The Info List - The Public Enemy

The Public Enemy
The Public Enemy
(Enemies of the Public in the UK[5]) is a 1931 American all-talking pre-Code gangster film produced and distributed by Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.
The film was directed by William A. Wellman
William A. Wellman
and stars James Cagney, Jean Harlow, Edward Woods, Donald Cook, and Joan Blondell. The film relates the story of a young man's rise in the criminal underworld in prohibition-era urban America. The supporting players include Beryl Mercer, Murray Kinnell, and Mae Clarke. The screenplay is based on an unpublished novel by two former street thugs — Beer and Blood by John Bright and Kubec Glasmon — who had witnessed some of Al Capone's murderous gang rivalries in Chicago.[citation needed]


1 Plot 2 Cast 3 Production

3.1 Development 3.2 Casting 3.3 Filming 3.4 Grapefruit scene 3.5 Prologue and epilogue

4 Music 5 Reception 6 Subsequent recognition 7 Re-releases 8 See also 9 References 10 External links


James Cagney
James Cagney
and Edward Woods
Edward Woods
in The Public Enemy

As youngsters in 1900s Chicago, Tom Powers (James Cagney) and his lifelong friend Matt Doyle (Edward Woods) engage in petty theft, selling their loot to "Putty Nose" (Murray Kinnell). Putty Nose persuades them to join his gang on a fur warehouse robbery, assuring them he will take care of them if anything goes wrong. When Tom is startled by a stuffed bear, he shoots it, alerting the police, who kill gang member Larry Dalton. Chased by a cop, Tom and Matt have to gun him down. However, when they go to Putty Nose for help, they find he has left town. Tom's straightlaced older brother Mike (Donald Cook) tries, but fails, to talk Tom into giving up crime. Tom keeps his activities secret from his doting mother (Beryl Mercer). When America enters World War I
World War I
in 1917, Mike enlists in the Marines. In 1920, with Prohibition about to go into effect, Paddy Ryan (Robert Emmett O'Connor) recruits Tom and Matt as beer "salesmen" (enforcers) in his bootlegging business. He allies himself with noted gangster Samuel "Nails" Nathan (Leslie Fenton). As the bootlegging business becomes ever more lucrative, Tom and Matt flaunt their wealth.

James Cagney
James Cagney
in The Public Enemy

Mike finds out that his brother's money comes not from politics, as Tom claims, but from bootlegging, and declares that Tom's success is based on nothing more than "beer and blood" (the title of the book upon which the film is based). Tom retorts in disgust: "Your hands ain't so clean. You killed and liked it. You didn't get them medals for holding hands with them Germans." Tom and Matt acquire girlfriends, Kitty (an uncredited Mae Clarke) and Mamie (Joan Blondell) respectively. Tom eventually tires of Kitty; in a famous scene, when she complains once too often, he angrily pushes half a grapefruit into her face. He then drops her for Gwen Allen (Jean Harlow), a woman with a self-confessed weakness for bad men. At a restaurant on the night of Matt's wedding reception to Mamie, Tom and Matt recognize Putty Nose and follow him home. Begging for his life, Putty plays a song on the piano that he had entertained Tom and Matt with when they were kids. Tom shoots him in the back. Tom gives his mother a large wad of money, but Mike rejects the gift. Tom tears up the banknotes and throws them in his brother's face. "Nails" Nathan dies in a horse riding accident, prompting Tom to find the horse and shoot it. A rival gang headed by "Schemer" Burns takes advantage of the disarray resulting from Nathan's death, precipitating a gang war. Later, Matt is gunned down in public, with Tom narrowly escaping the same fate. Furious, Tom takes it upon himself to single-handedly settle scores with Burns and some of his men. Tom is seriously wounded in the shootout, and ends up in the hospital. When his mother, brother, and Matt's sister Molly come to see him, he reconciles with Mike and agrees to reform. However, Paddy warns Mike that Tom has been kidnapped by the Burns mob from the hospital. Later, his dead body is returned to the Powers home. Cast[edit]

