The Public Enemy

Fascinating and brutally realistic, THE PUBLIC ENEMY, along with LITTLE CAESAR, BAD COMPANY, and SCARFACE, set the pattern for the gangster films of the 1930s. It also made a star of its volatile leading man, James Cagney, and confirmed director William Wellman as a major force in talkies. The film opens with two young Irish boys, Tom (Frank Coghlan) and...read more

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The trailer for The Public Enemy. 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.

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