Cast & Crew
At the conclusion of a newsreel detailing the exploits of gangster John Dillinger, Dillinger's father talks to the movie audience about his son's youth in Indiana. While describing John's childhood as uneventful, Mr. Dillinger admits that his son was headstrong and ambitious: Soon after he leaves home to seek his fortune in Indianapolis, John finds himself short of money in a "cash-only" speakeasy. When his date insists on ordering another drink, John excuses himself and heads to a nearby grocery store, where he fools the clerk into thinking he has a gun and robs the place of $7.20. John is quickly apprehended by the police, however, and lands in prison. There, John makes friends with his tough cellmate, Specs Green, a veteran bank robber, and Spec's gang--Marco Minnelli, Doc Madison and Kirk Otto. Impressed by Specs's confident and intelligent approach to crime, John, whose sentence is much shorter than the others, becomes determined to help them escape upon his release. As soon as he is freed, John holds up a movie theater box office, after flirting with the ticket seller, Helen Rogers. Although Helen recognizes John from a police photo, she declines to identify him during a line-up and instead goes out with him. After several more robberies, John is ready to carry out his escape plan, which involves sneaking a barrel filled with firearms to the gang while they are on quarry duty. Once armed, the gangsters shoot their way to freedom and, with John, commit a series of bank robberies in the Midwest. After the escapees are recognized by one of their victims, Specs orders John, who has not been identified by the authorities, to check out their next target, the Farmers Trust bank. Before John does so, he viciously attacks the speakeasy waiter who had previously refused to accept his personal check. Posing as a potential customer, John then investigates Farmers Trust and reports to the gang that the bank's security system is extremely sophisticated. Specs, who has grown wary of the trigger-happy John, decides to seek outside help for the job, but John convinces the others that he has a better plan. Using gas bombs, the thieves rob the bank and flee to their in-town hideout. There, John demands Specs's double cut and assumes leadership of the gang. The men split up for four weeks, during which time John and Helen go on a spending spree, then meet up again at a lodge run by Kirk's foster parents, the Ottos. Sometime later, the gang, realizing that the police are closing in on them, take off on another crime spree, this time hitting banks in the West. In Tucson, John, who has been designated as "public enemy number one," develops a toothache and reluctantly visits a dentist. As the dentist starts to anesthetize him, police burst into the office and arrest him. Later, with a fake gun whittled out of wood, John escapes from jail and reunites with the gang. After John kills Specs, who he assumes betrayed him, he makes plans to rob a shipment of money from a train. During the elaborate robbery, John is wounded and Kirk is killed. John, Marco, Doc and new member Tony seek refuge at the Ottos' lodge, where Helen is also staying, but with Kirk dead, the elderly couple have no qualms about turning them in. As they are calling the police, however, John kills them both. John then prevents Helen from sneaking off with Tony and, as police surround the lodge, drives off with her. Marco and Doc surrender, but John and Helen escape to Chicago. In Jul 1934, after months of hiding out, John, for whom a $15,000 reward has been posted, goes out with Helen to a film. Unaware that Helen, who is wearing a distinctive red dress, has set him up, John exits the theater with his guard down and is cornered by FBI agents. Although he tries to shoot his way out, John is gunned down, and when the agents go through his belongings, they discover that he has only $7.20 to his name.
Elisha Cook Jr.
Lee "lasses" White
F. Paul Sylos
Best Writing, Screenplay
It took a minor studio to summon Dillinger's ghost a decade after his demise. Even though the Hollywood Production Code had lost considerable power as a guiding force within the motion picture industry, the Hays Office was sure to remind Poverty Row outfit Monogram Pictures Corporation to keep their proposed Dillinger biopic within established guidelines set forth in the Special Regulations regarding Crime in Motion Pictures. Consequently, the script by Philip Yordan (with an uncredited assist from up-and-comer William Castle) swung wide of many of the known facts of the case, downplaying some elements (the Little Bohemia Lodge massacre) while upselling others (Dillinger's bust-out of his prison pals). Though the thought initially had been to produce a film about Ana Cumpanas, the Romanian prostitute and so-called "Woman in Red" who gave up Dillinger's whereabouts to the FBI in a bid to stave off deportation, it was Yordan who swung the narrative arc back to Dillinger. For the role, Monogram head Steve Broidy liked veteran actor Chester Morris, then in his fifties, but independent producers Frank and Maurice King had other ideas.
