Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Reel People: Johnny Depp is John Dillinger

The film is Public Enemies, directed by Michael Mann, based on the non-fiction book Public Enemies: America's Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933-34 by Bryan Burrough.

John Dillinger

John Dillinger was born June 22, 1903 in Indianapolis, Indiana. The son of a grocer, who was known to punish John with stern physical punishment. When his mother died in 1907 his older sister Audrey (born 1889) helped raise him.

John's father remarried in 1912. His dad and step-mother had three children.

By the age of 16, John dropped out of school and began working at a machine shop. John was known to stay out late at night, getting in various forms of trouble, such as stealing coal from freight cars, and who knows what else. John's father's concern led him to sell their property in Indianapolis and move to a more rural setting of Moorseville, Indiana.

John Dillinger became in trouble with the law after an auto theft incident. Despite the rural community John continued to get in trouble and have issues with his father, so he solved his problems by enlisting in the Navy...but got in trouble after deserting a ship shortly after enlisting while it was landed in Boston.

John returned back to Moorseville, and married Beryl Ethel Hovious in April 12, 1924. John and his new wife moved back to his previous home of Indianapolis.

John met Ed Singleton, a pool shark and together they coordinated a grocery store robbery. They were arrested. Singleton plead not guilty and in court got two years. Dillinger, at the advise of his father please guilty and got 10 to 20 year sentence. This made him very bitter. His wife Beryl also divorced him during his time prison (in 1929).

After 8 1/2 years, on May 10, 1933 Dillinger was paroled from prison where he immediately robbed a bank in Ohio, he was arrested and on his person the police also found information that looked like it related to a prison break. Dillinger was held in prison in Lima, Ohio.

Four days later 12 prisoners from Indiana State Prison with smuggled in guns. And then on October 12, 1933, three of those prisoners and a parolee came to rescue Dillinger out of the Ohio prison. These men (Harry Pierpont, Russell Clark, Charles Makley, and Harry Copeland) pretending to be parole officers coming to return Dillinger to Indiana police custody. The sheriff of the jail was killed in the incident, Dillinger escaped while a deputy and the sheriff's wife were locked up in a cell.

At this point the crime spree began with Dillinger forming a gang of men who became involved in a series of bank robberies and acquired vast amounts of weapons.

While in Tuscon, Arizona in January 1934 a fire broke out in a hotel and firemen recognized Dillinger and some of the men, who were arrested and Dillinger was again in an Indiana jail that was said to be "escape proof" but in March of 1934 Dillinger got out of jail by convincing the guards he had a gun, although he claimed later it was a wooden gun he had widdled in his cell. The guards ended up locked up in the cell, Dillinger took machine guns and escaped.

Dillinger stole a police car and headed towards Chicago. Because Dillinger committed an interstate transportation theft crossing the state line of Indiana and Illinois Dillinger suddenly committed a federal crime that warranted FBI involvement.

From Chicago, Dillinger with his girlfriend Evelyn Frechette, headed to St. Paul where he joined up with other criminals like Homer Van Meter, Tommy Carroll and "Baby Face Nelson" among others.

March 30, 1934 the FBI tracked down Dillinger and his associates in St. Paul, but Dillinger escaped with bullet wound but alive. He and Evelyn headed to Mooresville to seek shelter with John's father and step-brother. When Frechette went to Chicago to meet a friend she was arrested by the FBI and sentenced to prison for harboring a wanted criminal.

After further incidents involving Dillinger in Wisconsin, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover placed Special Agent Samuel A. Cowley in charge of catching Dillinger. Cowley located his office in Chicago where he worked with Melvin Purvis who was in charge of the FBI's Chicago office.

In July 1934 Anna Sage (Anna Cumpanas), a prostitute who was in the process of being deported to her home country of Romania offered to help the FBI if they helped her remain in the United States. Cowley and Purvis cautiously proceeded with Anna Sage's tip, which led them to know that Dillinger was having relations with Polly Hamilton, one of her friends.

Anna Sage led the FBI men to know that John, Polly, and Anna would attend the the Biograph Theater the following night (July 22) to see Clark Gable in "Manhattan Melodrama." Anna wore an orange dress as promised to help the FBI to identify her and Dillinger (because of the lighting making her dress look red Anna is often refered to as the "Lady in Red").

The FBI men cautiously waited outside the theater, and as he left the theater that night 5 shots were fired by three FBI agents (Charles Winstead, Clarence Hurt, and Herman Hollis). Dillinger was transported to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Public Enemies

In the film, Johnny Depp plays the title role of Dillinger. The film co-stars Christian Bale who plays Melvin Purvis, the Chicago FBI man, while Richard Short plays Sam Cowley, and Billy Crudup plays J. Edgar Hoover. Leelee Sobieski plays Polly and Branka Katic plays Anna Sage.

The film features a variety of other star talent in various roles: Giovanni Ribsi, Channing Tatum, Marion Cotillard, and Emilie de Ravin.

It is certainly hard to tell if this film will be the type of film Oscar and critics get excited for, especially with it's Summer Blockbuster style release. But Michael Mann has an interesting track record with the academy, also attracting attention for his films, while others are ignored.

Johnny Depp's role in this film is certain to attract attention in this high profile film. Having received three Oscar nominations this decade it's hard to ignore that the Academy is interested in Depp and his performances. Will Depp's portrayal of this famous criminal earn Depp an Oscar nomination/win for portraying this Real (Reel) Person?


Lorna said...

Let's hope so. I really like Giovanni Ribisi, but I don't know if it's because he's a great actor or because he played such a great role in Friends.

RC said...

@ lorna, Ribisi's role in friends in my favorite too.

No Bad Movies said...

This is pure popcorn fare for summer fun. I have heard the film is good not great. I don't think Public Enemeis will be attached with any Oscar nods but that dopesn't mean you can't enjoy it.

RC said...

@ moviefreak, sort of like that popcorn flick Pirates of The Caribbean that didn't get any nods -- correction, they love Johnny Depp so he received an Oscar nod...crazy?

They love Michael Mann too (sometimes) so who knows.

Anyways...I had to include a John Dillinger post in the real people one is excluded :-)

Alex said...

I can't wait for this pic. I love just about anything JD does and I especially like a good gangster flick.

brian said...

I am a big fan Michael Mann fan, so believe me when I say I wanted this movie to be great. It was not.

Very average. I was always aware I was watching a movie and Depp seems miscast. He's just not menacing enough.

I would describe it as "Heat with hats."