Cast & Crew
William A. Wellman
Tom Powers and Matt Doyle, two tough young kids growing up poor in Chicago, work for Putty Nose, a fence. He sets up a robbery deal for them, promising to get them out of trouble if anything goes wrong, but when they bungle the job he abandons them. During Prohibition, they find a new ally, Paddy Ryan, who sets them up in the illegal brewery business. When Mike, Tom's older brother returns from World War I, he berates Tom for his dealings with gangsters and Tom angrily leaves home. The gang's big boss, Nails Nathan, uses Tom and Matt to pressure the local speakeasies, which are caught between rival gangs, into using only the beer that they sell. Tom grows into a ruthless gangster. One day he takes out his frustrations on his girl Kitty, shoving a grapefruit in her face and dumping her in favor of glamorous Texan Gwen Allen. Later, celebrating in an expensive night club, Tom spots their old pal Putty Nose. Tom and Matt follow him to his apartment, where Tom kills him. When Nails dies after a fall from a horse, his death precipitates a gang war. Paddy sends the gang into hiding, but Tom refuses to stay. He and Matt are ambushed by the rival gang as they leave, and Matt is killed in the shootout. Tom vows revenge and single-handedly takes on his rivals. He kills several, but he is wounded himself and collapses outside in the pouring rain. He survives, but the gang kidnaps him from the hospital and delivers his bandage-wrapped dead body to the door of his mother's house.
William A. Wellman
Robert E. Homans
Ben Hendricks Jr.
Best Writing, Screenplay
The Public Enemy
The Public Enemy (1931) follows the lives of two kids from the tenements of Chicago's South Side, Powers and Doyle, who find a way out of desperate circumstances through a life of crime, ending with their violent deaths - not at the hands of police (who are rarely seen) but by rival criminals. Along with Warner Brothers' earlier hit Little Caesar (1930), this movie set the tone for the popular gangster dramas of the Depression period, gritty and brutally realistic, and Cagney's performance established him as the essence of the ruthless, hair-trigger hoodlum. That image was indelibly stamped on him in a scene that is remembered and imitated even today - the shocking grapefruit-in-the-face moment that stunned audiences and had womens' groups protesting the treatment of the hard-luck moll played by Mae Clarke.
Bright and Glasmon based the scene on a real-life incident. The two learned that Chicago gangster Earl "Hymie" Weiss had once slammed an omelet into the face of his jabbering girlfriend. Wellman liked the idea but thought the omelet would be too messy, so he came up with the notion of using half a grapefruit. What happened next depends on who tells the story. Clarke said Cagney was only supposed to yell at her in the scene and that the actor surprised her with his impulsive use of the breakfast food. Cagney claimed the grapefruit had been decided on beforehand but that it was supposed to brush past her at an angle that would only appear to be a bona fide attack. Whatever the truth, when the time came to get the shot, Cagney smashed the grapefruit directly (and painfully, the actress said) into her face, and Clarke's very real look of horror and surprise was recorded for posterity.
While it certainly stamped him with an unforgettable image, Cagney later came to regret the action. For years after, whenever the actor dined out somewhere, fans would have waiters bring him half a grapefruit with his meal. Clarke became equally weary of references to the scene, although she must have gotten a bit of satisfaction from a similar shot that caught Cagney on the receiving end of some violence. Donald Cook, who played Tom Powers's war-shattered brother in the film, was supposed to explode in fury with a hard sock to Cagney's jaw. In his autobiography, Cagney said he was sure Wellman had urged Cook to let his co-star really have it. Instead of faking it for the camera, Cook hauled off and belted Cagney right in the face, sending him flying across the set and breaking a tooth. Fortunately no such mishaps took place during the film's most dangerous scenes: the use of real bullets in some of the shooting sequences.
