Friday, December 19, 2014

The Public Enemy (1931)

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My first venture into my Pre-Code Hollywood movie list was The Public Enemy, starring James Cagney as gangster Tom Powers and Jean Harlow as his lover, Gwen Allen. Now, I went into this movie with Public Enemies starring Johnny Depp in mind, and figured it would be some great 1930s gangster action, and I was not disappointed. The film followed Tom Powers and his childhood best friend as they became progressively more involved in the mob, with Tom really leading the way and feeling the power that came with being in a gang (it's ironic when you think of his last name). Tom gets himself deeper and deeper into trouble, losing the respect of his brother, losing his best friend, and seeking revenge. I did have some issues with some scenes and particular people, and while I did keep in mind that this is from the 30s, it still bothered me from a 21st century perspective. The scene that bothered me the most was when Tom was with the first lady he met before Jean Harlow strolled on the screen, and there was a scene where he got upset with her and smashed half a grapefruit in her face. Being physically violent towards women does not sit with me well, though I do see how it adds to his character development of falling deeper into the ruthless hole he was in. That was the point of the whole movie. It really wasn't about Tom, it was a warning to those who may think that gangsters are glamorous, and that they generally all end up the same way, swimming with the fishes.

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