Then contracted to RKO Radio Pictures, Brooklyn-born Lawrence Tierney had made only a few films, playing mostly bits (perhaps most memorably as the luckless sailor in the Val Lewton-produced The Ghost Ship (1943) who is crushed horrifically in the coils of a massive anchor chain). Looking to better his chances with the more pinchpenny but less discriminating Monogram, Tierney had made himself an almost daily presence at the studio's office on Sunset Boulevard, three miles west of RKO. Though Tierney looked more like silent cowboy star William S. Hart than the handsomely craggy John Dillinger, the Kings threw their weight behind the 25 year-old newcomer, holding firm with Monogram that if Tierney did not get the part then they would take the production elsewhere. Broidy relented, reluctantly, and production got underway with a budget of $65,000. During principal photography, the film was known alternatively as John Dillinger, John Dillinger, Mobster and, remarkably, Killer D.
Though he would develop a reputation for increasingly brash and ballistic behavior in his film assignments (which would relegate him, sadly, to the lower echelon of extra work by the 1970s prior to his comeback in Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs in 1992), Tierney was by most accounts a nervous wreck during the filming of Dillinger (1945). The actor's anxiety attacks necessitated the import of a portable toilet to the set to cut down on his time away from the camera. Directed with budget-conscious economy by Prussian émigré Max Nosseck through October 1944, Dillinger employs copious stock footage (most notably, the bank robbery scene from Fritz Lang's You Only Live Once, 1937) for its establishing shots and often resorts to still-framed backdrops for tighter angles, giving the film an occasional experimental aspect anticipating the avant garde works of Conrad Rooks. Also borrowed from RKO was actress Anne Jeffreys (as an Americanized Woman in Red), along with a supporting cast rich in instantly recognizable mugs - among them silent film star Edmund Lowe (as Dillinger's wholly fabricated jailhouse mentor Specs Green) and such usual suspects as Eduardo Ciannelli, Marc Lawrence and Elisha Cook, Jr. Memorable in bits are Selmer Jackson as a dentist, Casablanca's (1942) Ludwig Stössel and Victor Kilian, who appears in the film's curious stage show curtain warmer as Dillinger's aggrieved paterfamilias.
Despite its dilution of potentially offending material, Dillinger was met with heated reactions at the time of its theatrical release in March 1945. Hollywood film director Frank Borzage condemned the picture outright, as did the War Department in Washington and the Chicago Censorship Board, which banned the exhibition of Dillinger within city limits for two years. Despite (or perhaps because of) the initial hurly-burly, Dillinger did good business for Monogram, bringing in over $4,000,000 at the box office. Screenwriter Philip Yordan received a 1946 Academy Award Nomination for Best Original Screenplay but lost out to Richard Schweizer for the Swiss import Marie-Louise (1944) while Lawrence Tierney enjoyed a solid run of star vehicles, mostly as sociopaths, in such films as Robert Wise's Born to Kill (1947) and Felix E. Feist's The Devil Thumbs a Ride (1947) back at RKO and as the title character in the United Artists pickup The Hoodlum (1951), directed by Max Nosseck. The iconic John Dillinger appeared sporadically in films over the years, played by Leo Gordon in Baby Face Nelson (1957), Nick Adams in Young Dillinger (1965), Warren Oates in John Milius' more fact-based Dillinger (1973), Robert Conrad in the John Sayles-scripted The Lady in Red (1979) and, more recently, by Johnny Depp in Michael Mann's Public Enemies (2009).
