The Public Enemy

the public enemy
dir. william wellman

I got around to watching this one a couple days ago! The granddaddy of all gangster films, The Public Enemy is a prime introduction to the genre. We follow Tom Powers (the beautiful and insanely talented James Cagney) from hoodlum kid to full-on gangster over a twenty-some-odd-year period, getting caught up in crime (here, the distribution of alcohol in Prohibition-era Chicago), murder (cheesy still but poignantly gruesome for the time), and women (Jean Harlow plays his main squeeze, and Mae Clark an earlier one, whose face he squeezes a grapefruit against in an iconic scene).


The film has gone on to influence basically every film or television series about gangster-dom (it was undoubtedly in David Chase’s mind during his conception of The Sopranos), and features a fantastic performance from its leading man. It’s also got fully synchronized sound and dialogue! Good one!


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