7.7/10
16,245
120 user 80 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 »
Reviews

Watch Now

From $2.99 on Prime Video

ON DISC
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 1 win. See more awards »

Photos

Learn more

More Like This 

Little Caesar (1931)
Action | Crime | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

A small-time criminal moves to a big city to seek bigger fortune.

Director: Mervyn LeRoy
Stars: Edward G. Robinson, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Glenda Farrell
Action | Crime | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8/10 X  

Three men attempt to make a living in Prohibitionist America after returning home from fighting together in World War I.

Director: Raoul Walsh
Stars: James Cagney, Humphrey Bogart, Priscilla Lane
Certificate: Passed Crime | Drama | Film-Noir
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  

A priest tries to stop a gangster from corrupting a group of street kids.

Director: Michael Curtiz
Stars: James Cagney, Pat O'Brien, Humphrey Bogart
White Heat (1949)
Action | Crime | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  

A psychopathic criminal with a mother complex makes a daring break from prison and leads his old gang in a chemical plant payroll heist. Shortly after the plan takes place, events take a crazy turn.

Director: Raoul Walsh
Stars: James Cagney, Virginia Mayo, Edmond O'Brien
Scarface (1932)
Action | Crime | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  

An ambitious and nearly insane violent gangster climbs the ladder of success in the mob, but his weaknesses prove to be his downfall.

Directors: Howard Hawks, Richard Rosson
Stars: Paul Muni, Ann Dvorak, Karen Morley
Certificate: Passed Crime | Drama | Film-Noir
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  

Wrongly convicted James Allen serves in the intolerable conditions of a southern chain gang, which later comes back to haunt him.

Director: Mervyn LeRoy
Stars: Paul Muni, Glenda Farrell, Helen Vinson
Smart Money (1931)
Certificate: Passed Crime | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  

Immigrant Greek barber has uncommon skills in playing poker and soon rises in the seedy world of illegal gambling, but pretty blondes remain his Achilles' heel.

Director: Alfred E. Green
Stars: Edward G. Robinson, James Cagney, Evalyn Knapp
Certificate: Passed Comedy | Musical | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  

Chester Kent struggles against time, romance, and a rival's spy to produce spectacular live "prologues" for movie houses.

Director: Lloyd Bacon
Stars: James Cagney, Joan Blondell, Ruby Keeler
Certificate: Passed Crime | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  

Despite his efforts to go straight, a young gangster keeps falling back into crime.

Director: Archie Mayo
Stars: Lew Ayres, James Cagney, Charles Judels
Blonde Crazy (1931)
Comedy | Crime | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  

The adventures of an egoistic con man and his glamorous accomplice.

Director: Roy Del Ruth
Stars: James Cagney, Joan Blondell, Louis Calhern
Certificate: Passed Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  

Events take an unhappy turn for two Bill and Jack, two locomotive engineers, after Bill is attracted to his best friend's wife.

Director: William A. Wellman
Stars: Grant Withers, Mary Astor, Regis Toomey
Comedy | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  

A financially-strapped charter pilot hires himself to an oil tycoon to kidnap his madcap daughter and prevent her from marrying a vapid band leader.

Director: William Keighley
Stars: James Cagney, Bette Davis, Stuart Erwin
Edit

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
Edit

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

Taglines:

All his life he took what he wanted...Why not women? (Print Ad- Sarasota Herald, ((Sarasota, Fla.)) 16 June 1931)

Genres:

Crime | Drama

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
Edit

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 »
Edit

Did You Know?

Trivia

Ranked #8 on the American Film Institute's list of the 10 greatest films in the genre "Gangster" in June 2008. See more »

Goofs

When Powers feigns ignorance about guns, the salesman carefully explains the workings of a .38 revolver, yet seems unconcerned when Powers loads the gun using .38 cartridges that he takes out of his jacket pocket. See more »

Quotes

Gwen Allen: You are different, Tommy. Very different. And I've discovered it isn't only a difference in manner and outward appearances. It's a difference in basic character. The men I know - and I've known dozens of them - oh, they're so nice, so polished, so considerate. Most women like that type. I guess they're afraid of the other kind. I thought I was too, but you're so strong. You don't give, you take. Oh, Tommy, I could love you to death.
[Tommy and Gwen embrace and kiss passionately]
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 a 1941 re-release, three scenes in "The Public Enemy" were censored to comply with the Production Code. These censored segments (including an extended edit of the scene involving the gay tailor) were restored for the 2005 DVD release. See more »

Connections

Referenced in American Born (1990) See more »

Soundtracks

Smiles
(1917) (uncredited)
Music by Lee S. Roberts
Played in Paddy's bar
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more »

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…


54 of 60 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 120 user reviews »

Contribute to This Page

Stream Popular Action and Adventure Titles With Prime Video

Explore popular action and adventure titles available to stream with Prime Video.

Start your free trial



Recently Viewed