Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Public Enemy (1931)

Like I said in the last blog, I thought it would be good if I did film review blogs about James Cagney movies that I saw recently but not for the first time. So this time, I thought it would be good if I did a film review blog about the very first James Cagney movie I saw: The Public Enemy. Usually, whenever I watched the movie before I gained more experience about Cagney, it would be unusual for me to see Jimmy Cagney in the film because when I first saw the film, it was also actually the first time I saw Cagney in my entire life! Isn't that wild? But now that I've gained more expertise about Jim Cagney, it's not very unusual to see him in the film. Anyway, this is the film that shot Cagney to stardom and established him as a tough guy, even though he would star in a variety of roles and receive his only Oscar™ for his portrayal of George M. Cohan in the musical Yankee Doodle Dandy. It was the famous grapefruit scene that really made people think of him as a tough guy. And the immortal grapefruit scene is forever parodied in an episode of The Simpsons; it's the episode where Bart gets a Big Brother as revenge against Homer after he picks him up from soccer practice too late, and Homer gets a Little Brother as revenge against Bart. Anyway, in the scene parodying the grapefruit scene, Homer is daydreaming—or, whatever, thinking—about how mean Bart is to him, and in this reverie, Bart smashes a grapefruit into Homer's face. Then Homer says, "Mmm...grapefruit," while at the end of the original grapefuit scene, Mae Clarke—whom we see in two other James Cagney films, Lady Killer (1933) and Great Guy (1936 or '37)—cries or gets upset. There are many debates and differing sources about how the grapefruit scene came about. But I personally thought it was funny, just like the later abuse Jimmy gives to Clarke in Lady Killer—dragging her across the room while pulling her by her hair. And we must not forget that James Cagney was not originally cast as Tom Powers; in fact, he was cast as Matt Doyle, Tom Powers' sidekick (Edward Woods, who plays Matt Doyle was originally cast as Tom Powers). If Warner Brothers hadn't switched the actors in their roles, James Cagney wouldn't have been as well-known as he is today.

Jean Harlow was good as Cagney's second girlfriend, even though she didn't have a big role, and Joan Blondell was good as Woods' girlfriend and later wife. This was one of the many movies she would make with James Cagney.

Real machine guns were used in this film; James Cagney was barely missed in the scene where he and Woods run away from gunmen. And let me tell you guys, I had a dream last night about the scene between just James Cagney & Jean Harlow, but I wasn't even in the scene so don't get any ideas! And after the scene where Cagney gets measured for a custom-made suit, I don't even know what that gesture was that Cagney did, so I thought it was weird. Anyway, this film is a must for any James Cagney fan, especially since it was one of his important and best films.

A few clips from Public Enemy (I did not make these videos):

Simpsons episode that has parody of the grapefruit scene:
The Simpsons 414

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