AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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The Public Enemy
Director: William A. Wellman (Dir)
Release Date:   15 May 1931
Duration (in mins):  74 or 83
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Cast: James Cagney  (Tom Powers)
  Jean Harlow  (Gwen Allen)
  Edward Woods  (Matt Doyle)
 

Summary: 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. 

Distribution Company: Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Production Company: Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Director: William A. Wellman (Dir)
Writer: Kubec Glasmon (Scr)
  John Bright (Scr)
  Harvey Thew (Adpt)

Subject Major: Bootleggers
  Gangsters
  Prohibition
  Revenge
 
Subject Minor: Accidental death
  Brothers
  Chicago (IL)
  Extortion
  Liquor
  Mothers and sons
  Murder
  Slums

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
 
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