Producers: Frank King, Maurice King
Director: Max Nosseck
Screenplay: Philip Yordan (screenplay); William Castle (uncredited)
Cinematography: Jackson Rose
Art Direction: F. Paul Sylos
Music: Dimitri Tiomkin
Film Editing: Edward Mann
Cast: Edmund Lowe (Specs Green), Anne Jeffreys (Helen Rogers), Eduardo Cianelli (Marco Minelli), Marc Lawrence (Doc Madison), Elisha Cook Jr. (Kirk Otto), Ralph Lewis (Tony), Else Jannsen (Mrs. Otto), Ludwig Stossel (Mr. Otto), Constance Worth (Nurse in Dentist's Office), Lawrence Tierney (John Dillinger).
by Richard Harland Smith
Crime Movies: An Illustrated History by Carlos Clarens (WW Norton & Company, 1980)
"Dillinger: Noir Shadings of a Public Enemy" by Abby Staeble, Noir City Annual No. 3: The Best of the Noir Sentinel Newsletter by Eddie Muller (Film Noir Foundation, 2011)
Bullets Over Hollywood: The American Gangster Picture from the Silents to The Sopranos by John McCarty (Da Capo Press, 2004)
American Gangster Cinema: From Little Caesar to Pulp Fiction by Fran Mason (Pallgrave MacMillan, 2003)
Marc Lawrence (1910-2005)
Born Max Goldsmith on February 17, 1910, in the Bronx, Lawrence had his heart set on a career in drama right out of high school. He enrolled at City College of New York to study theatre, and in 1930, he worked under famed stage actress Eva Le Gallienne. Anxious for a career in movies, Lawrence moved to Hollywood in 1932 and found work immediately as a contract player with Warner Bros. (an ideal studio for the actor since they specialized in crime dramas). He was cast as a heavy in his first film, If I Had a Million (1932). Although his first few parts were uncredited, Lawrence's roles grew more prominent: a sinister henchman in the Paul Muni vehicle in Dr. Socrates (1935); a conniving convict aiding Pat O'Brien in San Quentin (1937); a menacing thug stalking Dorothy Lamour in Johnny Apollo (1940); the shrewdly observant chauffeur in Alan Ladd's breakthrough hit This Gun For Hire (1942); and one of his most memorable roles as Ziggy, a fedora wearing mobster in the Bogart-Bacall noir classic Key Largo (1948).
Lawrence, when given the opportunity, could play against type: as the prosecuting attorney challenging Tyrone Power in Brigham Young (1940); a noble aristocrat in the Greer Garson-Walter Pidgeon period opus Blossoms in the Dust; and most impressively, as a deaf mute simpleton in the rustic drama The Shepherd of the Hills (both 1941). Better still was Lawrence's skill at comedy, where his deadpan toughness worked terrifically as a straight man against the likes of Joe E. Brown in Beware Spooks (1939); Abbott and Costello in Hit the Ice (1943); Penny Singleton in Life with Blondie (1945); and Bob Hope in My Favorite Spy (1951).
After that, Lawrence's career took a turn downward spin when he was labeled a communist sympathizer during the Hollywood witch hunts of the early '50s. He was exiled in Europe for a spell (1951-59), and when he came back, the film industry turned a blind eye to him, but television overcompensated for that. Here he played effective villains (what else?) in a series of crime caper programs: Peter Gunn, Johnny Staccato, The Untouchables, Richard Diamond, Private Detective; and eventually made a welcome return to the big screen as a returning exiled gangster in William Asher's underrated mob thriller Johnny Cool (1963).
It wasn't long before Lawrence found himself back in the fray playing in some big box-office hits over the next two decades: Diamonds Are Forever (1971), The Man with the Golden Gun (1974), Marathon Man (1976), Foul Play (1978); and The Big Easy (1987). Sure he was cast as a gangster, but nobody could play a rough and tumble mob boss with more style or conviction.
Interestingly, one of his finest performances in recent years was in television, as a severely ill old man unwilling to accept his fate in a fourth season episode of ER (1997-98). His last screen role was just two years ago, as a nimble minded VP in Looney Tunes: Back in Action (2003).
