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Author Topic: The Public Enemy (1931)  (Read 1713 times)
drinkanddestroy
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« on: August 08, 2012, 06:50:04 AM »

Well, what better movie to start our new Gangster Films Index than with the film that IMO is the first really good gangster film

The Public Enemy (1931) 10/10

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0022286/


The classic story of the rise and fall of a gangster in Prohibition-era Chicago.

--------------------------------------------------------------------

             Credited cast

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


The only credited cast are the 9 people listed above;I guess they didn't list as many cast members back then, cuz there are quite a few important characters who are not credited including Mae Clarke, who is in the film's most famous scene! I'll list a few of those uncredited characters here, courtesy of Wikipedia:

Mae Clarke as Kitty
Frank Coghlan Jr. as Tom as a Boy
Frankie Darro as Matt as a Boy
Snitz Edwards as Miller
Douglas Gerrard as Assistant Tailor
Robert Homans as Officer Pat Burke
Eddie Kane as Joe - Headwaiter
Mia Marvin as Jane
Sam McDaniel as Headwaiter
Helen Parrish as Little Girl
Lee Phelps as Steve - Bartender
Russ Powell as Bartender
Purnell Pratt as Officer Powers
Lucille Ward as Larry Dalton's Weeping Mother

------------------------------------------------------------


Cagney is my favorite movie gangster ever (in addition to The Public Enemy, I'm thinking of Angels with Dirty Faces, The Roaring Twenties, and White Heat.

 Jean Harlow's performance here is also legendary, and who can forget Cagney smashing a grapefruit into Mae Clarke's face (surprisingly, imdb says that Clarke's was an uncredited performance). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k4R5wZs8cxI


Later in the decade, especially once the Production Code began to be enforced, many of the gangster films began to become more "socially-conscious"). Eg. Dead End and Angels With Dirty Faces try to explore how a child goes off, and even in The Roaring Twenties, the Cagney character is basically a good guy who just finds it impossible to get a job after returning from World War I.

But The Public Enemy has no such concerns. Tom Powers is not a good guy, and at no point does the movie sympathize with him. The movie begins with scenes of Tom (and his buddy Matt) as children, but only to show us how they were rotten from the start; and Tom's father dying young sure didn't help. But ultimately, these boys just want to make the big time, quickly and easily, and that's what it's all about. As Tom says about his older brother, "he's going to school, so he can learn how to be poor!" These boys want what they want, and that's all there is to it.

You'll notice that in the scenes as children, the taller boy is named Tom and the shorter one is Matt; initially, Edward Woods was supposed to play Tom and Cagney was supposed to be Matt; but they realized at some point that Cagney was a star, and they gave him the lead role of Tom.
According to the bonus features on the BRD, this occurred after a previous movie called The Millionaire was released Cagney had a supporting role in that movie (George Arliss was the lead) but totally stole the show, and at that point they decided to give Cagney the lead in The Public Enemy. (I'm not sure why they didn't switch the child actors' roles - is it because the children's scenes were already shot; or is it because they had rehearsed the children's scenes already and didn't wanna now make them learn new roles?)

As Cigar Joe has pointed out (and Frayling mentioned in STDWD), the Tuco/Gunshop scene in GBU was taken from the Powers/Pawnshop scene from The Public Enemy.
Also, of the many parts of The Hoods that were ripped off of gangster movies, a few may be from The Public Enemy:

-- In The Hoods, Noodles goes home to visit his mother, but gets into a fight with his brother who despises his criminal activity.

-- In The Hoods, one of their gang (Dominic) gets killed on an early holdup, and the gang attend his funeral (where Dominic's family gives them dirty looks, cuz they know Dominic was killed going with them on a job).


