Dillinger (1973)

R | 106-107 mins | Biography | June 1973

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HISTORY

Following the company logo, and prior to the opening credits, a title card reading "Indiana, 1933" appears, followed by a brief color sequence in which John Dillinger (Warren Oates) robs a small-town bank, bragging about his fame and telling the frightened bystanders that they will be able to tell stories about the day for years to come. The black-and-white credits then are shown over photographs of the Depression era, including desolate farms, impoverished families and President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Cloris Leachman's credit, the only opening cast credit with a character name, reads "And Cloris Leachman as The Lady in Red." After John Milius' credit, which reads "Written and directed by," the action begins as "Melvin Purvis" (Ben Johnson), in voice-over, describes what became known as the Kansas City Massacre, during which several of his friends and colleagues "died like dogs in the gutter" at the hands of escaping gangsters. Purvis then tells of his vow to kill all of those responsible.
       Johnson's voice is heard in voice-over narration at several junctures during the film, variously explaining the passage of time and place or giving background on how he apprehended or killed various criminals. There are additional black-and-white montages in the film that illustrate Dillinger's robberies or activities as well as Purvis'. Similar to gangster films of the 1930s, Dillinger includes numerous newspaper headlines within the montages that follow up on the action. One of the montages also includes stock footage from unidentified gangster films from the 1930s and 1940s that show police raids, shootouts and car chases.
       At the end of the action, four title cards incorporate photographs of “Anna ... More Less