In 1991, Lawrence published a memoir about his venerable career, Long Time No See: Confessions of a Hollywood Gangster that received much critical acclaim. He has also developed a cult following due to his appearances in such offbeat items as From Dusk to Dawn and Pigs aka Daddy's Deadly Darling, the 1972 horror film he directed and starred in with his daughter Toni. He is survived by his wife, Alicia; two children from a previous marriage, Toni and Michael; and a stepdaughter Marina.
by Michael T. Toole
Marc Lawrence (1910-2005)
Dillinger (1945) - Dillinger on DVD
Synopsis: At a 'crime does not pay' theatrical presentation, Pa Dillinger (Victor Kilian) relates the tale of his son John (Lawrence Tierney), a hick who learned the ins and outs of robbery in the State Pen. His teachers were the veteran criminals Specs Green (Edmund Lowe), Marco Minelli (Eduardo Cianelli), Doc Madison (Marc Lawrence) and Kirk Otto (Elisha Cook Jr.). Springing them from jail, Dillinger helps the gang cut a swath of holdups through several states. Dillinger is captured in a dentist's office but uses a carved wooden gun to break out again, and brings his girlfriend Helen Rogers (Anne Jeffreys) along on his robbery spree.
Philip Yordan talked his way into this screenwriting job, and reportedly also insisted that the almost unknown actor Lawrence Tierney play the title role. Ever since 1935's G-Men (which recounted much Dillinger lore), J. Edgar Hoover successfully lobbied that crime films should praise only lawmen. There were a few films made about mythical gangsters but the major studios stayed clear of the ripe opportunities in such authentic names as Pretty Boy Floyd and Machine Gun Kelly. The poverty row Monogram studio was technically not part of the agreement and Yordan and the King Brothers saw no impediment to using gangland's biggest name as a box office attraction.
The actual heyday of the rural bandit gangsters lasted scarcely two or three years. Celebrity rebels Floyd, Ma Barker, Dillinger and Baby Face Nelson were always on the run from state and federal law agencies that operated under few legal restrictions. If anything, J. Edgar Hoover used the bandits as PR to build support for and increase the power of his Federal Bureau of Investigation.
As explained by disc commentator John Milius, Dillinger includes a few facts from the robber's life but doesn't even try for accuracy in either incident or atmosphere. Dillinger and his cronies were mostly mid-western hicks but they act and dress just like the generic characters in other poverty row movies, with little regard for period accuracy. Character development is almost non-existent. Sixth-billed Lawrence Tierney scores as the handsome and brutal lead but is no better defined than the rest of the players. Anne Jeffreys' movie theater cashier is woefully underwritten, and the other gang members are just a selection of well-chosen faces. Elisha Cook Jr. is forever eating grapes, a foible that doesn't pay off. Edmund Lowe's sneaky Mr. Big is also denied a satisfying resolution.
In terms of storytelling, Dillinger is borderline incompetent. An ill-explained stage show starts a flashback story that is never resolved - the screen never returns to Dillinger's dad finishing his tale. Other story elements are equally weak, but the most obvious visual crutch is the film's overuse of stock footage. The tiny key cast enacts the core drama in dull sets, with almost all of the police involvement and shoot-'em-up action represented by roadblocks and squad cars recycled from older films. A big chunk of the borrowed footage comes from the 1937 Fritz Lang film You Only Live Once. Most of an entire scene, a tear gas robbery of an armored truck, is lifted almost intact. The editors even have the audacity to include Lang's camera move to Henry Fonda's eyes peering out the back of a getaway car, and pass them off as Lawrence Tierney's.