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

Production[edit] Development[edit]

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The screenplay which was written by Harvey F. Thew was based on a novel which was never published called Beer and Blood, by John Bright and Kubec Glasmon. Bright and Glasmon based their novel on actual people, having witnessed some of Al Capone's murderous gang rivalries in Chicago. Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.
studio head Darryl F. Zanuck
Darryl F. Zanuck
bought the rights to the novel and assigned director William A. Wellman
William A. Wellman
to direct the film. Wellman, who had served in World War I
World War I
like the brother of the main character, told Zanuck: "I'll bring you the toughest, most violent picture you ever did see". Casting[edit] Edward Woods
Edward Woods
was originally cast in the lead role of Tom Powers and James Cagney
James Cagney
was cast as Tom's best friend Matt Doyle, until director Wellman decided Cagney would be more effective in the part and switched the two actors[4] but never reshot the sequences with the characters as children, which is why the child playing Cagney's role looks like Woods while the one playing Woods' role looks like Cagney. Another reason for the switch is that the sound technology used in The Public Enemy was superior to that used in earlier films, making it no longer imperative to have an actor in the lead role who had impeccable enunciation.[citation needed] Louise Brooks
Louise Brooks
was the original choice for Gwen Allen, a woman with self-confessed weakness for bad men. She refused the role, which went to a much younger actress, Jean Harlow. Brooks' name was in studio records/casting call lists playing "Bess" in this movie, but she and her character did not appear. Brooks later explained herself to Wellman (who had directed her in Beggars of Life
Beggars of Life
(1928)) by saying that she hated making pictures because she simply "hated Hollywood".[6] In the opinion of Brooks's biographer Barry Paris, "turning down Public Enemy marked the real end of Louise Brooks's film career".[6] Tom's first girlfriend Kitty was played by Mae Clarke, who was uncredited. Kitty is eventually dropped off by Tom for Gwen after he pushes half a grapefruit into her face, the most famous scene in the movie. Joan Blondell
Joan Blondell
played Mamie, Matt's girlfriend. She had already worked with Cagney in Sinners' Holiday
Sinners' Holiday
(1930) and would work with him on two films which also came out this year: God's Gift in Women and Blonde Crazy. Other films that they worked together on were The Crowd Roars (1932), Footlight Parade
Footlight Parade
(1933) and He Was Her Man
He Was Her Man
(1934). Cagney once said that Blondell was the only woman he loved besides his wife. Donald Cook played Tom's brother, Mike. Filming[edit] Filming took place in January and February 1931, with a small budget of $151,000.[7] During filming, Cagney also made Smart Money, co-starring Edward G. Robinson, who had finished his breakthrough film Little Caesar. In the scene where Mike Powers punches his brother Tom, Wellman privately took Donald Cook aside and, explaining his desire for authenticity in Tom's reaction, asked the actor to really hit Cagney. Cook played his part a bit too well, and he struck Cagney in the mouth with such force, he actually broke one of Cagney's teeth.[citation needed] Yet in spite of his genuine shock and pain, Cagney stayed in character and played out the rest of the scene. In another incident, live ammunition was used in a scene where Tom Powers ducks around the corner of a building to take cover from machine gun fire; the use of live ammunition was common practice at the time.[citation needed] The bullets struck the wall of the building at the position where Cagney's head had been just a moment prior.[8] Grapefruit scene[edit]

A controversial scene in which Tom (James Cagney) angrily smashes a half grapefruit into his girlfriend's face (Mae Clarke).

