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The Public Enemy (1931)

Not Rated | | Crime, Drama | 15 May 1931 (USA)
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.

Director:

William A. Wellman

Writers:

Kubec Glasmon (by), John Bright (by) | 1 more credit »
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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 1 win. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
James Cagney ... Tom Powers
Jean Harlow ... Gwen Allen
Edward Woods ... Matt Doyle
Joan Blondell ... Mamie
Donald Cook ... Mike Powers
Leslie Fenton ... Samuel 'Nails' Nathan
Beryl Mercer ... Ma Powers
Robert Emmett O'Connor ... Paddy Ryan (as Robert O'Connor)
Murray Kinnell ... Putty Nose
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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:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

15 May 1931 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Beer and Blood See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Warner Bros. See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Brunswick Radios Used Exclusively)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

According to James Cagney's autobiography, Mae Clarke's ex-husband, Lew Brice, enjoyed the "grapefruit scene" so much that he went to the movie theater every day just to watch that scene only and leave. See more »

Goofs

As Tom and Matt leave the fur warehouse after their abortive robbery attempt early in the film, Matt is clearly seen throwing down his gun on the roof of the building; but after they slide down the drainpipe and run to freedom through the alley both Tom AND Matt throw their guns onto a nearby roof, even though we have already seen Matt discard his. See more »

Quotes

Jane: Breakfast is all ready, Tommy.
Tom Powers: I ain't hungry. Pour me some coffee, will you, and make it black.
Jane: You aren't sorry are you?
Tom Powers: Sorry? Sorry about what?
Jane: For last night.
Tom Powers: What do you mean? For getting drunk?
Jane: Aren't you the little play actor.
Tom Powers: Wait a minute... Do you mean that... Why you...
[Tom slaps Jane]
See more »

Crazy Credits

It is the ambition of the authors of "The Public Enemy" to honestly depict the environment that exists today in a certain strata of American life, rather than glorify the hoodlum or the criminal. While the story of "The Public Enemy" is essentially a true story, all names and characters appearing herein, are purely fictional. See more »

Alternate Versions

For the theatrical release in 1931, the New York censors made the following cuts:
  • The scene where Putty Nose hands Tom and Matt a gun.
  • All scenes of the warehouse robbery.
  • Scenes showing the boys getting their payoff from the government liquor heist.
  • Most of the scene where Tom kills Putty Nose.
  • The seduction of Tom by Paddy's girl and the subsequent scene where Tom slaps her.
See more »

Connections

Spoofed in Good Times (1967) See more »

Soundtracks

Brighten the Corner Where You Are
(1913) (uncredited)
Music by Charles Gabriel
Played by a Salvation Army Band
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

83 minutes of Cinematic Bliss
9 August 2003 | by glgioiaSee all my reviews

Larger than life classic that chronicles the life of a street hustler turned crime lord in prohibition Chicago, based loosely on the various antics of the Irish mega-hoodlums, O'Bannon and Moran.

While we may never literally create a time machine, these old movies give you the miracle of observation at least of what life was once like. Sadly many of the old films have been destroyed through neglect, so the pickings are very slim. Public Enemy is one of the best old movies available. For only the sheer pleasure of seeing what all the fuss was about in Cagney and Harlow, it's worth a viewing. Director Wellman creates some extremely lasting images you won't want to miss, and it almost makes me think of the original Frankenstein for that reason. The final sequence especially is a dramatic example of lasting imagery in film, quite an unforgettable experience. If you like Godfather, Scarface, Goodfellas, and who doesn't, you owe it yourself to watch what may be the patriarch of the entire genre. Interestingly, while the film has a campy disclaimer demonizing the subject matter and mandating public action in order to address the evils of organized crime, it's rather obvious that the producers new exactly what they were really doing by making a film like this. Brutal as some of the action is, Cagney's charisma glorifies the gangster as much as Coppola, Scorsese and all the rest glorify modern organized crime. See it for yourself!!!


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