« Last Edit: March 05, 2016, 05:14:07 PM by drinkanddestroy » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: September 03, 2013, 12:46:43 PM »

I wish you was a wishing well

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« Reply #2 on: February 26, 2015, 12:16:28 AM »

Watching this movie again, I see more of its flaws. Primarily three flaws: ]
Firstly, while Cagney is great, two of the male supporting actors are shit: The guy who played Cagney's partner the guy who was originally supposed to be the main character!; and the guy who plays Cagney's brother particularly his performance in the scene where he screams "it's beer and blood" is atrocious

And the next two flaws that are prevalent in movies of this period: how stagnant and set-bound the movie is; and the lack of music, especially in the transition from scene to scene.
Of course, during this period, Hollywood was still trying to figure out how to make great sound films. So, while these flaws are pretty noticeable and would be unacceptable for a film today, I still enjoy watching The Public Enemy and appreciate how good it is for a movie of its time, and that this was the first really good gangster film. I wouldn't give it a 10/10 anymore; I'd change it to about a 9/10.

Main thing is, James Cagney was incomparable as a gangster.  Afro


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« Reply #3 on: March 05, 2016, 05:18:15 PM »

 I just saw the movie again it played on the TCM's 31 days of Oscar and every time I see it I like it less and less, cuz of the flaws mentioned in the previous post. And others. The whole way many actors spoke in the movies then was very weird. Again, this is a problem of many films in that era; this movie deserves recognition, but I do not consider it a great movie anymore. It has Cagney, and not much else.

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« Reply #4 on: March 05, 2016, 05:59:27 PM »

I like "The Great O'Malley" with Bogart and O'Brien  1937 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Great_O'Malley

and "All Through the Night"  1942  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/All_Through_the_Night_%28film%29

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« Reply #5 on: March 06, 2016, 05:48:15 AM »

drinkanddestroy December 12, 2011, 06:15:20 AM    

Quote from: titoli on December 12, 2011, 02:20:54 AM
 This has been one of my favourite movies ever since I watched it as preteen. Some of the scenes have stuck in my mind, especially the incredible (pre-code, I assume) final one, but also the killing of the horse or the grapefruit. In spite of the preachy scenes with the Cagney's brother this earns a 9\10.

hey, so you and I have indeed seen some of the same movies!  Wink

I really liked this one; IMO it is better than Little Caesar (1931) Scarface (1932), Dillinger (1945)

btw, Frayling has discussed (eg. in STDWD's chapter on OUATIA) how Leone believed that much of  the stuff in  The Hoods , other than the childhood stuff, was lifted from gangster films.

Well, there is an incident in The Hoods, from the bottom of p. 247 - p. 251, where  "Noodles" goes back to his mother's apartment to visit her, (and he brings her money as well), but he gets into an argument with his brother, cuz his brother was giving him crap about his being a gangster, etc.

 If Leone is correct that much of The Hoods was lifted from gangster films, I wonder if that part was lifted from similar parts of The Public Enemy.

(by the way, I a while ago I started a thread to list all the stuff we can find in The Hoods that is lifted from gangster films http://www.fistful-of-leone.com/forums/index.php?topic=10253.0 If you can think of anything, please chime in!  )


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

So while reading p. 247 of The Hoods, I just noticed this passage:

" We stood outside undecided how to kill the hour.

There was a small movie house next door, showing two thrilling cowboy pictures, "Destry Rides Again," and "A Bloody Trail." "

I never heard of ABT (and couldn't find it on imdb either), but DRA is a western from 1939 http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0031225/ (I haven't seen the movie, but) i have seen it discussed here.

I find this interesting because -- while I haven't read the book in a while,if I recall correctly, that is one of the only things that date the book, other than the fact that it begins in 1916:

There is no specific mention of dates in the book, but on page 10 (in the opening scene in the boys' classroom), they discuss their "election fire" they have in the neighborhood, "... We don't care who's elected, Wilson or Hughes, we have a big fire just the same..."