Knowing that memories of the real Dillinger were only eleven years old, Yordan includes sketchy references to major episodes in Tucson and Little Bohemia while leaving out crowd scenes or shoot-outs that might tax the budget. Most violence happens off screen or at least out of the frame. Dillinger shoots an old couple in cold blood and murders an unlucky waiter (Lou Lubin of The Seventh Victim) with a broken beer mug, a shocking scene for 1945. The famous Chicago rub-out finale at the Biograph theater is vivid but rushed, perhaps to convince the Code officials that Dillinger wasn't being glamorized.
Warners' DVD of Dillinger is part of their Film Noir Two boxed set, following up on the surprise success of the first collection last summer. Since it is really a gangster story and not a film noir, it's not the best choice for inclusion. The transfer is excellent, and the movie is in good shape except for a second or two in a stock footage robbery scene where the image jumps rather erratically. Dimitri Tiomkin's patchwork score leads with a strong title theme.
Besides a trailer, the main extra is a commentary from John Milius, writer-director of American-International's interesting 1973 Dillinger movie. Milius talks about the real history of the Dillinger case but knows very little about the writer Phillip Yordan's version, not even info like the You Only Live Once connection that usually gets mentioned even in cursory overviews. He keeps asking what movie the stock footage comes from. A lot of his comments are just uninformed and thoughtless. Milius laughs that a bank robbery stock shot is from some prison movie, when a closer look reveals that the scene in question is clearly the inside of a bank. The only actor he mentions besides Tierney is Elisha Cook Jr.. Milius sets up a handful of recorded comments from Yordan, who speaks a bit about his relationship with the King Brothers and Lawrence Tierney, and offers just a few words about the blacklist. The prolific Yordan was a regular script factory in the 1950s, fronting for some writers and farming out scripts that ended up with his name on them, although written by others. Blacklist researchers are just now getting to the bottom of some of the stories behind Yordan's many credits.
For more information about Dillinger, visit Warner Video. To order Dillinger, go to TCM Shopping.
by Glenn Erickson
Dillinger (1945) - Dillinger on DVD
TCM Remembers - Lawrence Tierney
A SCREEN TOUGH GUY WHO WAS MEANER THAN A JUNKYARD DOG
Lawrence Tierney, one of the screen's toughest tough guys, died February 26th at the age of 82. He first startled audiences with his impassioned work in the 1940s but Tierney's rowdy off-screen life eventually pushed him out of the limelight. Though he kept working in small parts, Tierney found a new generation of fans with a few memorable roles in the 80s and 90s.
Tierney was born March 15, 1919 in Brooklyn, New York. He grew up in New York and was a track star in school before becoming interested in acting. (His two brothers also became actors though they changed their names to Scott Brady and Ed Tracy.) He went through the usual period of stage appearances before getting bit parts in little-remembered films. His first credited role was in Sing Your Worries Away (1942) but Tierney quickly made his mark playing the title role in Dillinger (1945). A string of memorable roles followed in films like San Quentin (1946), The Devil Thumbs a Ride (1947), Born to Kill (1947) and the Oscar-winning circus drama from director Cecil B. DeMille, The Greatest Show on Earth (1952) in which Tierney played the villain responsible for the epic train wreck toward the film's conclusion. However, Tierney had a knack for real-life trouble and was arrested several times for disorderly conduct and drunken driving. By the end of the 50s he only found sporadic acting work, sometimes not working for several years between films. During this period his best-known work was in Custer of the West (1967) and Andy Warhol's Bad (1977).
Slowly in the 1980s, Tierney landed small but frequently noticable parts in Hollywood films such as Prizzi's Honor (1985) and The Naked Gun (1988). He appeared on TV shows like Hill Street Blues, Star Trek: The Next Generation and Seinfeld (as Elaine's father). In 1992 that changed when Quentin Tarrantino cast Tierney as the crime boss in Reservoir Dogs, an unforgettable part that gave him new fans. While the subsequent roles or films didn't get any bigger, Tierney was finally a recognized name. One of his oddest roles was the half-hour Red (1993) based on the infamous mid-70s Tube Bar tapes where a real-life bar owner responds with startlingly over-the-top remarks to prank phone calls. (If that sounds familiar it's because The Simpsons based Moe's responses to prank calls on these tapes. Tierney provided a voice in the 1995 Simpsons episode "Marge Be Not Proud.") Tierney's last film appearance was in Armageddon (1998)!
