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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 12,367 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

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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

At about half an hour into the film, Powers and Doyle enter the nightclub "Black and Tan." Since "The Public Enemy" has much to do with Prohibition, this is a clever pun by the filmmakers, as a black and tan is also a common mixed drink (typically stout and ale, hence its name). See more »

Goofs

Mic shadow (apparently disguised with leaves) in early scene where girl trips while roller skating. See more »

Quotes

Tom Powers: Why that dirty, no good, yellow-bellied stool. I'm gonna give it to him right in the head the first time I see him.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Smarty (1934) 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

 
As a tsunami, nothing was able to stop Cagney once he was aroused, and no one even thought to try…

"Public Enemy" brought two things to the screen: the little tough guy, fast-talking, unscrupulous gangster characterization by James Cagney which was to follow him throughout his entire screen career, and the grapefruit scene…

Though "Public Enemy" created the Cagney image, he had already appeared in two other gangsters films for Warners, as a murderer prepared to let someone else pay for his crime in "Sinner's Holiday," and as a double-crossing hoodlum in "Doorway to Hell."

"Public Enemy," however, was a bigger-budget production, directed by William Wellman, and it contained all the elements of success… It is the story of two brothers who become Chicago booze barons in the Twenties... One was Cagney, the other Edward Woods…

It is sometimes claimed that the story of "Public Enemy" is based on that of "Little Hymie" Weiss, leader of the North Side Chicago gang after the murder of Dion O'Banion by the Capones in 1924… What is more likely is that the Cagney characterization is based on "Little Hymie"; the plot itself is pure fiction…

When Cagney, in his striped pajama, sat opposite Mae Clarke at breakfast and decided he had had enough of this boring broad, he wasted no time… He picked up half a grapefruit and planted it full into Clarke's face… It was a piece of screen action which has lasted down the years as the ultimate in violence from the gangster to his moll…

Of course, it isn't – it just seems that way… Since then gir1s have been slapped, kicked, beaten up, run over, shot, stabbed and raped, all in the tradition of mobster violence…

But at the time this scene was daring, and the more daring because it was totally unexpected… We remember Mae Clarke in "Public Enemy," yet forget that Jean Harlow was in it, too… There may have been good reason… The New York Times, reviewing the film in 1934, commented: "The acting throughout is interesting, with the exception of Jean Harlow, who essays the role of a gangster's mistress."

Cagney made violence and a life of crime magically seductive, and "Public Enemy" made him Warners' number 2 gangster, second only to Edward G. Robinson…


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