In a 1973 interview featured in the Turner Classic Movies
Turner Classic Movies
documentary The Men Who Made The Movies: William Wellman, Wellman said he added the grapefruit "hitting" to the scene, because when he and his wife at the time would get into fights, she would never talk or give any expression. Since she always had a grapefruit for breakfast, he always wanted to put the grapefruit into her face just to get a reaction out of her, so she would show some emotion; he felt that this scene gave him the opportunity to rid himself of that temptation.[9][10] Some, such as film critic Ben Mankiewicz, have asserted that Mae Clarke's surprised and seemingly somewhat angry reaction to the grapefruit was genuine, as she hadn't been told to expect the unscripted action.[11] However, in her autobiography, Clarke stated that Cagney had told her prior to that take what he planned to do. She said that her only genuine surprise came later, when she saw the grapefruit take of the scene appear in the final film, as it had been her understanding that they were shooting it only as a joke to amuse the crew.[12] According to Cagney, Clarke's ex-husband had the grapefruit scene timed, and would buy a ticket just before that scene went onscreen, go enjoy the scene, leave, then come back during the next show just in time to see only that scene again.[13] The grapefruit-to-the-face incident from The Public Enemy
The Public Enemy
is parodied years later in the 1961 Cagney movie One, Two, Three
One, Two, Three
when Cagney threatens Otto (Horst Buchholz) with a half grapefruit but then decides against doing so. Prologue and epilogue[edit] The film featured a prologue[5] "apprising the audience that the hoodlums and terrorists of the underworld must be exposed and the glamour ripped from them" and an epilogue "pointing the moral that civilization is on her knees and inquiring loudly as to what is to be done." At the film's premiere in New York City, the film's prologue was preceded by a "brief stage tableau, with sinuous green lighting, which shows a puppet gangster shooting another puppet gangster in the back."[2] Music[edit] The soundtrack included the following songs:[14]

"I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles" "Hesitation Blues" "Toot Toot Tootsie (Goodbye)" "Maple Leaf Rag" "Brighten the Corner Where You Are" "Smiles" "I Surrender Dear"

The music was performed by the Vitaphone
Orchestra, led by conductor David Mendoza.[1] Reception[edit] While exact box figures are not available, The Public Enemy
The Public Enemy
earned nearly seven times its production costs ($151,000),[15] making it the 9th highest-grossing film of 1931. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film received a 100% "Fresh" rating from 26 critics.[16] Andre Sennwald, who reviewed the film for The New York Times upon its April 1931 release, called it "just another gangster film at the Strand, weaker than most in its story, stronger than most in its acting, and, like most, maintaining a certain level of interest through the last burst of machine-gun fire"; Woods and Cagney give "remarkably lifelike portraits of young hoodlums" and " Beryl Mercer
Beryl Mercer
as Tom's mother, Robert Emmett O'Connor
Robert Emmett O'Connor
as a gang chief, and Donald Cook as Tom's brother, do splendidly."[2] Time magazine called The Public Enemy "well-told" and noted "Unlike City Streets, this is not a Hugoesque fable of gangsters fighting among themselves, but a documentary drama of the bandit standing against society. It carries to its ultimate absurdity the fashion for romanticizing gangsters, for even in defeat the public enemy is endowed with grandeur."[17] Variety called it "low-brow material given such workmanship as to make it high-brow" which attempts to "square everything [with] a foreword and postscript moralizing on the gangster as a menace to the public welfare."[5] A theatre in Times Square
Times Square
ran The Public Enemy
The Public Enemy
24 hours a day during its initial release.[13] At the 4th Academy Awards, the film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Story, losing to The Dawn Patrol. Subsequent recognition[edit] In 1989, an animatronics version of a scene from The Public Enemy
The Public Enemy
was incorporated into The Great Movie Ride
The Great Movie Ride
at the Disney-MGM Studios
Disney-MGM Studios
theme park in Orlando, Florida. In 1998, The Public Enemy
The Public Enemy
was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry
National Film Registry
by the Library of Congress
Library of Congress
as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". In 2001, the Sopranos
episode "Proshai, Livushka" references scenes from the film which cause title character Tony Soprano
Tony Soprano
to become overwhelmed by feelings of grief following his mother's death. In 2003 the character of Tom Powers was among the AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes and Villains, placing 42nd in the villain list. In 2008, the film appeared on one of the AFI's 10 Top 10 lists—the best ten films in ten "classic" American film genres. The Public Enemy was listed as the eighth best in the gangster film genre.[18] Re-releases[edit] The film was re-released in 1941 after the Production Code
Production Code
was put into effect. Three scenes from the film were cut because of the Code. One is of a markedly effeminate tailor measuring Tom for a suit, another with Matt and Mamie "rolling around" in bed, and the third showing Tom being seduced when hiding out in a woman's apartment.[19] These three scenes were later restored for all DVD
and Blu-ray releases, and on Turner Classic Movies. The film was also re-released in 1954, with a written prologue added before the opening credits, advising that gangsters such as Tom Powers and Caesar "Rico" Bandello, the title character in Little Caesar (played by Edward G. Robinson), are a menace that the public must confront.[19] See also[edit]

