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The Public Enemy

The Public Enemy(1931)


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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).