Following the company logo, and prior to the opening credits, a title card reading "Indiana, 1933" appears, followed by a brief color sequence in which John Dillinger (Warren Oates) robs a small-town bank, bragging about his fame and telling the frightened bystanders that they will be able to tell stories about the day for years to come. The black-and-white credits then are shown over photographs of the Depression era, including desolate farms, impoverished families and President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Cloris Leachman's credit, the only opening cast credit with a character name, reads "And Cloris Leachman as The Lady in Red." After John Milius' credit, which reads "Written and directed by," the action begins as "Melvin Purvis" (Ben Johnson), in voice-over, describes what became known as the Kansas City Massacre, during which several of his friends and colleagues "died like dogs in the gutter" at the hands of escaping gangsters. Purvis then tells of his vow to kill all of those responsible.
       Johnson's voice is heard in voice-over narration at several junctures during the film, variously explaining the passage of time and place or giving background on how he apprehended or killed various criminals. There are additional black-and-white montages in the film that illustrate Dillinger's robberies or activities as well as Purvis'. Similar to gangster films of the 1930s, Dillinger includes numerous newspaper headlines within the montages that follow up on the action. One of the montages also includes stock footage from unidentified gangster films from the 1930s and 1940s that show police raids, shootouts and car chases.
       At the end of the action, four title cards incorporate photographs of “Anna Sage,” “Billie Frechette,” Melvin Purvis and John Dillinger next to brief, written explanations of what happened to them after Dillinger's death: Sage was deported to Romania in 1935; that same year, Frechette toured the country with Dillinger's father in a show entitled Crime Does Not Pay and died on an Indian reservation in 1969; Purvis left the FBI after Dillinger's death, became a businessman and committed suicide in 1961, using the same gun he used to kill Dillinger. The final card, of Dillinger, reads "John Dillinger now adorns combat silhouette targets used by the F.B.I." Dillinger's photograph is shown as a shooting range target.
       Some of the details within the storyline, as well as the information on the brief sketches in the end credits, are at variance with established historical facts. For example, although Dillinger was identified by Anna, "The Lady in Red," outside the Biograph Theatre in Chicago, Frechette was not with them and, according to historical sources, was in prison at the time. Within the film it is implied that Frechette and “Polly” were the same person. According to historical accounts, Dillinger’s girl friend at the time was a woman named Polly Hamilton. The shootout and aftermath at the Little Bohemia Lodge did not result in the deaths of "Harry Pierpont," "Charles Arthur ‘Pretty Boy’ Floyd" or "George ‘Baby Face’ Nelson," as shown in the film. Floyd and Nelson died in separate incidents in 1934, and Pierpont was executed in Oct 1934 after being captured in Tucson, AZ.
       Purvis actually died in 1960. The gun was not used to kill Dillinger, and some biographical sources have reported that his death may have been accidental rather than a suicide.
       Some of the characters within the film were fictional, as were many of the dramatized incidents. The coining of the term "G-Men," for example, has been attributed to various sources, although it has been popularly reported to have started just as described in the film. According to Filmfacts , actress Susan Tyrrell was initially announced for the role of Anna. Modern sources add David Dorr to the cast. As noted in contemporary news items, the picture was shot on location in Oklahoma, in and around Oklahoma City, Ardmore and Enid. According to a 3 May 1973 HR article, because there was a "heavy demand" by exhibitors to show more gangster pictures, American International Pictures was planning to release three more gangster biographies in 1973: Baby Face Nelson , Pretty Boy Floyd and Machine Gun Kelly . None of these projects were produced, although a 1974 television movie entitled Baby Face Nelson starring Martin Sheen was produced by Universal Pictures.
       Dillinger marked the directorial debut of John Milius, who previously had written several successful screenplays, among them the 1972 release Jeremiah Johnson (see below). Dillinger received mixed reviews, with many critics comparing it, some favorably and others unfavorably, to Arthur Penn's Bonnie and Clyde (see above) or Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch (see below). Dillinger also marked the motion picture acting debut of Michelle Phillips of the popular 1960s singing group The Mamas and the Papas. Producer Buzz Feitshans was the son of film editor Fred R. Feitshans, Jr. Milius' screenplay, according to a 25 Jul 1973 Var news item, was being turned into a book that would be marketed as a tie-in to the film, but its publication is undetermined. The film's pressbook was made to emulate a collection of articles about Dillinger, as written in the fictitious Chicago News Gazette , with photographs of the stars and commercial advertisements from the 1930s.
