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Cesar Romero, (Gene Moroc) is a con serving time in prison and also has a wife named Margaret Lindsay, (Judith Maroc), who served time for her husband by not revealing any information to the police. Judith was released from prison after serving her time. However, her husband told her when he gets out he is going to kill her and does not want her to marry anyone. Pat O'Brien, (Lee Laird) and Robert Armstrong,(Gene Ferguson) are FBI Agents who are interested in getting information from Judith. However, Judith changes her name and appearance and she becomes a Public Enemy's Wife, she has met another man and plans to marry him. Great story with some laughs and truly a great 1936 Film Classic with all great actors.
I noticed a long time ago that almost all of Pat O'Brien's films were
pretty silly and he was an odd choice as a "macho" leading man. Because
of this it's really difficult to find any of his films that can be
labeled "great", though at the same time these hokey movies are a lot
of fun to watch provided you aren't expecting Shakespeare! The idea of
this dumpy, somewhat balding man with a propensity to yell his lines
being an action hero or great lover is pretty silly but in Warner
Brothers fashion, the films are entertaining.
THE PUBLIC ENEMY'S WIFE is exactly the sort of film I think of when I think of O'Brien. Naturally he's the hero and naturally he's destined to get the girl in the end--even if it seems next to impossible. But despite this, the film is awfully good to watch--with a wonderful performance by Cesar Romero as a mobster. And the plot is different enough to make it worth your time. Great? Of course not--but for fans of Hollywood's Golden Age, it's still a dandy flick.
FYI--There were a few errors in the film. No matter what the Justice of the Peace said, the marriage between Lindsay and O'Brien was NOT legal and would not have been recognized since O'Brien married her while assuming another's identity. Also, the fish O'Brien and Armstrong carried with them were not native Florida fish--and there are no mountains in Southern Florida!
I hope no one tuned into watching this film with the idea that James
Cagney married someone in Public Enemy and that Public Enemy's Wife is
about his widow. This film has nothing whatsoever to do with the film
that made James Cagney a star.
Instead it stars Cagney's friend and Irish Mafia member in good standing, Pat O'Brien. O'Brien is an FBI man who is on the trail of Cesar Romero, the number one public enemy at that time. Romero is an insanely jealous type and left enough incriminating evidence so that his wife, Margaret Lindsay, is implicated in his crimes.
She's served her sentence and tells Romero in no uncertain terms that she's divorcing him immediately. In his best melodramatic fashion, Romero tells her she's his forever and jail won't keep them apart.
Lindsay makes a life of her own as a mysterious socialite as she was careful to sock her money away in legitimate investments. She's got playboy Dick Foran panting at the bit to add her to his list of wives.
But Romero escapes and the FBI is brought in. The plan is for O'Brien to marry her and draw Romero out. Of course since the Code just came in it is abundantly clear this will be platonic and annulled the nano- second after Romero's capture.
If you're thinking this sounds like melodramatic claptrap you'd be right. Still somehow the able cast puts it over and it's somewhat enjoyable.
Cesar Romero is a con man in prison in Public Enemy's Wife, from 1936.
He plays Gene Maroc, whose wife Judith (Margaret Lindsay) served time
because she refused to tell the police anything.
Judith is released first and wants nothing to do with Maroc. Maroc threatens to kill her once he's out.
Judith splits and dyes her hair from blond to brunette. The FBI is still interested in talking to her and getting some info. The agents, Lee Laird and Robert Armstrong (Pat O'Brien, Gene Ferguson) attempt to find her. When they finally catch up with her, she's engaged to be married. And Maroc is out and after her. The agents figure if she goes through with the wedding, it will bring Maroc to them.
Part drama and part comedy, this is an entertaining film, with the underrated Cesar Romero as a villain. Romero was a dancer, an actor, he was suave, he was dashing, and he could play a crook. In short he could do anything. He is also very impressive in "Captain from Castile," another departure for him.
Pat O'Brien does a good job in the lead, and Margaret Lindsay is appropriately hard-boiled at first, later softening.
Released the same year as MGM's LIBELED LADY, this light Warner's crime
drama shares a lot of plot points, tries for a comic take on the
subject, but fails, in no small part because Pat O'Brien does not
display the diffident feyness that William Powell brought to his role,
in part because Margaret Lindsay lacks a light touch but mostly, I
fear, because the screenwriters and director Nick Grinde can't quite
bring off the material -- certainly Pat O'Brien was capable of handling
comedy material and there is a lot of strong comic supporting actors.
It's odd to see Cesar Romero, who could have played his role as a
gangster with great comic timing, play it straight. The two best
comedians are Al Bridge and Harry Hayden, in two almost invisible roles
-- both later members of Preston Sturges' stock company.
But screwball was still finding its way at this point, and Nick Grinde was not the director to help it along. Too bad.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Here are the basics: Judith Maroc is being released from prison after
serving a short term for having been her husband Gene's apprentice in a
heist. She tells him she wants to divorce him and remarry; he vows to
kill anyone who steps into his marital shoes.
Maroc makes good on his promise, escaping from a train while being transported to testify at another mobster's trial. The G-men realize that Maroc will now be after his wife, so they use her as bait to capture the escaped felon.
Now the film turns into a bedroom comedy for a reel or two. When Judith's rich fiancé finds out about her sordid past, he fakes an accident to avoid the wedding. Lee Laird, the head G-man, steps in to take his place at the ceremony and...nudge, nudge, the honeymoon, too. There are several "raised eyebrow" jokes about this situation until Maroc arrives on the scene, abducts his ex, and plans to escape to Cuba. Then we're back in gangster flick mode until the big shoot-'em-up ending at a seedy Florida seaside bar.
It's pretty lightweight fare with lots of laughable spots. For instance, can we believe that a local paper would make a socialite's wedding and honeymoon the headline story? Or that the wedding takes place seemingly without anyone from either family in attendance? Or that a minister, finding out about the ruse, would insist that the phony couple was really married? Pat O'Brien plays the cop (what else?) and Cesar Romero, in a very early performance, is the greasy villain. He's worth watching here, still in his 20s, wiry, and angry, looking nothing like the suave leading man he would eventually become. I watched this a day after seeing LITTLE CAESAR for the first time and laughed at the idea of comparing these two films in the same category as "gangster pictures." This picture is OK viewing if you want some lightweight fare in between your Cagney and Robinson REAL gangster films.
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