The Public Enemy

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I know what you've been doing all this time, how you got those clothes and those new cars. You've been telling Ma that you've gone into politics, that you're on the city payroll. Pat Burke told me everything. You murderers! There's not only beer in that jug. There's beer and blood -- blood of men!"
Mike Powers, confronting his brother

The Public Enemy is a 1931 pre-Code Warner Bros. gangster film directed by William A. Wellman. It's often seen as the film that made James Cagney a star.

The "Public Enemy" of the film is Tom Powers, played by James Cagney, a young man living in Chicago during Prohibition whose crimes progress from small-time theft to bootlegging and murder.

The Public Enemy was added to the National Film Registry in 1998.


Tropes used in The Public Enemy include:
  • Ambiguously Gay: The tailor, in who is in approximately 2 minutes of the film. See for yourself right here.
  • Book Ends: Opens with a message that this film's purpose isn't to glorify gangsters, and closes with the message that 'The Public Enemy' is a problem in society that must be stopped.
  • Damn, It Feels Good to Be a Gangster!: Tom Powers and Matt Doyle - they get all the girls, the snappy suits, and the cars.
  • Domestic Abuse: The infamous grapefruit-in-the-face scene.

Tom: Ain't you got a drink in the house?
Kitty: Not before breakfast, dear.
Tom: I didn't ask you for any lip. I asked you if you had a drink.