       Dillinger was also the title of another film about the gangster, released by Monogram in 1945, directed by Max Nosseck and starring Lawrence Tierney (see above). According to HR production charts in Oct 1970, a film entitled John Dillinger , directed by John Carr and starring Russ Tamblyn and Aldo Ray was then in production, but that film was never released and possibly never completed. A 2009 Universal Pictures release, Public Enemies , directed by Michael Mann, starred Johnny Depp as Dillinger and Marion Cotillard as Billie. That film was based on the 2004 non-fiction book Public Enemies by Bryan Burroughs. For additional information on the life of John Dillinger and other films about Dillinger, please consult the entry above for the 1945 film. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
25 Jun 1973
p. 4601.
Daily Variety
2 Nov 1972.
---
Filmfacts
1973
pp. 54-56.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Oct 1970
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Sep 1972.
---
Hollywood Reporter
4 Oct 1972.
---
Hollywood Reporter
13 Oct 1972
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Nov 1972
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
3 May 1973.
---
Hollywood Reporter
13 Jun 1973
p. 3, 14.
Los Angeles Herald Examiner
19 Jul 1973
Section B, p. 3.
Los Angeles Times
18 Jul 1973
Section IV, p. 12.
New York
6 Aug 1973
p. 58.
New York Times
2 Aug 1973
p. 31.
New York Times
2 Sep 1973
Section II, p. 7.
New Yorker
13 Aug 1973
pp. 64-68.
Newsweek
27 Aug 1973.
---
Playboy
Sep 1973.
---
Rolling Stone
30 Aug 1973
p. 96.
Time
10 Sep 1973.
---
Variety
13 Jun 1973
p. 16, 22.
Variety
25 Jul 1973.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
Exec prod
Assoc prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Cam op
1st asst cam
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
Best boy
Best boy
Key grip
Cam mounts by
Still man
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Post prod supv
Asst ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Prop master
Asst prop man
Const coord
COSTUMES
Ward supv
Ward woman
MUSIC
SOUND
Sd eff
Sd mixer
Boom man
VISUAL EFFECTS
Title and mont des
Opticals by
Spec eff
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
Casting
Loc assoc
Loc asst
Transportation gaffer
Pub man
Prod asst
Prod secy
Loc auditor
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Cinemobile driver
STAND INS
Stunt coord
SOURCES
MUSIC
"Always" by Irving Berlin
"Happy Days Are Here Again" by Milton Ager
"Red River Valley," traditional.
SONGS
"Honey," music and lyrics by Seymour Simons, Haven Gillespie and Richard A. Whiting.
DETAILS
Release Date:
June 1973
Premiere Information:
World premiere in Dallas, TX: 19 June 1973
Production Date:
8 October--late November 1972 in Oklahoma
Copyright Claimant:
F. P. Productions
Copyright Date:
20 June 1973
Copyright Number:
LP44045
Physical Properties:
Sound
Ryder Sound Services, Inc.
Color
with b&w seq; Movielab
Duration(in mins):
106-107
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 1933 Indiana, bank robber and murderer John Dillinger eludes capture during his multi-state crime spree, in part because bank robbery is not yet a federal crime. FBI agent Melvin Purvis is determined to kill or capture Dillinger and his cohorts to avenge the deaths of some close friends and colleagues who were killed during a Kansas City escape from custody. Purvis vows to smoke a Monte Cristo cigar each time he kills or captures one of the men responsible. Meanwhile, Dillinger and his gang, which consists of the colorful Homer Van Meter and the steady Harry Pierpont, among others, plan their next robberies, but are stymied by the many bank closures caused by the Depression. One night, Dillinger meets half Indian-half French prostitute Billie Frechette at a bar and forces her to come back to his hotel. As they begin a passionate, but often volatile affair, Harry, who has a stable relationship with his own girl friend, Mary, tells Homer that Dillinger is foolish with women and that one day they will bring his downfall. Some time later, newspaper reporters hail Purvis as a hero for single-handedly killing an infamous gangster at his farmhouse hideout. Before Dillinger participates in his next robbery, Billie, her face covered with bruises, wants to go home to her mother and refuses to go with Mary to Tucson, where the women are to reunite with the gang. As Dillinger, Harry and the others leave the bank, a shootout with local police ensues in which two of the gang members are killed. Dillinger then drives to the trailer where Billie's mother lives, and drags Billie away with ... +


