Review of The Public Enemy (1931)

Moving picture, 83 minutes

Seen in 2014.

A largely successful early attempt at amoral realism in spectacular crime fiction. The glamorous environments in some Powers household scenes are amusingly misapplied studio standbys. The most interesting scene is Gwen’s (Jean Harlow) poorly written monologue to the effect that Tom (James Cagney) is a psychopath. Nobody openly asks whether he’s guilty or sick, as people do in the contemporary M (1931), but between the opening and closing texts, the pre-Code content is dysteleological enough that the question is almost implied. Fittingly, it isn’t answered.

References here: Little Caesar (1931).

moving picture fiction