List of crime films of the 1930s


^ a b "Credits: The Public Enemy". BFI Film & TV Database. Retrieved 2011-07-12.  ^ a b c Sennwald, Andre (April 24, 1931). "The Public Enemy". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-07-12.  ^ "Release: The Public Enemy". BFI Film & TV Database. Retrieved 2011-07-12.  ^ a b Dirks, Tim (2006). " The Public Enemy
The Public Enemy
(1931)". The Greatest Films. filmsite.org. Retrieved 2006-12-10.  ^ a b c " The Public Enemy
The Public Enemy
(UK: Enemies of the Public)". Variety. 1931. Retrieved 2011-07-12.  ^ a b Paris (1989), p. 359 ^ "Business Data for The Public Enemy
The Public Enemy
(1931)". IMDb. Retrieved 2006-12-09.  ^ Watson, Teresa. (2008, September). " James Cagney
James Cagney
- Star of the Month", midnightpalace.com; accessed October 9, 2015. ^ "1978 interview with Wellman". Film Comment. Archived from the original on 2008-06-09. Retrieved 2008-06-05.  ^ "The Men Who Made the Movies: William Wellman". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 2008-06-05.  ^ Turner Classic Movies
Turner Classic Movies
(October 17, 2010). The Public Enemy ^ Clarke, Mae. Featured Player: An Oral Autobiography of Mae Clake, Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 1996 ^ a b Cagney, James (2005). Cagney by Cagney. Doubleday. ISBN 0-385-52026-3.  ^ "IMDb: The Public Enemy
The Public Enemy
(1931)". Retrieved 2009-07-29.  ^ What's Cagney's Best Movie Ever? Classic Movie Chat. Retrieved April 15, 2013. ^ "The Public Enemy". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2006-12-10.  ^ "Cinema: The New Pictures". Time. May 4, 1931. Retrieved 2011-07-12.  ^ "AFI's 10 Top 10". American Film Institute. 2008-06-17. Retrieved 2008-06-18.  ^ a b Gallagher, John (February 2005). "The Warner Brothers Gangster Collection". Between Action and Cut. National Board of Review. Archived from the original on 2012-12-06. Retrieved 2011-07-12. 

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External links[edit]

Wikimedia Commons has media related to The Public Enemy.

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on IMDb The Public Enemy
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at the TCM Movie Database The Public Enemy
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at Rotten Tomatoes

v t e

Films directed by William A. Wellman


Second Hand Love The Man Who Won Big Dan Cupid's Fireman Not a Drum Was Heard The Vagabond Trail The Circus Cowboy When Husbands Flirt The Boob You Never Know Women The Cat's Pajamas Wings The Legion of the Condemned Ladies of the Mob Beggars of Life Chinatown Nights The Man I Love Woman Trap


Dangerous Paradise Young Eagles Maybe It's Love Other Men's Women The Public Enemy Night Nurse The Star Witness Safe in Hell The Hatchet Man So Big! Love Is a Racket The Purchase Price The Conquerors Frisco Jenny Central Airport Lilly Turner Heroes for Sale Midnight Mary Wild Boys of the Road Female College Coach Looking for Trouble Stingaree The President Vanishes Call of the Wild Robin Hood of El Dorado Small Town Girl A Star Is Born Nothing Sacred Men with Wings Beau Geste The Light That Failed