By Lang Thompson
CHUCK JONES, 1912 - 2002
Animator Chuck Jones died February 22nd at the age of 89. Jones may not have boasted quite the name recognition of Howard Hawks or John Ford but he was unquestionably one of the greatest American directors. His goals might have been primarily to entertain, which he did so wonderfully that his 50 and 60 year old cartoons seem fresher than most anything produced in the 21st century. But Jones displayed a sense of movement, timing and character barely equalled elsewhere. Literary critics have a saying that while there are no perfect novels there are certainly flawless short stories. Several of Jones' cartoons reach a perfection that Hawks and Ford could only have dreamed about.
Jones was born September 21, 1912 in Spokane, Washington but grew up in Hollywood. As a child he would watch films by Charlie Chaplin and others being made in the streets, absorbing the process and supposedly even appearing as an extra in Mack Sennett shorts. After graduating from L.A.'s Chouinard Art Institute (now California Institute of the Arts), Jones started selling pencil drawings on street corners. He soon landed a job in 1932 with ground-breaking animator Ub Iwerks as a cel washer (somebody who removes ink from the expensive celluloid frames so they could be reused). The following year Jones began to work for Leon Schlesinger Productions which was sold to Warner Brothers. There he directed his first film, The Night Watchman in 1938.
Jones would stay at Warners for almost 25 years until it closed the animation division. Here is where Jones did some of his most-beloved work, putting Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, the Road Runner, Marvin Martian and numerous others through many of their most memorable exploits. Who can forget Bugs and Daffy's hilariously convoluted arguments about hunting season in Rabbit Seasoning (1952) and Duck Rabbit Duck (1953)? Or the Coyote's tantalized, endless pursuit of the Road Runner? What's Opera Doc? (1957) sending Elmer and Bugs to Bayreuth? A cheerfully singing and dancing frog that, alas, only performs for one frustrated man? Daffy tormented by the very elements of the cartoon medium in Duck Amuck (1953)? That's only a fraction of what Jones created while at the Warners animation studio, affectionately known as Termite Terrace. This building on the Warners lot boasted an array of individualist talents that Jones, like Duke Ellington, could pull into a whole. There was voice artist Mel Blanc's impeccable timing, writer Michael Maltese's absurdist love affair with language, music director Carl Stalling's collaged scores and perhaps best of all a studio that knew enough to just leave the gang alone so long as the cartoons kept coming.
After Warners shuttered its animation division in 1962, Jones moved to MGM where he worked on several Tom & Jerry cartoons, his inimitable lines always immediately apparent. In 1966 he directed How the Grinch Stole Christmas from Dr. Seuss' book, one of the finest literary adaptations. A feature version of Norman Juster's classic The Phantom Tollbooth followed in 1969. Along with his daughter Linda, Jones was one of the first to see the value of original animation art and in the late 70s began a thriving business. (For more info see http://www.chuckjones.com.) Jones made cameo appearances in Joe Dante's Gremlins (1984) and Innerspace (1987). In 1989, he wrote a touching and funny memoir, Chuck Amuck, that's pretty much essential reading.
Jones won an Best Short Subject Cartoons Oscar for The Dot and the Line (1965), having earlier been nominated twice in 1962. His Pepe LePew film For Scent-imental Reasons (1949) and public-health cartoon So Much for So Little also won Oscars though not for Jones himself. In 1996 he was awarded an honorary Oscar "for the creation of classic cartoons and cartoon characters whose animated lives have brought joy to our real ones for more than a half century."
