The Public Enemy
Public Enemy, The (DVD)
James Cagney created his career-defining role in William Wellman's landmark gangster movie also starring Jean Harlow, Mae Clarke, and Joan Blondell. The film, which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Writing, Screenplay, traces the rise and fall of prohibition-era mobster Tom Powers. From his childhood corrupted by the beer hall, pool parlor, and false friends, to his adulthood as a henchman of ruthless but innately decent bootlegger Paddy Ryan, Tom rises to the top of the heap, with all the accoutrements of success: custom-tailored tuxedoes, fancy cars, and gorgeous girls. But fate soon takes Tom down another path. Tommy's degeneration from brash kid to vicious lowlife is brought home in a famous scene in which he smashes a grapefruit in the face of his latest mistress (Mae Clarke).