By: Gabe Brown

My perception of The Public Enemy is that it is, first and foremost, a fascinating piece of propaganda.  It’s release date, in 1931, put it shortly after the start of the Great Depression and the rise of organized crime powers throughout the nation.  In both its opening and conclusion, the film specifically allies itself with the cause of raising public activism against organized crime.  Irishmen are very obviously associated with gang activity in the film, despite several characters who sport the stereotypical brogue who are on the far opposite end of the spectrum.  The devotion of lead James Cagney’s character (Tom Powers) to his mother (Ma Powers, played by Beryl Mercer) and closest friends is also an extension of the stereotypical Irish character.  That is to say, he is fiercely loyal to her, even to the point of hiding his own questionable deeds from her.  On her part, Ma Powers refuses to see him as anything but her “baby boy” and is happy to accept money from him without questioning its origins. Continue reading