In 1933 Indiana, bank robber and murderer John Dillinger eludes capture during his multi-state crime spree, in part because bank robbery is not yet a federal crime. FBI agent Melvin Purvis is determined to kill or capture Dillinger and his cohorts to avenge the deaths of some close friends and colleagues who were killed during a Kansas City escape from custody. Purvis vows to smoke a Monte Cristo cigar each time he kills or captures one of the men responsible. Meanwhile, Dillinger and his gang, which consists of the colorful Homer Van Meter and the steady Harry Pierpont, among others, plan their next robberies, but are stymied by the many bank closures caused by the Depression. One night, Dillinger meets half Indian-half French prostitute Billie Frechette at a bar and forces her to come back to his hotel. As they begin a passionate, but often volatile affair, Harry, who has a stable relationship with his own girl friend, Mary, tells Homer that Dillinger is foolish with women and that one day they will bring his downfall. Some time later, newspaper reporters hail Purvis as a hero for single-handedly killing an infamous gangster at his farmhouse hideout. Before Dillinger participates in his next robbery, Billie, her face covered with bruises, wants to go home to her mother and refuses to go with Mary to Tucson, where the women are to reunite with the gang. As Dillinger, Harry and the others leave the bank, a shootout with local police ensues in which two of the gang members are killed. Dillinger then drives to the trailer where Billie's mother lives, and drags Billie away with him, then later buries his mortally wounded cohort, Charles Mackley, in a grave marked only with a twig and a twenty dollar bill. Later, at a Memphis, Tennessee boarding house, Purvis breaks in on Machine Gun Kelly but arrests rather than kills Kelly, who gets on his knees and pleads, "Don't shoot, G-Men." Purvis likes the term G-Men and decides that his boss, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, will as well. A short time later, in Tucson, Dillinger, Harry, Homer and their girl friends enjoy an outdoor fair and square dance. Unknown to them, the local sheriff, Big Jim Wollard, has become suspicious because the men gave a bellboy a one hundred dollar tip to carry their bags. When Wollard’s deputy takes a closer look at Dillinger, he is able to identify him from a photograph in a crime magazine Wollard has. Wollard then rushes over to arrest Dillinger, saying that he has killed thirty-five men and would not mind making him number thirty-six. After Dillinger's capture is reported throughout the country, he brags that no jail can hold him, and consequently is incarcerated at Crown Point, Indiana, where the county jail purportedly is escape-proof. Joking with reporters, the sheriff and the district attorney, Dillinger basks in his fame. Soon Dillinger is able to overtake two guards with a phony gun he has fashioned from soap and shoe polish. With condemned murderer Reed Youngblood, Dillinger breaks out of jail, taking the warden and a police car mechanic as hostages. As the police and national guardsmen, who were posted outside the jail, follow, Dillinger affably tells the mechanic, who is driving the stolen getaway car, to park in an alley so that he can rob a nearby bank. Outside Chicago, Dillinger frees the warden and the mechanic after giving each three hundred dollars of the robbery money. He gives Youngblood more, but tells him that he has to go on alone because Youngblood is an amateur. As he drives off, though, Youngblood throws his money to the eager warden and mechanic, then runs after Dillinger to join his gang. After reuniting with Billie, Dillinger places a call to Purvis, asking if it is true that there is now a federal charge against him because he stole a car and drove across state lines. Purvis confirms that it is true and tells Dillinger to feel free to call anytime, and reverse the charges if he is broke. After spending time with his father and sister on the family's farm, Dillinger and Billie travel to the Little Bohemia Lodge in Wisconsin, where they are met by Harry, Mary, Homer and Reed as well as the cocky George "Baby Face" Nelson, who bristles at Dillinger's authority, and the affable Charles Arthur "Pretty Boy" Floyd. In 1934, as the gang is robbing a bank in South Bend, Indiana, Floyd and the others thank the bank patrons for cooperating, while Nelson needlessly kills some innocent bystanders across the street. Some time later, as Dillinger and Billie are rowing a boat on a lake, he asks her to name something that she would like to have and she says that the thing she wants most is to dance with him again. To comply with her romantic wish, Dillinger takes her to an expensive restaurant in Chicago. Although sporting a moustache and wearing a tuxedo, Dillinger is recognized by Purvis, who is there celebrating with his fiancée and some friends. After briefly considering the situation, Purvis orders a magnum of champagne for Dillinger and sends along a note to let him know that, in deference to his fiancée, he will do nothing now, but the next time they meet will be their last. Stunned, Dillinger and Billie immediately leave. Weeks later, in Mason City, Iowa, the Dillinger gang commits another robbery, but upon leaving the bank are met by the local sheriff and his men, who kill Reed and other gang members. Back in Little Bohemia, after a man notices bullet holes in Dillinger’s car, Purvis and his men are summoned. Before dawn, more than a dozen federal agents quietly surround the hotel. When two rifle-carrying men appear on the porch, a gun battle ensues. Dillinger, Floyd, Nelson, Homer and Harry barely escape, and several others are killed, but Billie and Mary survive. Over the next few hours, Harry, Homer, Nelson and Floyd are killed, but Dillinger is able to escape. In Chicago, on 22 July 1934, a foreign-born madam named Anna Sage tells Purvis that a man who has been staying in her boarding house and is the boyfriend of an Indian prostitute named Polly is Dillinger. Although Anna admires his manners and kindness, she arranges with Purvis, who has concluded that "Polly" and Billie are the same, to identify Dillinger when he takes the women to the movies. That night, outside the Biograph Theatre, where Manhattan Melodrama is playing, Anna, who is wearing a red dress, drops back when she sees Purvis' men. Purvis then grabs Billie and pushes her away as his men repeatedly shoot Dillinger. After Dillinger dies, Purvis walks away as Billie hysterically cries and pedestrians gather souvenirs from the death scene. +

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

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