Call#: Van Pelt Library--4 East--Temporary Location Annenberg PN1998.A3 W467 1983
Thompson points out that Wellman did not shy away from making drastic changes to the screen play, which was inspired by the gangster novel Beer and Blood. For instance, Wellman “loved using children to introduce his characters” (111), and insisted that the opening scene portray moments from the gangsters’ childhood. In shooting those scenes, Wellman used a combination of early 20th century stock shots of Chicago and new footage, in order to create a credible visual scene.
Most notably, Thompson points out that in directing the film, Wellman drew inspiration from his personal life. This is particularly true for the film’s infamous “grapefruit scene,” in which Tom Powers smashes a grapefruit in the face of his girlfriend. According to Thompson, Wellman was in the midst of his unstable marriage to Marjorie Crawford. Thompson recounts how each morning, the couple ate a grapefruit breakfast together, and Wellman would imagine throwing the food at her. Wellman added the grapefruit scene to the film in order to vicariously live through Powers’ actions.
Furthermore, Thompson points out that initially, Cagney was not cast for the role of Tom Powers. He was originally granted the secondary role of Matt Doyle. However, Wellman, acting on instinct and at the urging of a number of writers, including production chief Darryl F. Zanuck, became a major advocate for making Cagney into the story’s protagonist.
This excerpt is particularly fundamental to my argument. Significantly, Wellman was responsible for putting Cagney into the role of Tom Powers. As noted in other annotations, Cagney is credited with adding an intensity to The Public Enemy that transcends the screen. Without this last minute switch, the role of the main gangster would be far less memorable.
Additionally, as Thompson notes, Wellman played a heavy hand in shaping the film, taking great care to add a sense of legitimacy and believability to the gangster drama. The ability of Americans to identify with Tom Powers can be largely attributed to Wellman’s efforts. His nuanced editing engendered the empathy that viewers felt for the film’s characters.
Call#: Van Pelt Library PN1995.9.G3 M37 2002
Mason’s piece explains the visual style of The Public Enemy, in addition to the film’s representation of the Hollywood gangster. She analyzes the editing, production, and acting components of the movie, contrasting The Public Enemy to other well known films, particularly Little Caesar.
Mason emphasizes the striking and shocking nature of a number of scenes in the film. She specifically mentions the grapefruit scene, in which Cagney shoves a grapefruit into his girlfriend’s face after they begin to argue over drinking in the morning. The scene incited social and public controversy at the time of its release, but also remains “one of the best remembered scenes in gangster cinema” (17). Mason remarks that the film brims with other memorable scenes, including the final one, in which Powers’ body – bandaged tightly to a stiff board – topples over in his family’s entrance way.
Mason discusses the production of The Public Enemy, noting that its style is fairly “naturalistic” (16). This is largely due to the crisp editing that generates a strong connection between each scene. A significant portion of the film is also shot outdoors, allowing natural light to dominate each scene. The characters, bathed in this natural light, seem more approachable and normal than gangsters in other crime films, such as Little Caesar.
This piece is particularly central to my argument, because it enumerates the reasons why Americans related to the gangster protagonist in The Public Enemy more so than other films. As Mason notes, The Public Enemy is filled with striking, memorable scenes. The unforgettable nature of the scenes allows the moments to resonate with the audience. Viewers are emotionally and mentally impacted by the movie, and are consequently more able to connect and empathize with the characters. Additionally, Mason’s mention of the naturalistic production of the film – evident in the use of natural light and sense of continuity between scenes – further contributes to the audience’s ability to connect with characters and identify with those living in a world of crime.
Dempsey begins his review by comparing Roeg’s film to the source material, Daphne du Maurier’s short story. He blames the film’s “creaky plot” on Du Maurier, who (he claims), “specializes in romantic sludge” (39). Dempsey understands that the film’s weak plot is not the fault of Roeg, so he is not too harsh in his criticism of Roeg’s handling of the plot. He states that, “too often the gears grind when Roeg tries to shift from this old-hat storyline to the subtext of fear and uncertainty that he has built into it” (39). Dempsey actually compliments Roeg for creating a fascinating film from a plot, which he is admittedly not fond of. The saving grace of the film, according to Dempsey, is Roeg, more explicitly, his style. Dempsey writes that, “Roeg’s style pitches us headlong into [John and Laura’s] disorientation” (40). Dempsey allocates most of his review to explaining of Roeg’s style, which Roeg achieves through editing. Dempsey goes so far as to compare Roeg to the famous Russian montage filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein, because Roeg too “lean[s] heavily on editing for his effects” (40). The effect that Roeg produces with montage is the same effect described by James Palmer in his essay, “Seeing, Believing, and “Knowing” in Narrative Film: Don’t Look Now Revisited.” Using montage, Roeg “undercut[s] our total allegiance to reason” (41); in effect, making us mistrust out vision the same way that John mistrusts his. Roeg’s use of montage has the opposite effect of Eisenstein’s, undermining the action, instead of reinforcing it. Dempsey describes, “Roeg’s montage does not say that two shots are connected; it says that they might be” (41). The idea of not knowing, of being forced to puzzle it out, is the essence of Don’t Look Now and is the same theme discussed in Palmer’s essay.
Dempsey’s review, unlike any other analyses of Don’t Look Now that I discovered, features an in-depth analysis of the love-making scene, which is probably the most well-known scene in Don’t Look Now. He argues that, the intercutting of sex shots with shots of the couple getting dressed, “makes the sense doubly erotic-yet also melancholy” (41). We get the sense, from the intercutting, that, “no matter how intense their love or how satisfying their sex may be, John and Laura still cannot save themselves” (41)...