By Lang Thompson
GEORGE NADER, 1921 - 2002
Actor George Nader, best known for the B-movie anti-classic Robot Monster, died February 4th at the age of 80. One-time co-star Tony Curtis said, "He was one of the kindest and most generous men I've ever known. I will miss him." Nader was born in Pasadena, California on October 19, 1921 and like many other actors started performing while in school. His first film appearance was the B-Western Rustlers on Horseback (1950) and he made other appearances, often uncredited, before the immortal Robot Monster in 1953. This dust-cheap, charmingly inept film (originally in 3-D!) features Nader as the father of Earth's last surviving family, everybody else having been wiped out by a gorilla in a diving helmet. Shortly after, Nader landed major roles in RKO's Carnival Story (1954) and with Curtis in Universal's Six Bridges to Cross (1955), bringing a beefy charm that earned him numerous fans. As a result, in 1955 Nader shared a Golden Globe for Most Promising Male Newcomer. He then appeared in numerous lower profile studio films before closing out the decade playing Ellery Queen in a short-lived TV series. He relocated to Europe in the sixties where he found steady work. As secret agent Jerry Cotton, he made a series of spy thrillers which earned him a cult reputation in Europe, starting with Schusse aud dem Geigenkasten (aka Operation Hurricane: Friday Noon) (1965). The eighth and final entry in the series was Dynamit in gruner Seide (aka Dynamite in Green Silk) (1968). His film career ended in the mid-70s when a car wreck damaged his eyes so that he could no longer endure a film set's bright lights. Nader began writing novels, most notably the recently reprinted Chrome (1978), an acclaimed science fiction novel with openly gay characters.
By Lang Thompson
TCM REMEMBERS HAROLD RUSSELL, 1914 - 2002
Oscar-winning actor Harold Russell died January 29th of a heart attack at age 88. As a disabled veteran whose hands had been amputated in The Best Years of Our Lives (1946), Russell won Best Supporting Actor but also an honorary award "for bringing hope and courage to his fellow veterans." This made Russell the only person to receive two Oscars for the same role. Russell was born in Nova Scotia on January 14, 1914 but grew up in Cambridge Massachusetts. He joined the US Army after the attack on Pearl Harbor and while training paratroopers lost both hands in an accidental explosion. He then made a training film where director William Wyler saw Russell. Wyler was so impressed that he changed the character in The Best Years of Our Lives from a man with neurological damage to an amputee so that Russell could play the part. After winning the Oscar, Russell followed Wyler's advice and went to college, eventually running a public relations company and writing his autobiography. He made two more film appearances, Inside Moves (1980) and Dogtown (1997), and appeared in a few TV episodes of China Beach and Trapper John MD. Russell made waves in 1992 when he decided to sell his acting Oscar to help cover expenses of his large family. The Motion Picture Academy offered to buy the statue for $20,000 but it sold to an anonymous bidder for $60,000. About the other statute, Russell said, "I'd never sell the special one. The war was over, and this was the industry's way of saying thank you to the veterans."
By Lang Thompson
TCM Remembers - Lawrence Tierney
The working titles of this film were John Dillinger, Killer D, John Dillinger, Mobster and John Dillinger. The film's final movie theater scene features excerpts from a Walt Disney "Mickey Mouse" cartoon. During the same scene, offscreen movie dialogue is heard, but no footage or dialogue is used from M-G-M's 1934 film Manhattan Melodrama, the picture listed on the marquee (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40; F3.2734)). Although reviews list Eduardo Ciannelli's character name as "Murph," he is called "Marco Minnelli" in the picture. Lawrence Tierney's onscreen credit appears after the director's credit, and actress Else Janssen's name is misspelled "Jannsen" in the credits.
As depicted in the film, John Dillinger was born and reared in Indiana and began his criminal career in 1924, at the age of twenty-one. After being arrested for robbing a grocery store, Dillinger spent nine years in prison, then led a gang of robbers based in the Midwest. Having been named "public enemy number one" by J. Edgar Hoover, Dillinger escaped twice from jails and, in April 1934, shot his way out of a police trap in Wisconsin. On July 22, 1934, he was killed by FBI agents outside Chicago's Biograph Theater, where he and a woman friend had been watching Manhattan Melodrama. The woman reportedly betrayed Dillinger to the FBI and became known as the "lady in red" because of the red dress she wore to identify herself to the FBI agents. Years after his reported death, rumors sprang up that Dillinger's brother was the actual victim of the shootout, and that Dillinger escaped unharmed.
