Director William Wellman (Wings
), a World War I veteran who turned his experiences in battle into an insistence on unpretentious violence in his films, made Public Enemy
a particularly brutal account of the rise and fall of a monstrous gangster (James Cagney). Cagney delivers one of the most famous performances in film history as the snarling crook who--in one of the film's most famous scenes--smashes a grapefruit into the face of Mae Clarke. The film's a bit dated, but its action scenes still pack an unusual wallop. --Tom Keogh
James Cagney, Jean Harlow, Mae Clarke, Joan Blondell. Cagney made his first big mark in Hollywood with his memorable portrayal of a small-time crook who becomes a powerful Prohibition gangster. 1931/b&w/84 min/NR/fullscreen.