The grapefruit incident wasn't the only memorable scene concocted by Bright and Glasmon, who adapted the screen story from their novel, Beer and Blood. The two provided Cagney with a concise and powerful moment of self-realization. In a heavy downpour, Cagney is riddled with bullets and falls into the gutter. As his blood mingles with the flowing rainwater, he mutters, "I ain't so tough," a line that has become almost as familiar as Edward G. Robinson, "Is this the end of Rico?" Elements like these earned Bright and Glasmon an Academy Award® nomination for their work.
As successful as the picture was for its leading actor, writers and director, it was nearly a disaster for another rising young star, Jean Harlow. Under contract to Howard Hughes, Harlow was actually a good-natured, middle-class girl most often cast as vulgar blond floozies. In The Public Enemy, she played a slumming society dame who briefly becomes Tom Power's mistress. The picture was hailed as a sensation, with praise going to the entire cast - except Harlow. Critics slammed her for ruining the scenes she appeared in, having a voice desperately in need of training, and delivering the only uninteresting acting in the film. Although she later became a major star at MGM, hailed for her earthy comic performances, the mishandling of her talents by agents and directors in early roles like this one could have buried her career completely if not for the public interest in what was considered her greatest asset in this Pre-Code era - freewheeling sexuality and an enticing body clad in revealing, usually bra-less, costumes. Her fascinating "traits" even caught the attention of her very-married leading man. On the set one day, Cagney stared at her cleavage and asked, likely in perfect innocence and good humor, "How do you keep those things up?" "I ice them," Harlow said, before trotting off to her dressing room to do just that.
Director: William Wellman
Producer: Darryl F. Zanuck
Screenplay: John Bright and Kubec Glasmon (with Harvey Thew)
Cinematography: Dev Jennings
Art Direction: Max Parker
Music: David Mendoza
Cast: James Cagney (Tom Powers), Edward Woods (Matt Doyle), Jean Harlow (Gwen Allen), Mae Clarke (Kitty), Joan Blondell (Mamie), Donald Cook (Mike Powers).
BW-84m. Closed captioning. Descriptive Video.
by Rob Nixon
The Public Enemy
The Warner Bros. Pictures Gangsters Collection on DVD
All six titles have been fully restored and digitally remastered, and are loaded with special features including historian commentaries and new making-of featurettes. Each disc also contains an exclusive "Warner Night at the Movies" segment. Hosted by Leonard Maltin, each bonus feature recreates moviegoer attractions such as newsreels, comedy shorts, cartoons and trailers from the years each film was released. In addition, The Public Enemy DVD contains several minutes of recovered footage not seen in more than 70 years.
Major Hollywood studios in the '30s and '40s were each known for their distinctive styles (MGM for its musicals; Universal for its horror films, etc.). Warner Bros. was best known for firmly establishing the genre of gangster films, which were also noted for their socially conscious themes as well as their simple visual look (low key lighting and sparse sets). Nowhere were these elements more prominent than in the films of the Warner Bros. Pictures Gangsters Collection.
"We are thrilled to be finally releasing these highly-demanded films in an exciting new DVD collection," said George Feltenstein, WHV's Senior Vice President Classic Catalog. "These are the films that defined our studio in its early years, and which in turn defined the gangster genre. One only has to recall Jimmy Cagney squashing his grapefruit into Mae Clarke's face (The Public Enemy); Cagney yelling "Made it, Ma! Top o' the world!" (White Heat); or Robinson barking, "This is Rico speaking. Rico! R-I-C-O! Rico! Little Caesar, that's who!" to know that these signature Warner Bros. titles represent the genre's best of the best. These films are truly timeless in their appeal, and we insisted on waiting until full restorations were completed before we would bring them to the discerning DVD marketplace. I trust that all the fans will agree it will have been well worth the wait."