According to MPAA/PCA records at the AMPAS Library, The Hays Office proclaimed in a March 20, 1934 telegram that, in accordance with the "executive committee of the Assocation, no picture based on the life or exploits of John Dillinger" was to be "produced, distributed or exhibited by any member company" because of the belief that "such a picture would be detrimental to the best public interest." Although Hays's decree apparently was no longer in effect by 1944, PCA director Joseph I. Breen advised in a June 28, 1944 letter to producer Franklyn King that PCA approval of Dillinger would be based on whether "numerous violations of the Special Regulations Re Crime in Motion Pictures" were eliminated from the script. Breen then warned King that "political censor boards everywhere" would be "critical" of the film, and PCA records indicate that many letters of protest were sent to the PCA and the studio.
An unidentified contemporary news item reported that after viewing Dillinger, a gang of youths in South Bend, IN, imitated Dillinger's routine of "casing" his robbery sites, as depicted in the film, before committing a series of thefts themselves. Director Frank Borzage wrote to the PCA, denouncing the film and advocating the "total elimination of the glamorized gangster movie." According to the Variety review, Dillinger was "banned in Chicago." PCA records indicate that, except for Ontario, no other state or territory in North America rejected the picture. The War Dept. "disapproved" the film for export because of the "lawlessness" depicted, according to records contained at NARS in Washington, D.C.
Hollywood Reporter news items and production charts add the following information about the film's production: In June 1944, Hollywood Reporter announced that William K. Howard and Robert Tasker had completed a script for the film. The contribution of these writers to the final screenplay, if any, has not been determined. Terry Frost was announced as the film's star in August 1944 and appears in production charts as a cast member along with Tierney, but his appearance in the completed film is doubtful. George Purvis, the nephew of Melvin Purvis, the FBI agent who was credited with killing Dillinger, was cast in the film, as were Anthony Dante, George deNormand, Tony Santoro and Larry Bennett. Their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed, however. Harry Hayden was announced as a cast member in late October 1944, but he was not seen in the viewed print. Scenes depicting the "Ottos'" lodge were shot in Big Bear in Southern California.
"Dillinger" was Tierney's first starring role and became the part with which he was most associated. Tierney, whom the Daily Variety review described as a "youthful Bogart," went on to portray many other sadistic criminals during his screen career. The King Bros. borrowed Tierney and Anne Jeffreys from RKO for the production. Modern sources note that stock footage from Fritz Lang's 1937 United Artists release You Only Live Once (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40; F3.5240) was reused in the film during a bank robbery sequence. Philip Yordan was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Screenplay. According to Hollywood Reporter, Allied Artists re-released Dillinger in 1952.
Dillinger was the primary subject of four other films. In 1973, John Milius directed Warren Oates, Ben Johnson and Cloris Leachman in an American International release, Dillinger. The Last Days of John Dillinger was broadcast on the CBS network on November 24, 1971, as the debut entry in Rod Serling's "Appointment with Destiny" series. Nicholas Webster directed Bill Wendt and William Shust in the broadcast. On January 6, 1991, the ABC network broadcast Dillinger, directed by Rupert Wainwright and starring Mark Harmon, Sherilyn Fenn and Will Patton. Tierney appears in a bit role as a sheriff in that production. In 1995, Concorde-New Horizons Corp. released Dillinger and Capone, starring Martin Sheen and F. Murray Abraham.
Released in United States 1983
Released in United States March 2, 1945
Released in United States Winter January 1, 1945
Released in United States 1983 (Shown at FILMEX: Los Angeles International Film Exposition (A "B-Movie" Marathon) April 13 - May 1, 1983.)
Released in United States Winter January 1, 1945
Released in United States March 2, 1945