threatens to spark a bloody mob war.

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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 1 win. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
...
...
Edward Woods ...
...
Donald Cook ...
Leslie Fenton ...
Beryl Mercer ...
Robert Emmett O'Connor ...
Paddy Ryan (as Robert O'Connor)
Murray Kinnell ...
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Storyline

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 Huggo

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Crime | Drama

Certificate:

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Details

Country:

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Release Date:

23 April 1931 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Beer and Blood  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(Brunswick Radios Used Exclusively)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Because of the famous grapefruit scene, for years afterward when dining in restaurants, fellow patrons would send grapefruit to James Cagney, which--almost invariably--Cagney would happily eat. See more »

Goofs

In the scene were Tom and Mike are talking at the kitchen table Tom's hat brim goes from being up to down without Tom touching it. See more »

Quotes

Tom Powers: Hey, stoop, that's got gears. It ain't no Ford.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Lady Killer (1933) See more »

Soundtracks

I Surrender Dear
(1931) (uncredited)
Music by Harry Barris
Played in Gwen's apartment
See more »

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User Reviews

 
A brilliant study of Mob Rule in the 1920's
8 August 2003 | by (Riverside, Connecticut) – See all my reviews

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


14 of 21 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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Bad Acting WardenGordonBorden
Does anyone feel sorry for Putty Nose when Tom kills him? mlraymond
what if this movie was remade? infamousdave886
What was the last thing James Cagney Said?? mikehunt620
Clockwork Orange steals a scene! KubricksSeal
No dvd of this one? feilertsen
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