The Public Enemy (1931)

 |  Crime, Drama  |  23 April 1931 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.8/10 from 12,631 users  
Reviews: 103 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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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 1 win. See more awards »



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


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


Crime | Drama


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Release Date:

23 April 1931 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Beer and Blood  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Brunswick Radios Used Exclusively)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


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 »


Near the end of the film, Tom Powers is hiding by the stairs, waiting in the rain for his enemies. After they arrive, Tom stands up and his hat is straight on his head, the next view of him has the hat cocked to one side, then the following view shows the hat straight again. See more »


Tom Powers: I'm going to hit the hay.
Jane: I thought you'd like a little nightcap, Tommy. You don't need to feel ashamed in front of me Tommy. Here, let me help you.
[Jane starts to undress Tom]
Tom Powers: I don't need any help.
Jane: Be a good boy and sit down. I'll take your shoes off too. I want to do things for you, Tommy. You don't think I'm old, do you Tommy?
Tom Powers: No.
Jane: You like me, don't you Tommy?
Tom Powers: Sure... What's the idea?
Jane: Just a good night kiss for a fine boy.
Jane: In your hat.
See more »


Referenced in Biography: Darryl F. Zanuck: 20th Century Filmmaker (1995) See more »


Toot, Toot, Tootsie (Goo' Bye!)
(1922) (uncredited)
Written by Gus Kahn, Ernie Erdman and Dan Russo
Dance music played in hotel
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Tom's coming home
16 March 2003 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

I think this is a great James Cagney movie and a great gangster movie. Scarface and Little Caesar were based on Al Capone, but this one takes a new turn. This time the movie's about the North Siders. It is the Irish mob. This movie, I just realized is based loosely on Dion O'Banion. There is only one scene I could think of that was an event in O'Banion's life. The scene with the horse. You'll see what I mean when you see the movie. This movie doesn't go into as much detail with real events as Scarface, but it doesn't matter because everything is perfect. The movie also unintentionally glorifies gangsters again. These characters become guys you like. Especially Cagney's character Tom Powers. I guess that's why there is that introduction at the beginning and even in the end so you don't end up liking them. Nice try censors. I loved the different relationships. Tom's friendship with Matt, his brother, his mother, his first girlfriend that gets a grapefruit in the face (I can never forget that one) and his second girl Jean Harlowe. My favorite part is probably the part where he goes inside a building to take on the Burke mob with two guns. When he gets out you hear screams from inside and Cagney, who is wounded, utters the famous lines, "I ain't so tough." This movie is just perfect. Another scene I never forget is the final scene. I'll call it Tom's Coming Home. After I saw the final scene I was just speechless. I couldn't believe my eyes. It will shock you. A terrible thing happens, but like they say in the very end, The public enemy is neither a man nor a character, but a problem that we the public must solve. It's almost like they try to convince you that what happened was good. Be sure to see this classic. You won't be disappointed. After renting this movie I like it so much I'm going out to buy it.

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

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