Pairings/Characters: John Dillinger, Melvin Purvis
Fandom: Public Enemies
Spoilers: For the movie, natch! :)
Summary: The final scenes at the Biograph are cinematic moviemaking at its best.
Date Of Completion: January 9, 2010
Date Of Posting: July 22, 2010
Disclaimer: I don’t own ‘em, Universal does, more’s the pity.
Word Count: 392
Feedback welcome and appreciated.
Author’s Notes: Written awhile ago but I knew I’d find the right time for it! :) Entered into my 2010 Guns_Fedoras Public Enemies First Anniversary Celebration Fest!!! and posted on the 76th anniversary of John Dillinger’s death at the Biograph. Cross-posted to guns_fedoras.
In a movie with many memorable moments, the scenes at the Biograph Theater in Public Enemies were pure gold in acting, direction, and music. Set design and costuming also shone. The extras on the DVD show the care in which the street scene was dressed, right down to the kinds of goods displayed in the store windows, and the actors appreciated the historical details, helping them get into character. The refurbishment of the Biograph Theater to look exactly like it did on the night of July 22, 1934, was a tremendous help, the brightly-lit marquee the centerpiece of the drama.
And if Hollywood had ever dared to write this scene instead of chronicling real-life events, the poison pens of the critics would have dipped into their sarcastic inkwells and let loose with words like ‘contrived’, ‘implausible’, and ‘unbelievable’.
A gangster goes to see a gangster film starring Clark Gable, while the man nicknamed the Clark Gable of the Bureau waits outside to arrest him?
The gangster film shows us dialogue that mirrors Dillinger’s life, live fast and die quick, don’t drag it out?
(For Mel/Johnny/Billie fans, there’s even an interesting threesome of William Powell/Clark Gable/Myrna Loy.)
The inexorable march toward the end is punctuated by the excellent music score, which built up incrementally while Johnny enjoyed the movie in the cool interior and the cops and agents waited outside in the oppressive heat.
Each character’s actions mirrored their personality: Johnny smirking and confident, enjoying the movie as he loved films; later sensing his danger and turning around to face it, Mel restrained and quiet, struggling with the dark side of this manhunt as he struggles to get past innocent bystanders, appearing to shout a warning to Johnny and doesn’t shoot him; ex-Texas Rangers Charles Winstead and Clarence Hurt let no bystanders stop them as they ultimately take Johnny down with singleminded purpose; cheerful Polly Hamilton blissfully clueless until the end; duplicitous Anna Sage nervously looking around for those she sold out to; Harold Reinecke blustering and seething but ultimately failing; Marty Zarkovich skulking in the shadows with his sleazy Chicago cop colleagues, his double agentry paying off, and the scene of innocent revelry (going to the movies) becoming one of macabre partying (Dillinger’s death) on a steamy Chicago night.
Excellent all the way around.