Classic movie site with rare images (no web grabs!), original ads, and behind-the-scenes photos, with informative and insightful commentary. We like to have fun with movies!
Archive and Links
grbrpix@aol.com
Search Index Here




Thursday, May 12, 2016

The Picture New York Had To See


Public Enemy (1931) A Spring Sensation at the Strand


It's been writ that Warner Bros. got back many a negative cost off bookings at Broadway's Strand alone. Here may be instance of that ... Public Enemy in a fifth "All Records Broken!" week, 488,519 people clocked so far, according to a holdover ad above. For Gothamites, Public Enemy was all but a home movie, sensations on screen against a backdrop short distance from theatres where it played. Worth noting is James Cagney's name on neither ad, his still a comet rising. The face is here, and those exiting would not forget impact of that, Cagney as star soon enough to arrive in vehicles his own. For now, Public Enemy needed but shock of content and word spread like hot butter from those who'd been shocked, to others that soon would be. Whatever flame Little Caesar started, this blazed bigger. Gangster films lost stun capacity as novelty wore off and censorship applied anchors, but for now, it was hold onto your nerve for jolts to equal what outright horrors were serving. On topic of compare with those, I wonder how Strand's mob reacted when mummified and title-role Jim fell through the door at Public Enemy stun-gun finish. Think there were audible gasps? I'll bet so.

3 Comments:

Blogger John McElwee said...

Dan Mercer compares "Public Enemy" with a recently-watched RKO programmer:


TCM recently showed "Shooting Straight," a 1930 crime drama directed by George Archainbaud for Radio Pictures and starring Richard Dix. Though released in July of that year, nearly eight months before "The Public Enemy," it's even more impressively cinematic, with fluid tracking shots and pans, striking visual compositions, and unusual camera angles, including overhead shots of the climatic fight scene. What it doesn't have, however, is a good screenplay. The story is complex and implausible, with Dix's big-time gambler fleeing a murder charge in the big city when his train goes off the rails. He's unconscious for two weeks, and when he comes to, he finds that he's in the care of a small town parson with a lovely young daughter, who think that he's a noted reformer, who was actually killed in the crash, because he had the man's wallet. He assumes the reformer's identity and decides to clean up the town where of gambling. The scenes of the town's gambling den have a grittiness to them, but the movie is more of the sort that would have followed from "Underworld," where the world of crime is strange and fantastic. It hasn't immediacy of "The Public Enemy," with mean streets that would have been familiar to every immigrant's child faced with a choice of going straight and becoming an American, or falling into the interstices of a crooked and often brutal life. As with "Little Caesar," "The Public Enemy" gave crime back to the people. "Shooting Straight" also doesn't have James Cagney. Richard Dix is a strong, manly presence, and he and Matthew Betz, as the owner of the town's gambling den, are quite good, but neither of them has Cagney's charisma or live-wire quality. An audience watching his performance in "The Public Enemy" will always have a sense of his potential for violence and may anticipate what he'll do, but almost inevitably, what he does is a surprise. Certainly this was a star-making performance.

7:16 AM  
Blogger Lou Lumenick said...

Interesting to see that the New York Times' opening day notice by second-stringer Andre Sennwald calls it "just another gangster film at the Strand'' though he lauds the acting "with the exception of Jean Harlow.'' Ten days later, the Times' first string, Mourdant Hall, praises it to the sky in his Sunday column. Sennwald, 22 in 1931, succeeds Hall in 1934 and dies in a gas explosion in 1936 that the medical examiner says was apparently a suicide attempt because Sennwald was going blind.

9:39 AM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Did not know that about Andre Sennwald, Lou, or about his review of "Public Enemy." Suicide by gas explosion must have been a pretty rare way to go, although I'd guess he just meant to do it by head-in-oven means, still a pretty grisly means of exiting.

10:07 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

grbrpix@aol.com
  • December 2005
  • January 2006
  • February 2006
  • March 2006
  • April 2006
  • May 2006
  • June 2006
  • July 2006
  • August 2006
  • September 2006
  • October 2006
  • November 2006
  • December 2006
  • January 2007
  • February 2007
  • March 2007
  • April 2007
  • May 2007
  • June 2007
  • July 2007
  • August 2007
  • September 2007
  • October 2007
  • November 2007
  • December 2007
  • January 2008
  • February 2008
  • March 2008
  • April 2008
  • May 2008
  • June 2008
  • July 2008
  • August 2008
  • September 2008
  • October 2008
  • November 2008
  • December 2008
  • January 2009
  • February 2009
  • March 2009
  • April 2009
  • May 2009
  • June 2009
  • July 2009
  • August 2009
  • September 2009
  • October 2009
  • November 2009
  • December 2009
  • January 2010
  • February 2010
  • March 2010
  • April 2010
  • May 2010
  • June 2010
  • July 2010
  • August 2010
  • September 2010
  • October 2010
  • November 2010
  • December 2010
  • January 2011
  • February 2011
  • March 2011
  • April 2011
  • May 2011
  • June 2011
  • July 2011
  • August 2011
  • September 2011
  • October 2011
  • November 2011
  • December 2011
  • January 2012
  • February 2012
  • March 2012
  • April 2012
  • May 2012
  • June 2012
  • July 2012
  • August 2012
  • September 2012
  • October 2012
  • November 2012
  • December 2012
  • January 2013
  • February 2013
  • March 2013
  • April 2013
  • May 2013
  • June 2013
  • July 2013
  • August 2013
  • September 2013
  • October 2013
  • November 2013
  • December 2013
  • January 2014
  • February 2014
  • March 2014
  • April 2014
  • May 2014
  • June 2014
  • July 2014
  • August 2014
  • September 2014
  • October 2014
  • November 2014
  • December 2014
  • January 2015
  • February 2015
  • March 2015
  • April 2015
  • May 2015
  • June 2015
  • July 2015
  • August 2015
  • September 2015
  • October 2015
  • November 2015
  • December 2015
  • January 2016
  • February 2016
  • March 2016
  • April 2016
  • May 2016
  • June 2016
  • July 2016
  • August 2016
  • September 2016