Details of The Gangsters Collection Films
The Public Enemy (1931)
The Public Enemy showcases James Cagney's powerful 1931 breakthrough performance as streetwise tough guy Tom Powers, but only because production chief Darryl F. Zanuck made a late casting change. When shooting began, Cagney had a secondary role but Zanuck soon spotted Cagney's screen dominance and gave him the star part. From that moment, an indelible genre classic and an enduring star career were both born. Bristling with '20s style, dialogue and desperation under the masterful directorial eye of William A. Wellman, this is a virtual time capsule of the Prohibition era: taut, gritty and hard-hitting. Contains several restored scenes (deleted from subsequent reissue versions due to enforcement of the Production code) from the original release version of the film, unseen since 1931.
Public Enemy DVD special features include:
- Leonard Maltin Hosts Warner Night at the Movies 1931 with Newsreel, Comedy Short "The Eyes Have It," Cartoon "Smile, Darn Ya, Smile" and 1931 Trailer Gallery
- New Featurette "Beer and Blood: Enemies of the Public"
- Commentary by Film Historian Robert Sklar
- 1954 Re-release Foreword
White Heat (1949)
Playing a psychotic thug, Cody Jarrett, devoted to his hard-boiled "ma," James Cagney gives a performance to match his electrifying work in The Public Enemy. Bracingly directed by Raoul Walsh, this fast-paced thriller tracing Jarrett's violent life in and out of jail is among the most vivid screen performances of Cagney's career, and the excitement it generates will put you on top of the world!
White Heat DVD special features include:
- Leonard Maltin Hosts Warner Night at the Movies 1949 with Newsreel, Comedy Short "So You Think You¿re Not Guilty," Cartoon "Homeless Hare" and 1949 Trailer Gallery
- New Featurette "White Heat: Top of the World"
- Commentary by Film Historian Drew Casper
Angels With Dirty Faces (1938)
Off-screen pals James Cagney and Pat O'Brien team up for the sixth time in this enduring gangster classic nominated for three Academy Awards®. Cagney's Rocky Sullivan is a charismatic tough kid from New York's Hell's Kitchen whose underworld rise makes him a hero to a gang of slum punks. O'Brien is Father Connolly, the boyhood chum-turned-priest who vows to end Rocky's influence. Directed by Michael Curtiz (Casablanca), the film also stars Humphrey Bogart and Ann Sheridan. Cagney's role as Rocky earned him the 1938 New York Film Critics Award for Best Actor along with his first Best Actor Oscar® nomination.
Angels With Dirty Faces DVD special features include:
- Leonard Maltin Hosts Warner Night at the Movies 1938 with Newsreel, Musical Short "Out Where the Stars Begin," Cartoon "Porky and Daffy" and 1938 Trailer Gallery
- New Featurette "Angels with Dirty Faces: Whaddya Hear? Whaddya Say?"
- Commentary by Film Historian Dana Polan
- Audio-Only Bonus: Radio Production with the Film's 2 Stars
Little Caesar (1930)
"R-I-C-O, Little Caesar, that's who!" Edward G. Robinson bellowed into the phone and Hollywood got the message. The 37-year-old Robinson, not gifted with matinee-idol looks, was nonetheless a first-class star. Little Caesar is the tale of pugnacious Caesar Enrico Bandello (Robinson), a hoodlum with a Chicago-sized chip on his shoulder, few attachments, fewer friends and no sense of underworld diplomacy.
Little Caesar DVD special features include:
- Leonard Maltin Hosts Warner Night at the Movies 1930 with Newsreel, Spencer Tracy Short "The Hard Guy," Cartoon "Lady Play Your Mandolin" and 1930/31 Trailer Gallery
- New Featurette "Little Caesar: End of Rico, Beginning of the Antihero"
- Commentary by Film Historian Richard B. Jewell
- 1954 Re-release Foreword
The Petrified Forest (1936)
A rundown diner bakes in the Arizona heat. Inside, fugitive killer Duke Mantee sweats out a manhunt, holding disillusioned writer Alan Squier, young Gabby Maple and a handful of others hostage. The Petrified Forest, Robert E. Sherwood's 1935 Broadway success about survival of the fittest, hit the screen a year later with Leslie Howard and Humphrey Bogart magnificently recreating their stage roles and Bette Davis ably reteaming with her Of Human Bondage co-star Howard. The film presented Bogart with his first major starring role and helped launch his brilliant movie career.