We know that's 1916, cuz the 1916 Presidential election featured Woodrow Wilson vs. Charles Evans Hughes. So other than the book beginning in 1916, I don't recall there being any way to tell dates; but Destry Rides Again dates it as happening in (or at least not before) 1939. Furthermore, that's just a bit more than halfway through the book, so if the chapters are written in chronological order, perhaps it ends much later than that (assuming  the stuff about Destry Rides Again is even true, rather than part of Grey's imagination). Remember also, the book does not have the part about Old Noodles coming back; that's all added for the movie. The book only has the equivalent of the movie's first 2 sections, and ends with the part that is  the movie equivalent of gangster Noodles leaving New York  -- which in the movie is 1933. But based on this Destry Rides Again reference, the book would actually end much later than 1939 (again, if that stuff was even true in the first place  Grin)

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« Reply #6 on: March 06, 2016, 10:03:01 AM »

drinkanddestroy December 12, 2011, 06:15:20 AM    

Quote from: titoli on December 12, 2011, 02:20:54 AM
 This has been one of my favourite movies ever since I watched it as preteen. Some of the scenes have stuck in my mind, especially the incredible (pre-code, I assume) final one, but also the killing of the horse or the grapefruit. In spite of the preachy scenes with the Cagney's brother this earns a 9\10.

hey, so you and I have indeed seen some of the same movies!  Wink

I really liked this one; IMO it is better than Little Caesar (1931) Scarface (1932), Dillinger (1945)

btw, Frayling has discussed (eg. in STDWD's chapter on OUATIA) how Leone believed that much of  the stuff in  The Hoods , other than the childhood stuff, was lifted from gangster films.

Well, there is an incident in The Hoods, from the bottom of p. 247 - p. 251, where  "Noodles" goes back to his mother's apartment to visit her, (and he brings her money as well), but he gets into an argument with his brother, cuz his brother was giving him crap about his being a gangster, etc.

 If Leone is correct that much of The Hoods was lifted from gangster films, I wonder if that part was lifted from similar parts of The Public Enemy.

(by the way, I a while ago I started a thread to list all the stuff we can find in The Hoods that is lifted from gangster films http://www.fistful-of-leone.com/forums/index.php?topic=10253.0 If you can think of anything, please chime in!  )


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

So while reading p. 247 of The Hoods, I just noticed this passage:

" We stood outside undecided how to kill the hour.

There was a small movie house next door, showing two thrilling cowboy pictures, "Destry Rides Again," and "A Bloody Trail." "

I never heard of ABT (and couldn't find it on imdb either), but DRA is a western from 1939 http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0031225/ (I haven't seen the movie, but) i have seen it discussed here.

I find this interesting because -- while I haven't read the book in a while,if I recall correctly, that is one of the only things that date the book, other than the fact that it begins in 1916:

There is no specific mention of dates in the book, but on page 10 (in the opening scene in the boys' classroom), they discuss their "election fire" they have in the neighborhood, "... We don't care who's elected, Wilson or Hughes, we have a big fire just the same..."

We know that's 1916, cuz the 1916 Presidential election featured Woodrow Wilson vs. Charles Evans Hughes. So other than the book beginning in 1916, I don't recall there being any way to tell dates; but Destry Rides Again dates it as happening in (or at least not before) 1939. Furthermore, that's just a bit more than halfway through the book, so if the chapters are written in chronological order, perhaps it ends much later than that (assuming  the stuff about Destry Rides Again is even true, rather than part of Grey's imagination). Remember also, the book does not have the part about Old Noodles coming back; that's all added for the movie. The book only has the equivalent of the movie's first 2 sections, and ends with the part that is  the movie equivalent of gangster Noodles leaving New York  -- which in the movie is 1933. But based on this Destry Rides Again reference, the book would actually end much later than 1939 (again, if that stuff was even true in the first place  Grin)


the great former board member ONCE later pointed out that there is another movie called DESTRY RIDES AGAIN, from 1932, and that would fit into the book's time frame http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0022810/?ref_=fn_al_tt_2

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« Reply #7 on: March 06, 2016, 04:10:58 PM »

These Western titles had "Trail" as part of the title

Forbidden Trail  (1932)
Rainbow Trail  (1932)
Guns for Hire (1932) aka Blazing Trail
End of the Trail (1932)
The Lone Trail (1932)
The Sunset Trail (1932)

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« Reply #8 on: November 19, 2017, 09:12:24 AM »

I saw this a couple months back on TCM.  It was a pretty good movie. The reason i'm gonna purchase this is because i saw two things that i KNOW directly influenced the scarface movie which starred Pacino.  The most obvious is the scene where Cagney's character brings the loot home to give to his mother.  This scene was reworked and done over again in the scarface movie with Pacino.

