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The Public Enemy Details


[[Performer~P116375~William Wellman~williamwellman]]'s landmark gangster movie traces the rise and fall of prohibition-era mobster Tom Powers. We are first shown various episodes of Tom's childhood with the corrupting influences of the beer hall, pool parlor, and false friends like minor-league fence Putty Nose. As young adults, Tom ([[Performer~P10165~James Cagney~jamescagney]]) and his pal, Matt Doyle ([[Performer~P77419~Edward Woods~edwardwoods]]), are hired by ruthless but innately decent bootlegger Paddy Ryan ([[Performer~P53376~Robert Emmett O'Connor~roberteoconnor]]). The boys quickly rise to the top of the heap, with all the accoutrements of success: custom-tailored tuxedoes, fancy cars, and gorgeous girls. All the while, Tom's loving (and somewhat addlepated) mother ([[Performer~P48482~Beryl Mercer~berylmercer]]) is kept in the dark, believing Tommy to be a good boy, a façade easily seen through by his older brother Mike ([[Performer~P14690~Donald Cook~donaldcook]]). Tommy's degeneration from brash kid to vicious lowlife is brought home in a famous scene in which he smashes a grapefruit in the face of his latest mistress ([[Performer~P13483~Mae Clarke~maeclarke]]). Some dated elements aside, The Public Enemy is as powerful as when it was first released, and it is far superior to the like-vintage [[Feature~V29504~Little Caesar~littlecaesar]]. [[Performer~P10165~James Cagney~jamescagney]] is so dynamic in his first starring role that he practically bursts off the screen; he makes the audience pull for a character with no redeeming qualities. The film is blessed with a superior supporting cast: [[Performer~P6812~Joan Blondell~joanblondell]] is somewhat wasted as Matt's girl, Mamie; [[Performer~P30456~Jean Harlow~jeanharlow]] is better served as Tom's main squeeze, Gwen (though some of her line readings are a bit awkward); and [[Performer~P38413~Murray Kinnell~murraykinnell]] is slime personified as the deceitful Putty Nose, who "gets his" in unforgettable fashion. Despite a tacked-on opening disclaimer, most of the characters in The Public Enemy are based on actual people, a fact not lost on audiences of the period. Current prints are struck from the 1949 reissue, which was shortened from 92 to 83 minutes (among the deletions was the character of real-life hoodlum Bugs Moran). ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi


Awarded by
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Kubec Glasmon Best Original Screenplay 1930 Nominee
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences John Bright Best Original Screenplay 1930 Nominee


James Cagney
as Tom Powers
Donald Cook
as Mike Powers
Joan Blondell
as Mamie
Jean Harlow
as Gwen Allen
Beryl Mercer
as Ma Powers
Robert E. O'Connor
as Paddy Ryan
Leslie Fenton
as Nails Nathan
Murray Kinnell
as Putty Nose
Ben Hendricks, Jr.
as Bugs Moran
Adele Watson
as Mrs. Doyle
Robert E. Homans
as Officer Pat Burke
Frankie Darro
as Matt as a Boy
Landers Stevens
as Doctor
Frank Coghlan, Jr.
as Tom As A Boy
George Daly
as Machine Gunner
Lee Phelps
as Steve, the Bartender
Douglas Gerrard
as Assistant tailor
Snitz Edwards
as Hack Miller
William Strauss
as Pawnbroker
Sam McDaniel
as Black Headwaiter
Eddie Kane
as Joe, the Headwaiter
Russell Powell
as Bartender
Mae Clarke
as Kitty
Purnell Pratt
as Officer Powers
Helen Parrish
as Little Girl
Charles Sullivan
as Mug


William Wellman
Darryl F. Zanuck
Harvey Thew
John Bright
Screen Story
Kubec Glasmon
Screen Story
Harvey Thew
Adaptation by
John Bright
Kubec Glasmon
Gordon Clifford
Harry Barris
Ed McCormick
Max Parker
Art Director
Edward Stevenson
Costume Designer
Perc Westmore
John Bright
Short Story Author