Reaching for the Sun Roxie Hart The Great Man's Lady Thunder Birds Lady of Burlesque The Ox-Bow Incident Buffalo Bill This Man's Navy The Story of G.I. Joe Gallant Journey Magic Town The Iron Curtain Yellow Sky Battleground


The Next Voice You Hear... The Happy Years Across the Wide Missouri It's a Big Country Westward the Women My Man and I Island in the Sky The High and the Mighty Track of the Cat Blood Alley Good-bye, My Lady Darby's Rangers Lafayette Escadrille


Light's Diamond Jubilee (co-directed)

v t e

Darryl F. Zanuck


Old San Francisco
Old San Francisco
(1927) The First Auto
The First Auto
(1927) The Jazz Singer
The Jazz Singer
(1927) Tenderloin (1928) The Show of Shows
The Show of Shows
(1929) Three Faces East (1930) The Doorway to Hell
The Doorway to Hell
(1931) Little Caesar (1931) Illicit (1931) The Public Enemy
The Public Enemy
(1931) The Man Who Played God (1932) The Rich Are Always with Us
The Rich Are Always with Us
(1932) Doctor X (1932) Life Begins (1932) The Cabin in the Cotton
The Cabin in the Cotton
(1932) Three on a Match
Three on a Match
(1932) 20,000 Years in Sing Sing
20,000 Years in Sing Sing
(1932) Parachute Jumper
Parachute Jumper
(1933) 42nd Street (1933) The Working Man' (1933) Ex-Lady
(1933) The Bowery (1933) Blood Money (1933) Moulin Rouge (1934) Looking for Trouble
Looking for Trouble
(1934) Born to Be Bad (1934) Bulldog Drummond Strikes Back (1934) The Mighty Barnum (1934) Folies Bergère de Paris (1935) Les Misérables (1935) Cardinal Richelieu (1935) Call of the Wild (1935) Metropolitan (1935) Thanks a Million
Thanks a Million
(1935) The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo (1935) Professional Soldier (1935) The Prisoner of Shark Island
The Prisoner of Shark Island
(1936) It Had to Happen (1936) A Message to Garcia (1936) Under Two Flags (1936) The Road to Glory
The Road to Glory
(1936) Poor Little Rich Girl (1936) Sing, Baby, Sing (1936) Pigskin Parade
Pigskin Parade
(1936) Seventh Heaven (1937) Slave Ship (1937) Wee Willie Winkie (1937) Wake Up and Live (1937) Thin Ice (1937) Lancer Spy
Lancer Spy
(1937) In Old Chicago
(1937) Happy Landing (1938) International Settlement (1938) Kentucky Moonshine Always Goodbye
Always Goodbye
(1938) Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (1938) Just Around the Corner (1938) Little Miss Broadway
Little Miss Broadway
(1938) My Lucky Star (1938) Submarine Patrol
Submarine Patrol
(1938) Jesse James (1939) Tail Spin
Tail Spin
(1939) Wife, Husband and Friend
Wife, Husband and Friend
(1939) The Story of Alexander Graham Bell
The Story of Alexander Graham Bell
(1939) Rose of Washington Square
Rose of Washington Square
(1939) Stanley and Livingstone
Stanley and Livingstone
(1939) The Rains Came
The Rains Came
(1939) Hollywood
Cavalcade (1939) Swanee River (1939) The Little Princess (1939) The Grapes of Wrath (1940) Little Old New York
Little Old New York
(1940) The Man I Married (1940) The Return of Frank James (1940) Brigham Young (1940) Down Argentine Way
Down Argentine Way
(1940) The Mark of Zorro (1940) Hudson's Bay (1941) Tobacco Road (1941) The Great American Broadcast
The Great American Broadcast
(1941) Blood and Sand (1941) A Yank in the R.A.F.
A Yank in the R.A.F.
(1941) How Green Was My Valley (1942) Son of Fury: The Story of Benjamin Blake (1942) Sex Hygiene
Sex Hygiene
(Short) (1942) To the Shores of Tripoli
To the Shores of Tripoli
(1942) This Above All (1942) Thunder Birds (1942) The Purple Heart
The Purple Heart
(1944) Wilson (1944) Winged Victory (1944) The Razor's Edge (1946) Gentleman's Agreement (1947) Fury at Furnace Creek
Fury at Furnace Creek
(1948) The Snake Pit
The Snake Pit
(1948) Pinky (1949) Twelve O'Clock High
Twelve O'Clock High
(1949) No Way Out (1950) All About Eve
All About Eve
(1950) David and Bathsheba (1951) People Will Talk
People Will Talk
(1951) Viva Zapata!
Viva Zapata!
(1952) The Snows of Kilimanjaro (1952) The Egyptian (1954) The View from Pompey's Head
The View from Pompey's Head
(1955) The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit (1956) Island in the Sun (1957) The Sun Also Rises (1957) The Roots of Heaven (1958) Crack in the Mirror
Crack in the Mirror
(1960) Sanctuary (1961) The Big Gamble (1961) The Longest Day (1962) The Chapman Report
The Chapman Report
(1962) The Visit (1964)


