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The Public Enemy: Cagney’s New Clothes and Car

James Cagney leans on the door of a LaSalle as Tom Powers in The Public Enemy (1931)

James Cagney leans on the door of a LaSalle as Tom Powers in The Public Enemy (1931)

Vitals

James Cagney as Tom Powers, dangerous gangster and bootlegger

Chicago, Spring 1920

Film: The Public Enemy
Release Date: April 23, 1931
Director: William A. Wellman
Costume Designer: Edward Stevenson
Wardrobe Credit: Earl Luick

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

Today is the 86th anniversary of the 21st Amendment that repealed Prohibition, the 13-year ban on the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages in the United States. Even before Prohibition was repealed on December 5, 1933, the wave of organized crime it inspired across the country was a popular subject for movies of the era, with Warner Brothers taking the lead with hits like Little CaesarThe Public Enemy, and Scarface that made stars out of intense actors like Edward G. Robinson and James Cagney.

The latter was particularly renowned for his performance in The Public Enemy, a “ripped-from-the-headlines” tour de force of violence based on an unpublished novel written by two former newspapermen who had witnessed firsthand the impact of Al Capone’s brutal stronghold on Chicago during the beer wars of the roaring ’20s.

As #CarWeek continues, let’s flash back to the Prohibition era as Cagney’s Tom Powers hopes to make an impression with his new tailored suits and shiny new touring convertible. Continue reading