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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 12,348 users  
Reviews: 100 user | 69 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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Title: The Public Enemy (1931)

The Public Enemy (1931) on IMDb 7.8/10

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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:

Language:

Release Date:

23 April 1931 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Beer and Blood  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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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

Further connection to the Charles Dion O'Bannion reference is that the rival gang in the film are led by "Schemer Burns", an obvious reference to the real-life "Schemer Drucci", who was part of the North Side Gang led by O'Bannion. See more »

Goofs

When the phonograph needle is put on the record for the music that will play throughout the last scene, the music begins well before the needle touches the record. See more »

Quotes

Matt Doyle: Gee, she's a honey. I could go for her myself.
Tom Powers: What do you mean, you could go for her yourself? You could go for an eighty year old chick with rheumatism.
See more »


Soundtracks

Smiles
(1917) (uncredited)
Music by Lee S. Roberts
Played in Paddy's bar
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

 
Powerful portrait of the rise and fall of a nasty gangster extraordinarily performed by James Cagney
9 June 2012 | by See all my reviews

This is one of the great early talkies and still a highly watchable movie ; it results to be one of the great mobsters pictures, and an expertly directed film that made James Cagney a superstar . A young and vicious hoodlum named Tom (James Cagney based his performance on Chicago gangster Dean O'Bannion, and two New York City hoodlums he had known as a youth) along with his fellow Matt (Edward Woods) rise up through the ranks of the Chicago underworld. From their teen-aged years into young adulthood, unredeemable Tom and obstinate Matt have an increasingly lucrative life , bootlegging during the Prohibition era. Tom's bad way of life is constantly set up against his brother Mike's (Donald Cook) . Meanwhile Tom falls in love with a gorgeous girl named Gwen Allen (Jean Harlow , though Louise Brooks was offered this role in this film) . Tom turns more stubborn and cruel against those who either disagree with him or cross him . Even as a gangster's accidental death threatens to spark a bloody mob war .

Classic gangster movie contains top-notch performances , unpretentious familiar drama, thrills , fast-paced , action , and a shocking final . Magnificent James Cagney in the title role as a snarling and ominous gangster . 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 . Very good support cast formed by known actresses who subsequently would have an important career as Jean Harlow , Joan Blondell and Mae Clarke including her infamous grapefruit scene that caused women's groups around America to protest the on-screen abuse of Mae Clarke . As several versions exist of the origin of the notorious grapefruit scene, but the most plausible is the one on which James Cagney and Mae Clarke agree: the scene , they explained, was actually staged as a practical joke at the expense of the film crew, just to see their stunned reactions ; there was never any intention of ever using the shot in the completed film , filmmaker Wellman, however, eventually decided to keep the shot, and use it in the film's final release print . Atmospheric and appropriate musical score , Scorsese says that Wellman's use of music in the film influenced his own first gangster picture, Mean Streets (1973) .

Wellman was an expert in all kind of genres as Gangster, drama , Film Noir , Western and adept at comedy as he was at macho material , helming the original ¨ A star is born ¨(1937) (for which he won his only Oscar, for best original story) and the biting satire ¨Nothing sacred¨ (1937) , both of which starred Fredric March for producer David O. Selznick . Both movies were dissections of the fame game, as was his satire ¨Roxie Hart¨ (1942), which reportedly was one of Stanley Kubrick's favorite films. During World War Two Wellman continued to make outstanding films, including ¨Ox-Bow incident¨ (1943) and ¨Story of G.I.Joe¨(1945), and after the war he turned out another war classic, ¨Battleground¨ (1949). In the 1950s Wellman's best later films starred John Wayne, including the influential aviation picture ¨The hight and the mighty¨ (1954), for which he achieved his third and last best director Oscar nomination. His final film hearkened back to his World War One service, ¨The Lafayette squadron¨ (1958), which featured the unit in which Wellman had flown . He retired as a director after making the film, reportedly enraged at Warner Bros.' post-production tampering with a movie that meant so much to him .

¨The Public enemy¨ , rating : Well worth watching , above average ; the picture will appeal to classic cinema buffs and James Cagney fans . It ranked #8 on the American Film Institute's list of the 10 greatest films in the genre "Gangster" .


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