Tagged: Public Enemies

Dillinger’s Navy Striped Suit in Public Enemies

Johnny Depp as John Dillinger in Public Enemies (2009)

Johnny Depp as John Dillinger in Public Enemies (2009)

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Johnny Depp as John Dillinger, maverick Depression-era bank robber

Chicago, Spring 1934

Film: Public Enemies
Release Date: July 1, 2009
Director: Michael Mann
Costume Designer: Colleen Atwood

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

It’s been quite some time since I’ve visited Public Enemies, the Michael Mann-directed action thriller depicting the life and crimes of Depression-era desperado John Dillinger. The film received mixed to positive reviews upon its release with much of the praise going to Michael Mann’s usual attention to detail as well as Johnny Depp’s performance as the Indiana-born outlaw.

Colleen Atwood’s period costumes are also worthy of attention and praise. High fashion was the signifier of success for Depression-era gangsters, and Dillinger rarely led his gun-toting cronies into a bank without being dressed to the nines.

Even when on the run, such as this scene set not long after Dillinger’s narrow escape from an FBI ambush at the Little Bohemia lodge in Wisconsin, John Dillinger made a consistent effort to dress well. (The film plays with historical accuracy to present its own narrative, pushing Billie Frechette’s arrest to after the Little Bohemia raid; in real life, Billie was arrested on April 9, 1934, two weeks before Melvin Purvis’ federal agents attempted to trap the Dillinger gang at Little Bohemia.) Continue reading

“Pretty Boy” Floyd’s Death in Public Enemies

80 years ago today, Depression-era outlaw Charles Arthur Floyd was shot down by federal agents and local police in a farm outside East Liverpool, Ohio.

Channing Tatum as Charles "Pretty Boy" Floyd in Public Enemies (2009).

Channing Tatum as Charles “Pretty Boy” Floyd in Public Enemies (2009).

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Channing Tatum as Charles “Pretty Boy” Floyd, charismatic but violent Depression-era outlaw

Clarkson, Ohio, October 1934

Film: Public Enemies
Release Date: July 1, 2009
Director: Michael Mann
Costume Designer: Colleen Atwood

Background

After dedicating the majority of my life to researching the Depression-era crime wave that saw guys like John Dillinger, “Pretty Boy” Floyd, and Alvin Karpis roaming the American countryside with the support of the public and the rage of the government, I was elated when I learned that Bryan Burrough’s masterful docu-novel Public Enemies was finally being turned into a film. I wondered how a two-hour movie could capture the intricacies of each colorful individual in each of the various gangs over a two-year period, and I assumed that – like Burrough – director Michael Mann would focus primarily on Karpis, the lone survivor of the original batch of Public Enemies. Continue reading

The Death of John Dillinger – 2009 Style

Johnny Depp as John Dillinger in Public Enemies (2009).

Johnny Depp as John Dillinger in Public Enemies (2009).

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Johnny Depp as John Dillinger, doomed Depression-era bank robber

Chicago, July 1934

Film: Public Enemies
Release Date: July 1, 2009
Director: Michael Mann
Costume Designer: Colleen Atwood

Background

While 1973’s Dillinger took a “just the facts” approach to retelling the life of bank robber John Dillinger (albeit with very exaggerated facts), Michael Mann’s Public Enemies painted the farmboy-turned-criminal as a more mythical figure. This seems to be the trend in recent years.

Forty-some years ago, the cinematic John Dillinger and Clyde Barrow were depicted as Robin Hood-type folk heroes who were cornered by relentless authorities and shot without warning. Continue reading

Dillinger’s Blue Jailbreak Suit in Public Enemies

Johnny Depp behind-the-scenes as John Dillinger in Public Enemies.

Johnny Depp behind-the-scenes as John Dillinger in Public Enemies (2009).

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Johnny Depp as John Dillinger, Depression-era bank robber

Indiana, September 1934

Film: Public Enemies
Release Date: July 1, 2009
Director: Michael Mann
Costume Designer: Colleen Atwood

Background

Once again, the best shots of Dillinger’s attire in this scene from Public Enemies are from production shots, as Michael Mann’s choice of a handheld camera and extreme close-ups just show close details. However, unlike the previous Public Enemies post, Dillinger was nowhere near the incident being portrayed on film.

While Dillinger did indeed engineer the breakout of his prison buddies from the Michigan City Penitentiary on September 26, 1933 – eighty years ago yesterday – he was nowhere to be found on the day in question. Was he being smart by avoiding the situation? Was he scared?

Neither. He was in jail himself.

About a week earlier, Dillinger had managed to smuggle three .45-caliber pistols, likely the gang’s favorite Colt semi-automatics. On September 26, Harry Pierpont and Charley Makley found the marked box with the guns inside. They dug them out and, with eight other yeggs, managed to get out of prison. Unlike the film adaptation, it was relatively bloodless with no fatalities. Some of the prisoners were quickly rounded up and either killed or returned to prison, but the nexus of the Dillinger Gang: Pierpont, Makley, Russell Clark, Walter Dietrich, and John “Red” Hamilton, were now back together again. The only problem was Dillinger himself. Continue reading

Dillinger’s Brown Suit in “Public Enemies”

Johnny Depp behind the scenes as John Dillinger in Public Enemies.

Johnny Depp behind the scenes as John Dillinger in Public Enemies (2009).

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Johnny Depp as John Dillinger, Depression-era bank robber

Tucson, January 1934

Film: Public Enemies
Release Date: July 1, 2009
Director: Michael Mann
Costume Designer: Colleen Atwood

Background

Seventy nine years ago today, on January 25, 1934, noted Midwest bank robber John Dillinger was arrested by a group of small-town cops in Tucson, Arizona. The arrest was notable as the Chicago police had been leading police efforts against the bandit for several months, to the point of assigning an elite team of detectives – dubbed the “Dillinger Squad” – the single task of finding Dillinger.

Public Enemies used photos of Dillinger during his arrest and subsequent interviews to recreate the dark three-piece suit he wore throughout the ordeal. Unfortunately, he ditches his coat and tie early on in the scenes, leaving only a few glimpses in the film and behind-the-scenes photos to get an idea of the full picture of the suit. Continue reading