Nov 20

One of my favorite films we saw this semester was the public enemy starring James Cagney. It was said that this film set the precedent for modern crime films and set up a new genre called the “gangster movie”. Wellman did a great job on showing how Tom Powers progressed from a small time criminal to the lead “Gangster”. This film didn’t make as much of an impact on me because it is a different time, but for the people that lived in the early 1930’s it opened their eyes to a new type of criminal and a new type of genre.

To me I felt this movie was quite comical at times and I felt that some parts weren’t as serious as they should have been. But I also feel that there was more violence in this film than most in that era and the audience was not used to the killing as much as our generation of film is. Even though that the film wasn’t gory and there wasn’t a lot of blood, I think just the idea of killing was too much for the time period.

The modern day “gangster movies” that this film inspired are on a long list filled with highly respected directors, actors and of course films in general. I feel that Tom Powers is compatible with Jimmy Conway (Robert Deniro) from “Goodfellas.” Tom and Jimmy both went off and killed a great deal of people by the end of their tirades and both were “neutralized” (killed/jailed) at the end of the film.

Also I feel that William Wellman knew that society wasn’t ready for such a dynamic criminal so it was only right that he had to have Tom Powers killed in the end. The time was not ready for a criminal to get past the system and be looked at as the “good guy”. As we all know modern day gangster movies have us all kind of rooting for the bad guys to get away with everything, and in the 1930’s America wasn’t ready and wasn’t socially stable enough to do that. Therefore William Wellman indirectly kept the peace in our nation, while starting up a huge criminal phenomenon that millions of people love today.

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