Saturday, July 7, 2012

Weekend Cinema Spotlight: The Public Enemy

The Public Enemy
"Public Enemy" (1931)

Ever wanted to know where the American gangster was born on film? Ever wanted to see what a tough guy really is like? Or wanted to know how a film's ending could be both shocking and riveting at the same time?

Well, James Cagney's first big role as Tom Powers is a role that defines the American gangster. Cagney plays Powers as a tough, no nonsense guy who doesn't forget where he comes from or the people he loves. Powers and his childhood friend, Matt Doyle (Edward Woods) slowly work their way up from petty crimes to becoming a leader of a gang.

One of the most infamous scenes in the film is when Powers has supposedly had enough of his girlfriend Kitty and takes a grapefruit and rubs it into her face. That may not seem so bad by today's standards but for 1931 that was pretty shocking. What was even more shocking is the story the actress Mae Clarke (who played Kitty) told about that scene. According to Clarke, she never knew Cagney was going to push the grapefruit into her face! That scene was spontaneous and Clarke's reaction was truly genuine!

After Powers leaves Kitty for good, he shacks up with a Gwen Allen played but the sultry Jean Harlow. Harlow would steals the scenes and leave you gasping for more.

Powers meeting Allen for the first time.

I wish I could say that this film has a happy ending but it has one that attempts a moral to the story. Eventually greed catches up to Powers and he....well....gets what is coming to him. It is an ending that you cannot miss! I remember the first time I saw it my mouth literally dropped! It totally caught me off guard! Remember when you watch this film that its 1931 not 2012--I think you will find many surprises in this little film and it will leave you talking about it long after you have finished watching it!



  1. You've thoroughly piqued my curiosity about this classic early 30s film, especially since you said the ending has such a surprising twist. Added to the vintage must-watch list for sure!

    ♥ Jessica

    1. OMG Jessica! Seriously you won't be dissapointed! xox

  2. I've seen this movie twice on the big screen (first for my film class, and again when I snuck into my boyfriend's same film class two years later, haha...oh college). And you're absolutely right, this movie NEVER gets old. I noticed things the second time that I hadn't even paid attention to the first time. And it really has that exciting, old-school glamour.

    I had no idea about the grapefruit scene. That's pretty funny!


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