as Mark Canfield

The Desired Woman (1927) (story) Maybe It's Love
Maybe It's Love
(1930) Baby Face (1933) (story) Crack in the Mirror
Crack in the Mirror

as Melville Crossman

Tenderloin (story) (1928) State Street Sadie
State Street Sadie
(story) (1928) Thanks a Million
Thanks a Million
(story) (1935) A Yank in the R.A.F.
A Yank in the R.A.F.
(story) (1941) Thunder Birds (original story) (1942) China Girl (story) (1942) The Purple Heart
The Purple Heart
(story) (1944)

as Gregory Rogers

Find Your Man ( Rin Tin Tin
Rin Tin Tin
story) (1924) The Lighthouse by the Sea
The Lighthouse by the Sea
( Rin Tin Tin
Rin Tin Tin
story) (1924) Three Weeks in Paris (story, screenplay as Darryl Zanuck) (1925) The Midnight Taxi
The Midnight Taxi
(story) (1928)

as self

A Broadway Butterfly (1925) Red Hot Tires
Red Hot Tires
(1925) Hogan's Alley (1925) The Caveman
The Caveman
(scenario) (1926) The Little Irish Girl (adaptation) (1926) The Social Highwayman (1926) Footloose Widows
Footloose Widows
(1926) Across the Pacific (adaptation) (1926) The Better 'Ole (screenplay) (1926) Tracked by the Police
Tracked by the Police
( Rin Tin Tin
Rin Tin Tin
story) (1927) Old San Francisco
Old San Francisco
(1927) The First Auto
The First Auto
(story) (1927) Good Time Charley
Good Time Charley
(story) (1927) Noah's Ark (story) (1928) My Man (story) (1928) Hardboiled Rose
Hardboiled Rose
(story) (1929) Madonna of Avenue A
Madonna of Avenue A
(story) (1929) Say It with Songs
Say It with Songs
(story) (1929) The Life of the Party (1930) Little Caesar (story – uncredited) (1931) The Dark Horse (story) (1932) Lady Killer (story – uncredited) (1933) Folies Bergère de Paris (contributing writer – uncredited) (1935) G Men
G Men
(story) (1935) This Is My Affair
This Is My Affair
(story – uncredited) (1937) Alexander's Ragtime Band (contributing writer – uncredited) (1938) The Great Profile (story – uncredited) (1940) Ten Gentlemen from West Point
Ten Gentlemen from West Point


Virginia Fox
Virginia Fox
(wife) Richard D. Zanuck
Richard D. Zanuck
(son) Dean Zanuc