Wednesday, December 30, 2009

58. The Public Enemy (1931)

Running Time: 83 minutes
Directed By: William A. Wellman
Written By: Harvey F. Thew, from story by John Bright & Kubec Glasmon
Main Cast: James Cagney, Edward Woods, Jean Harlow, Robert Emmett O'Connor, Leslie Fenton, Joan Blondell, Donald Cook


I remember when I was younger, watching the film "Yankee Doodle Dandy" and loving James Cagney's portrayl as George M. Cohan, even at that young age. I won't harp about "YDD" because it's a movie that we'll soon be covered on my journey, but I was very excited to see "The Public Enemy" and get another glance at Cagney captivating me on the big sceen...and that's just what he did!

Cagney plays Tom Powers, who starts out at a young age in 1909 robbing department stores with his buddy Matt Doyle and selling the hot goods to Putty Nose, a famous gangster and getting next to nothing in return. Tom is a troubled young kid who doesn't get along with a whole lot of people outside of Matt, especially his brother and recieves lashes from his father with a belt on a seemingly regular basis.

Soon Tom grows up and is still acquainted with Putty Nose and with his friend Matt. When Putty puts the boys onto a scheme to snatch some furs from the local fur warehouse, he promises them that they'll be safe and that if trouble brews, he'll take care of them. Well trouble does brew, and when the boys go looking for Putty he's nowhere to be found. Putty Nose leaves the boys high and dry and Tom, still a young man, is left with the bloodshed of a cop on his hands. Following that mess, they fall in with another famous gangster, Paddy Ryan, owner of a local pub, he's an old gentleman with manners, but who still knows how to get what he wants. Paddy turns the boys into an overnight success as they begin bootlegging beer during prohibition times.

Throughout his bootlegging success Tom still has problems at home as his brother and mother urge him to get out of the crime business and go straight. Tom and his brother fight constantly when put together in the same room and their mother, a sweet old woman who wants nothing but peace in the household, plays the mediator between them. Tom also plays his hand at love, meeting and falling for Kitty. When he grows sick of Kitty, he smashes a grapefruit in her face and sends her packing, only to meet up with the vivacious Gwen.

"The Public Enemy" is just what I was looking for in a 30's gangster flick. "Little Caesar" was good, but this gangster movie knocked it out of the park and after a little bit of research you find out that it set the tone for gangster films from that point on and it's not hard to see why. James Cagney is fantastic and could easily become a favorite actor of mine, as he takes charge of the screen whenever he's on it and you know instantly who the star is. The ending of "The Public Enemy" is very simple, yet very effective and I honestly wouldn't have changed a thing about it. While it wasn't the ending that I was expecting, it was still a great one and one that definitely worked for me. The rest of the acting was also great, as I kind of had a fondness for the character of Paddy Ryan played very well by Robert Emmett O'Connor. "The Public Enemy" is a fantastic film that definitely deserved inclusion in this book and I would easily recommend it to anyone looking to check out some older flicks.

RATING: 10/10 Gotta' go the full monty for this one, it was nothing less of fantastic and I can't wait to buy it and watch it again someday when my journey is through.

NEXT UP: M...Which I've actually seen before and loved it, so I can't wait to take another gander at it and give a fresh opinion. Review will probably come later tonight or early tomorrow.

December 30, 2009 5:14pm


  1. Sounds like a great movie, I may have to check it out after I finish my project! So glad you are back to your project, keep up the great work!

  2. I agree with you, The Public Enemy is far superior to Little Caesar. The energy Cagney brings to the role is electric.


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