The Public Enemy (1931)

74 or 83 mins | Drama | 15 May 1931

Full page view
HISTORY

Some ads and news items lists the film's title as Public Enemy. John Bright and Kubec Glasmon received an Academy Award nomination for their original story "Beer and Blood." According to MPH, the title Public Enemy came from a Chicago newspaper headline which caught Warner Bros. president Jack L. Warner's eye. This film made James Cagney a star and established the popular gangster personality that Warner Bros. continued to exploit throughout the thirties. Modern sources note that just before shooting began, Warner Bros. executive Darryl Zanuck replaced director Archie Mayo with William Wellman. It has been often reported that Wellman took the lead away from Edward Woods who had been assigned to the part and gave it to Cagney who had originally been the sidekick, however this is not correct. According to modern sources, Wellman first offered the part of "Gwen Allen" to Louise Brooks. Modern sources mention that the scene in which Tom and Matt shoot the horse that kills Nails Nathan is based on the death of gangster Samuel Nails Morton. In Wellman's autobiography, he said that the grapefruit scene was inspired by an argument with his wife in which he was tempted to do what Powers does in the film. Other modern sources note that Darryl Zanuck claims to have created the famous scene, and a third story is that the incident was loosely based on a similar event involving gangster Earl "Hymie" Weiss and an omelet. Modern film historians point to the fact that this is the most enduring of the thirties gangster films. It was one of the first films acquired for the ...

More Less

Some ads and news items lists the film's title as Public Enemy. John Bright and Kubec Glasmon received an Academy Award nomination for their original story "Beer and Blood." According to MPH, the title Public Enemy came from a Chicago newspaper headline which caught Warner Bros. president Jack L. Warner's eye. This film made James Cagney a star and established the popular gangster personality that Warner Bros. continued to exploit throughout the thirties. Modern sources note that just before shooting began, Warner Bros. executive Darryl Zanuck replaced director Archie Mayo with William Wellman. It has been often reported that Wellman took the lead away from Edward Woods who had been assigned to the part and gave it to Cagney who had originally been the sidekick, however this is not correct. According to modern sources, Wellman first offered the part of "Gwen Allen" to Louise Brooks. Modern sources mention that the scene in which Tom and Matt shoot the horse that kills Nails Nathan is based on the death of gangster Samuel Nails Morton. In Wellman's autobiography, he said that the grapefruit scene was inspired by an argument with his wife in which he was tempted to do what Powers does in the film. Other modern sources note that Darryl Zanuck claims to have created the famous scene, and a third story is that the incident was loosely based on a similar event involving gangster Earl "Hymie" Weiss and an omelet. Modern film historians point to the fact that this is the most enduring of the thirties gangster films. It was one of the first films acquired for the Museum of Modern Art's collection. Modern sources add the following to the cast: Clark Burroughs (Dutch); Snitz Edwards (Hack Miller); Adele Watson (Mrs. Doyle); Frank Coghlan, Jr. (Tom, as a boy); Mia Marvin (Jane); Dorothy Gee (Nail's girl); Lee Phelps (Steve the bartender); Landers Stevens (Doctor); Douglas Gerrard (Assistant tailor); William H. Strauss (Pawnbroker); Russ Powell (Bartender).

Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Film Daily
26 Apr 1931
p. 10
Hollywood Reporter
20 Dec 1930
p. 4
Motion Picture Herald
17 Jan 1931
p. 50
Motion Picture Herald
24 Jan 1931
p. 48
New York Times
24 Apr 1931
p. 27
Variety
29 Apr 1931
p. 12
DETAILS
Release Date:
15 May 1931
Production Date:

Copyright Info
Claimant
Date
Copyright Number
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
4 April 1931
LP2194
Physical Properties:
Sound
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
74 or 83
Country:
United States
Language:
English
SYNOPSIS

Tom Powers and Matt Doyle, two tough young kids growing up poor in Chicago, work for Putty Nose, a fence. He sets up a robbery deal for them, promising to get them out of trouble if anything goes wrong, but when they bungle the job he abandons them. During Prohibition, they find a new ally, Paddy Ryan, who sets them up in the illegal brewery business. When Mike, Tom's older brother returns from World War I, he berates Tom for his dealings with gangsters and Tom angrily leaves home. The gang's big boss, Nails Nathan, uses Tom and Matt to pressure the local speakeasies, which are caught between rival gangs, into using only the beer that they sell. Tom grows into a ruthless gangster. One day he takes out his frustrations on his girl Kitty, shoving a grapefruit in her face and dumping her in favor of glamorous Texan Gwen Allen. Later, celebrating in an expensive night club, Tom spots their old pal Putty Nose. Tom and Matt follow him to his apartment, where Tom kills him. When Nails dies after a fall from a horse, his death precipitates a gang war. Paddy sends the gang into hiding, but Tom refuses to stay. He and Matt are ambushed by the rival gang as they leave, and Matt is killed in the shootout. Tom vows revenge and single-handedly takes on his rivals. He kills several, but he is wounded himself and collapses outside in the pouring rain. He survives, but the gang kidnaps him from the hospital and delivers his bandage-wrapped dead body to the door of his ...

More Less

Tom Powers and Matt Doyle, two tough young kids growing up poor in Chicago, work for Putty Nose, a fence. He sets up a robbery deal for them, promising to get them out of trouble if anything goes wrong, but when they bungle the job he abandons them. During Prohibition, they find a new ally, Paddy Ryan, who sets them up in the illegal brewery business. When Mike, Tom's older brother returns from World War I, he berates Tom for his dealings with gangsters and Tom angrily leaves home. The gang's big boss, Nails Nathan, uses Tom and Matt to pressure the local speakeasies, which are caught between rival gangs, into using only the beer that they sell. Tom grows into a ruthless gangster. One day he takes out his frustrations on his girl Kitty, shoving a grapefruit in her face and dumping her in favor of glamorous Texan Gwen Allen. Later, celebrating in an expensive night club, Tom spots their old pal Putty Nose. Tom and Matt follow him to his apartment, where Tom kills him. When Nails dies after a fall from a horse, his death precipitates a gang war. Paddy sends the gang into hiding, but Tom refuses to stay. He and Matt are ambushed by the rival gang as they leave, and Matt is killed in the shootout. Tom vows revenge and single-handedly takes on his rivals. He kills several, but he is wounded himself and collapses outside in the pouring rain. He survives, but the gang kidnaps him from the hospital and delivers his bandage-wrapped dead body to the door of his mother's house.

Less

GENRE
Genre:
Sub-genre:
Gangster


Subject

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

TOP SEARCHES

Night Moves

The summary and note for this entry were completed with participation from the AFI Academic Network. Summary and note were written by participant Matt Stepanski, a student at ... >>

Stagecoach

The American folk songs adapted for the score included the traditional ballads "Lily Dale," "Rosa Lee," "Joe Bowers," "Joe the Wrangler," "She's More to Be Pitied Than Censured," "She ... >>

The Hurricane

Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall's novel was serialized in The Saturday Evening Post (28 Dec 1935--1 Feb 1936). A 5 Dec 1935 HR ... >>

The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.