The Petrified Forest DVD special features include:
- Leonard Maltin Hosts Warner Night at the Movies 1936 with Newsreel, Musical Short "Rhythmitis," Cartoon "The Coo Coo Nut Grove" and 1936 Trailer Gallery
- New Featurette "The Petrified Forest: Menace in the Desert"
- Commentary by Bogart Biographer Eric Lax
- Audio-Only Bonus: Radio Adaptation Starring Bogart, Tyrone Power and Joan Bennett
The Roaring Twenties (1939
The speakeasy era never roared louder than in this gangland chronicle directed by Raoul Walsh (White Heat). Against a backdrop of newsreel-like montages and narration, The Roaring Twenties follows the life of jobless war veteran Eddie Bartlett (James Cagney) who turns bootlegger, dealing in "bottles instead of battles." However, battles await Eddie both inside and out of his growing empire. Outside are territorial feuds and gangland bloodlettings and inside is the treachery of his double-dealing associate George Hally (Humphrey Bogart).
The Roaring Twenties DVD special features include:
- Leonard Maltin Hosts Warner Night at the Movies 1939 with Newsreel, Musical Short "All Girl Revue," Comedy Short "The Great Library Misery," Cartoon "Thugs with Dirty Mugs" and 1939 Trailer Gallery
- New Featurette "The Roaring Twenties: The World Moves on" - Commentary by Film Historian Lincoln Hurst
The Warner Bros. Pictures Gangsters Collection on DVD
I... ain't... so tough...- Tom Powers
Edward Woods was originally hired for the lead role of Tom Powers and James Cagney was hired to play Matt Doyle, his friend. However, once director William Wellman got to know both of them and saw Cagney in rehearsals, he realized that Cagney would be far more effective in the star role than Woods, so he switched them.
The infamous grapefruit scene caused women's groups around America to protest the on-screen abuse of Mae Clarke.
John Bright and Kubec Glasmon received an Academy Award nomination for their original story "Beer and Blood." According to Motion Picture Herald, the title Public Enemy came from a Chicago newspaper headline which caught Warner Bros. president Jack L. Warner's eye. This film made James Cagney a star and established the popular gangster personality that Warner Bros. continued to exploit throughout the thirties. Modern sources note that just before shooting began, Warner Bros. executive Darryl Zanuck replaced director Archie Mayo with William Wellman. Wellman took the lead away from Edward Woods who had been assigned to the part and gave it to Cagney who had originally been the sidekick. According to modern sources, Wellman first offered the part of "Gwen Allen" to Louise Brooks. Modern sources mention that the scene in which Tom and Matt shoot the horse that kills Nails Nathan is based on the death of gangster Samuel Nails Morton. In Wellman's autobiography, he said that the grapefruit scene was inspired by an argument with his wife in which he was tempted to do what Powers does in the film. Other modern sources note that Darryl Zanuck claims to have created the famous scene, and a third story is that the incident was loosely based on a similar event involving gangster Earl "Hymie" Weiss and an omelet. Modern film historians point to the fact that this is the most enduring of the thirties gangster films. It was one of the first films acquired for the Museum of Modern Art's collection. Modern sources add the following to the cast: Clark Burroughs (Dutch); Snitz Edwards (Hack Miller); Adele Watson (Mrs. Doyle); Frank Coghlan, Jr. (Tom, as a boy); Mia Marvin (Jane); Dorothy Gee (Nail's girl); Lee Phelps (Steve the bartender); Landers Stevens (Doctor); Douglas Gerrard (Assistant tailor); William H. Strauss (Pawnbroker); Russ Powell (Bartender).