 The second scene was when Cagney and his partner were holed up in the apartment, not knowing the machine gun is waiting on them to exit.  Again, scarface loosely redid this in the final act when Pacino is gunned down in his mansion.  So, from a movie historical perspective, i believe this is a must have movie for anyone to purchase.  On its own, i would rate it a 7 out of 10...

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« Reply #9 on: November 19, 2017, 09:59:21 AM »

An important movie with a great Cagney performance as usual. Otherwise, Im pretty down on his movie lately. The early sound era was not very good.

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« Reply #10 on: November 19, 2017, 11:09:16 AM »

Quote
The early sound era was not very good.

From a technical point of view that's certainly true. Cinematography was fairly uninspired. However, the dialogue in Pre-Codes usually makes up for it.

I agree The Public Enemy has many problems. The only performance that's good here is Cagney's. Jean Harlow's acting is atrocious, and all the other actors were clearly still in silent mode. Definitively the worst was Cagney's brother.
However, the ending still packs a punch.

Moorman, here's another boxset for you to buy. It's worth it.
https://www.amazon.com/Gangsters-Collection-Petrified-Roaring-Twenties/dp/B00114XLTQ/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1511114848&sr=8
3&keywords=warner+brothers+gangster+collection

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« Reply #11 on: November 19, 2017, 04:34:26 PM »

the dialogue - specifically, the way the actors spoke the dialogue - is one of the worst parts of the early sound era.

In The Public Enemy, I'm fine with Jean Harlow (kind of like "so bad it's good" - and most of the problem is with her dialogue as written, not her performance) and also the actors who played Paddy Ryan and Nails Nathan were decent. Otherwise, ugh, the cast is atrocious. Yes, Cagney's brother is the worst, followed closely by his partner, Puddynose, Paddy's girlfriend, and the rest of the shitty cast.


Later in the 30's, it got much better, with movies like Angels With Dirty Faces and The Roaring Twenties.

I have this BRD boxset https://goo.gl/huwTFX and this DVD boxset https://goo.gl/DUymz6  and the Angels with Dirty Faces DVD https://goo.gl/9z98vG

by the way Jessica, have you seen Doorway to Hell? A little-known early Warners gangster film that's pretty decent ... with Lew Ayres as the baby-faced gangster! https://goo.gl/5RUVtQ

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« Reply #12 on: November 20, 2017, 01:46:34 AM »

I like this film and I generally watch it back-to-back with The Roaring Twenties.

Last time I did this, it struck me that the most violent gangster in The Public Enemy (the one who gets killed when he's thrown off the horse) should have talked more like a gangster and less like a gum-chewing teenager.

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« Reply #13 on: November 20, 2017, 06:45:25 AM »

I like this film and I generally watch it back-to-back with The Roaring Twenties.

Nice combo! Gladys George's Panama Smith in The Roaring Twenties is awesome (and tragic).

The reason i'm gonna purchase this is because i saw two things that i KNOW directly influenced the scarface movie which starred Pacino.

I hadn't thought about these references before, but given the director of Scarface is Brian De Palma, I'm not surprised he went to movies from the same era as the original Scarface for additional inspiration. Part of what makes his movies fun to watch (IMHO) is trying to spot all the movies and directors that inspired him (I mean this in the best possibly way, I like De Palma).

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« Reply #14 on: November 20, 2017, 07:39:00 AM »

Quote
by the way Jessica, have you seen Doorway to Hell?
D & D, no I've only heard about it. I'll look into it.

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