The Public Enemy 1931

director: William A. Wellman  



United States

Alternative Titles

  • Enemies of the Public
  • Nemico pubblico
  • Public Enemy



Warner Bros. were responsible for many of the classic gangster movies of the Thirties and The Public Enemy is one of the all-time greats. It made James Cagney, in only his sixth picture, into a major star and, noted Esquire thirty years after the film was first released, 'His performance is as great as anything I've seen in movies'. Cagney plays Tom Powers, the son of a Chicago policeman, growing up in the city's slums where, as a boy, he naturally turns to petty crime as a way of life: as an adult, he becomes a successful big-time liquor racketeer before finally receiving his bloody comeuppance at the hands of rival gangsters in a climactic scene that has lost nothing of its extraordinary impact with the passage of time. Inevitably, Cagney dominates the picture but there is first-rate support from Donald Woods as his boyhood friend who joins him in his criminal activities and Jean Harlow as one of his mistresses. It is Mae Clarke, however, who achieved minor stardom in The Public Enemy when, in one of the most famous scenes in cinema history, Cagney grinds half a grapefruit into her face in a startling sequence which still retains all its power to shock. The original story by former Chicago newspapermen John Bright and Kubec Glasmon was nominated for an Academy Award and William A Wellman's tough direction drives the film along at a consistently exciting pace so that it remains as compelling today as when it was first shown over half a century ago.

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Distributor Warner
Catalogue Number WEV 99311
Release Series Hollywood Gold
Release Date January 1984
Printed Classification
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