Black SplatThe Public Enemy (1931)

"I wish you was a wishing well, so I could tie a bucket to ya and sink ya."

Public Enemy - Tom Powers smashes a grapefuit in to his girl's face

Description: James Cagney as gangster Tom Powers tells off his gal in the motion picture Public Enemy(1931).

Raised on the streets of Chicago with best friend Matt Doyle (Edward Woods), Tom and Matt become gangsters, running bootlegging during the years of Prohibition. Tom's illegal activities are frowned upon by his "law-abiding" brother, Mike (Donald Cook), a World War One veteran who suffers from shell shock, but Tom sneers at their objections and continues his life of crime.

"Why that dirty, no good, yellow-bellied stool. I'm gonna give it to him right in the head the first time I see him."

In between all of Tom's dealing with other gangsters and lowlifes on the street, he finds time to romance a gal named Kitty (Mae Clarke).

When Tom first meets Kitty he says, "Hello baby. What are you gonna have?" to which Kitty replies "Anything you say, big boy." Happy with the response, Tom says "You're a swell dish. I think I'm going to go for you."

But later, Kitty is not as happy as when she first met Tom. Sitting at her breakfast table, Kitty watches as Tom enters the room in his pajamas.

Tom: Ain't you got a drink in the house?
Kitty: Well, not before breakfast, dear.
Tom: I didn't ask you for any lip. I asked you if you had a drink.
Kitty: I know Tom, but I, I wish that..
Tom: There you go with that wishin' stuff again. I wish you was a wishing well. So that I could tie a bucket to ya and sink ya.
Kitty: Well, maybe you've found someone you like better.
  [Tom snatches a grapefruit half from the table and shoves it in Kitty's face, then leaves the room]

Kitty wasn't wrong in suspecting Tom's infidelity for there was another woman in his life, namely Gwen Allen (Jean Harlow). In one of movie’s more memorable lines Gwen professes her love for Tom Powers who embraces and passionately kisses her.

The Public Enemy - Jean Harlow and James Cagney

“You are so different, Tommy, very different. The men I know, and I’ve known dozens of them. Oh, they’re so nice, so polished, so considerate. Most women like that type. I guess they’re afraid of the other kind. I thought I was, too. But you’re so strong. You don’t give; You take. Oh Tommy, I could love you to death.”

Eventually, the fact that Tom's is a criminal comes to a head, when Tom amd his friend Matt attend a family gathering to welcome Mike home. Matt brings a keg of beer, and Mike, who has married Matt’s sister, Molly (Rita Flynn) confronts Tom and tells him just what he thinks of his wayward sibling.

Mike: Do you think I care if there was just beer in that keg? I know what's in it. I know what you've been doing all this time, how you got those clothes and those new cars. You've been telling Ma that you've gone into politics, that you're on the city payroll. Pat Burke told me everything. You murderers! There's not only beer in that jug. There's beer and blood - blood of men!
Tom You ain't changed a bit. Besides, your hands ain't so clean. You killed and liked it. You didn't get them medals for holding hands with them Germans.

The Public Enemy - James Cagney as Tom Powers walking wounded in the rain

In the end, Tom's luck runs out when thugs dump him, beaten, on the doorstep of his horrified family. Finally, Tom falls victim to a gang war and is shot. Stumbling through the rain, Tom collapses in the gutter. His dying words: “I ain’t so tough.”

The Public Enemy - Movie Poster

The Public Enemy - Movie Title Credit

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