Public Hero No. 1

  • 1935
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Crime

Topnotch gangster movie finds Chester Morris in the pen, posing as a con so he can be next to Joseph Calleia, the rat who heads "The Purple Gang." The plan is to allow Calleia to break out of jail so that Morris can locate the rest of the mobsters and put the cuffs on them. Jean Arthur's flirtation with Morris causes her brother, Calleia, to get angry (shades...read more

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Topnotch gangster movie finds Chester Morris in the pen, posing as a con so he can be next to Joseph Calleia, the rat who heads "The Purple Gang." The plan is to allow Calleia to break out of jail so that Morris can locate the rest of the mobsters and put the cuffs on them. Jean Arthur's

flirtation with Morris causes her brother, Calleia, to get angry (shades of Paul Muni and his sister in SCARFACE). Barrymore is a "crime doctor," a drunken physician who will repair bullet wounds without reporting them if he is plied with enough booze. At one point, Calleia needs blood to live,

and the only person whose type matches his is Morris, so he donates the blood, knowing full well that it's only to keep the criminal alive until all the evidence is in. At the conclusion, in a scene borrowed from the death of John Dillinger on July 22, 1934, Calleia is gunned down at a Chicago

theater on the Near North Side. This is a fast-paced, violent, suspenseful film with plenty of humor in the script to counterpoint the machine-gunning. It is better than many of the Warner Bros.' crime pictures, and Calleia, who made his mark on the stage the year before in "Small Miracle," is

sensational as the killer with the cool, deadly mien. At the age of 38, he finally got his big break in this movie and began a career that lasted for 30 years. The 1941 remake was THE GET-AWAY with Dan Dailey but, like most remakes, it didn't come close. There really was a Purple Gang in Detroit,

and quite a bit of the action of this film reflects their exploits as well as those of other real-life 1930s gangsters. The intelligence and creativity in script, casting, and production paid off in big dividends at the box office. Gregg Toland's photography (He also did CITIZEN KANE) was

superior, as was Frank Sullivan's editing.

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  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Topnotch gangster movie finds Chester Morris in the pen, posing as a con so he can be next to Joseph Calleia, the rat who heads "The Purple Gang." The plan is to allow Calleia to break out of jail so that Morris can locate the rest of the mobsters and put… (more)

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