7.7/10
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116 user 75 critic

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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On TV

Airs Mon. Feb. 25, 8:00 PM on TCM

ON DISC
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 »
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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

Final film of Snitz Edwards. He was suffering from the effects of cirrhosis of the liver and rheumatoid arthritis during filming and some of his scenes were given to another actor. 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

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.
Tom Powers: In your hat.
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

Referenced in The Ben Shapiro Show: The Bear Market Arrives (2018) See more »

Soundtracks

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

Frequently Asked Questions

See more »

User Reviews

 
Still riveting, over 70 years later!
6 April 2004 | by free101girlSee all my reviews

Most films made in the early 30s are entertaining only as period pieces that give us a glimpse into another era. Often they are so dated that they've become unintentionally funny.

The Public Enemy is a totally different thing. It is such a well-crafted and honest film that it still has the power to shock us. The violence in this film is every bit as brutal as anything in a modern "gangsta" flick, even though some of it takes place off-camera.

Based on the stills I had seen of the grapefruit scene, I thought it would be a light-hearted moment. In fact, it's anything but. In that encounter, Cagney's character exhibits a total disregard for others that is downright chilling.

The final scene is extremely disturbing. You won't forget it.


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