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Public Hero No. 1

Public Hero No. 1(1935)

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Sonny Black, a member of the notorious Purple Gang, which has been linked to a recent bank robbery and a child killing, shares his prison cell with Jeff Crane, an undercover Department of Justice operative who has been assigned to involve Sonny in a prison break in order to lead the FBI to the gangsters' hideout. After Sonny and Jeff hold up the prison board members, exchange clothes with them and walk out of the prison, a chase ensues, and Sonny is wounded by gunshot. In order to throw the police off his trail, Sonny instructs his fellow gangsters to create a diversion in another town by robbing a bank there. One night, while driving through a storm on his way to pick up Doctor Josiah Glass, an alcoholic physician who often treats wounded gangsters, Jeff accidentally runs an oncoming bus off the road and into the mud. He stops to help, but is soon pestered by the nagging Maria Theresa O'Reilly, a passenger on the disabled bus who, unknown to Jeff, is Sonny's estranged sister. After Theresa convinces Jeff to drive her into town, she flirts with him until he pays attention to her. She takes him to her room, and he discovers that she is Sonny's sister when he espies a picture of him in her suitcase. Theresa, who is looking for Sonny in order to get his signature on their uncle's inheritence papers, is taken to see him by Jeff. No sooner is Sonny reunited with his sister, than he slaps her for suggesting that he reform himself and return to serve out his prison term. Jeff witnesses the assault and punches Sonny to punish him for it. Later, Jeff cleverly tricks Doctor Glass into leading him to the gangster hideout by telling him that he is needed in an emergency and then feigning drunkenness, thereby forcing the doctor to drive them there. Once they arrive at the hideout, Jeff pulls a gun on the doctor and then calls Duff, his superior, to tell him that he has found the hideout. Before the FBI agents arrive, however, the gangsters return and a shootout ensues. Most of the gangsters are shot, but Sonny manages to escape and elude capture. One month after the shootout, Jeff discovers that all efforts to find Sonny have failed because the fugitive underwent reconstructive facial surgery that drastically altered his appearence. Though Jeff does not want to involve Theresa, with whom he has fallen in love, Duff insists that he use her to find Sonny. When taken to an FBI office for questioning, Theresa is shocked to learn that Jeff is a G-man. He apologizes for having deceived her and then tells her that he loves her. When efforts to find Sonny through Theresa fail because she does not know her brother's whereabouts, Jeff and Duff set a trap for Sonny by placing an ad in the paper requesting that he meet his sister at the Chicago theater at which she works if he is in need of cash. As predicted, Sonny shows up at the theater, and Theresa, unaware of the FBI trap, gives her brother the money as soon as he asks for it. Once the money is exchanged, the agents know who their man is. When the curtain comes down, Theresa spots the government agents waiting to capture Sonny, and she tries to warn him, but he is shot and killed while trying to escape. After Jeff is named "Public Hero Number One" for putting an end to the Purple Gang, he rushes to the train station and stops Theresa from leaving town so that they can resume their romance.