The Public Enemy

The Public Enemy

James Cagney
Director: William Wellman Cast: James Cagney
James Cagney
, Edward Woods
Edward Woods
, Donald Cook
Donald Cook
William Wellman


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William Wellman's landmark gangster movie traces the rise and fall of prohibition-era mobster Tom Powers. We are first shown various episodes of Tom's childhood with the corrupting influences of the beer hall, pool parlor, and false friends like minor-league fence Putty Nose. As young adults, Tom (James Cagney) and his pal, Matt Doyle (Edward Woods), are hired by ruthless but innately decent bootlegger Paddy Ryan (Robert Emmett O'Connor). The boys quickly rise to the top of the heap, with all the accoutrements of success: custom-tailored tuxedoes, fancy cars, and gorgeous girls. All the while, Tom's loving (and somewhat addlepated) mother (Beryl Mercer) is kept in the dark, believing Tommy to be a good boy, a façade easily seen through by his older brother Mike (Donald Cook). Tommy's degeneration from brash kid to vicious lowlife is brought home in a famous scene in which he smashes a grapefruit in the face of his latest mistress (Mae Clarke). Some dated elements aside, The Public Enemy is as powerful as when it was first released, and it is far superior to the like-vintage Little Caesar. James Cagney is so dynamic in his first starring role that he practically bursts off the screen; he makes the audience pull for a character with no redeeming qualities. The film is blessed with a superior supporting cast: Joan Blondell is somewhat wasted as Matt's girl, Mamie; Jean Harlow is better served as Tom's main squeeze, Gwen (though some of her line readings are a bit awkward); and Murray Kinnell is slime personified as the deceitful Putty Nose, who "gets his" in unforgettable fashion. Despite a tacked-on opening disclaimer, most of the characters in The Public Enemy are based on actual people, a fact not lost on audiences of the period. Current prints are struck from the 1949 reissue, which was shortened from 92 to 83 minutes (among the deletions was the character of real-life hoodlum Bugs Moran).

Product Details

Release Date: 05/21/2013
UPC: 0883929282609
Original Release: 1931
Rating: NR
Source: Turner Classic Movie
Time: 1:24:00
Sales rank: 17,421

Special Features

Commentary by Film Historian Robert Sklar; Leonard Maltin Hosts Warner Night at the Movies 1931 with Newsreel, Comedy Short The Eyes Have It, Cartoon Smile, Darn Ya, Smile! ; Theatrical Trailers; Featurette Beer and Blood: Enemies of the Public; 1954 Rerelease Foreword

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
James Cagney Tom Powers
Edward Woods Matt Doyle
Donald Cook Mike Powers
Joan Blondell Mamie
Jean Harlow Gwen Allen
Beryl Mercer Ma Powers
Robert E. O'Connor Paddy Ryan
Leslie Fenton Nails Nathan
Murray Kinnell Putty Nose
Russell Powell Bartender
Landers Stevens Doctor
Buddy Burroughs Dutch
Nanci Price Little Girl
Mae Clarke Kitty
Mia Marvin Jane
Snitz Edwards Hack Miller
Rita Flynn Molly Doyle
Frank Coghlan Tom As A Boy
Frankie Darro Matt as a Boy
Sam McDaniel Black Headwaiter
Helen Parrish Little Girl
Purnell Pratt Officer Powers
George Daly Machine Gunner
Douglas Gerrard Assistant tailor
Dorothy Gray Little Girl
Ben Hendricks Bugs Moran
Eddie Kane Joe, the Headwaiter
Lee Phelps Steve, the Bartender
William Strauss Pawnbroker
Charles Sullivan Mug
Adele Watson Mrs. Doyle
Robert E. Homans Officer Pat Burke

Technical Credits
William Wellman Director
Harry Barris Songwriter
John Bright Original Story,Screenwriter
Gordon Clifford Songwriter
Kubec Glasmon Original Story,Screenwriter
Devereaux Jennings Cinematographer
John W. Kellette Songwriter
Jean Kenbrovin Songwriter
Earl Luick Costumes/Costume Designer
Ed McCormick Editor
Edward McDermott Editor
David Mendoza Musical Direction/Supervision
Max Parker Art Director
Edward Stevenson Costumes/Costume Designer
Harvey Thew Screenwriter
Perc Westmore Makeup
Darryl F. Zanuck Producer

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