Tuesday, September 4, 2012


Because the book Public Enemies by Bryan Burrough was outstanding, I was filled with great anticipation when I heard that director Michael Mann was going to make the tome into a movie, and with Johnny Depp as John Dillinger.  And then I saw the film on its first day of release and was deeply disappointed that amazing truth had to once more be jazzed up by Hollywood.  Beyond the names of characters, place names for a handful of incidents and a feel for the time period, the movie is historically a joke and it is beyond my comprehension how Burrough could be satisfied with the finished product other than receiving a fat paycheck for the travesty.  A true scholar of the period could probably dismantle the film better than I, but here are some of the glaring inaccuracies that jumped off the screen for me:

*Dillinger is shown assisting in the 1933 Michigan City prison break in person, and yet at the time, he was really behind bars in Lima, Ohio on robbery charges.
*John Hamilton is shown assisting Dillinger in the Michigan City prison break from outside dressed as cop, but at the time of break, Hamilton was a prisoner on the inside.
*Homer Van Meter is shown as one of the prisoners breaking out, but in reality he had already been paroled, and because he and Pierpont hated each other, would not join up with Dillinger until 1934 when Pierpont was back behind bars.
*No huge gun battle in which both guards and prisoners got killed EVER took place during the Michigan City escape.
*Bank robber Walter Dietrich was not killed escaping Michigan City ... he actually went on the lam and committed more crimes until he was recaptured in 1934 ... and he will be paroled in 1948, hardly the history of an already dead man.

*The prisoners at Michigan City did not wear black and white striped uniforms ... the pen colors for Indiana state prisoners was blue.
*As can be seen in the many photographs taken of Dillinger during various arrests, the man did NOT have a long facial scar on the right side of his face as Depp does in the movie, assumingly to make him look "tough.". 
*After the prisoners escaped, there was no stop at a lonely lady's farm for food and a change of clothing ... that took place when Harry Pierpont's girlfriend, Mary Kinder, found the gang shelter later that night.
*Glaringly inaccurate, Charles Arthur "Pretty Boy" Floyd was killed three months AFTER Dillinger's night at the Biograph ... NOT the year before.  And when he was, Floyd was armed with a pistol, NOT a sub-machine gun, he tried to escape into a pocket of trees through an open corn field, NOT an apple orchard with plenty of cover, and while Melvin Purvis was present, he did not fire the shots that brought Floyd down (and having really been killed at Little Bohemia, Agent Carter Baum wasn't there at all). 
*The Dillinger Gang, at least before Baby Face Nelson, did not start bank jobs by assaulting employees and customers ... if provoked they would, but never as their first move upon entry into a bank.
*Homer Van Meter did not team up with Dillinger until after Dillinger escaped from the Crown Point jail ... he was nowhere to be found when Dillinger robbed his first bank with his Michigan City friends at Greencastle, Indiana.
*The Dillinger Gang containing escapees from Michigan City NEVER got into any gun battles with police during their bank robberies ... or blasted their way out of town shooting off Tommy guns from their escape vehicle.
*The hearing where Hoover was embarrassed in Washington D.C. about never making an arrest took place after Dillinger and his gang had already been smashed (1934) and led directly to the FBI Director's supposed arrest of outlaw Alvin Karpis in 1936.
*Melvin Purvis was placed in charge of the Chicago office of the Bureau of Investigation by Hoover in 1932 while Dillinger and his cohorts were still in the Michigan City Prison ... NOT AFTER THE BREAKOUT!
*Hoover didn't pump Purvis to the press ... before or after Dillinger was killed ... he wanted to face of the Bureau to be his!
*The meetings that took place between Dillinger and Karpis took place after the Little Bohemia raid when Dillinger was trying to find a safe place to treat his wounded friend, John Hamilton ... not in Chicago immediately after the Michigan City breakout.
*Dillinger was not made the first Public Enemy #1 until AFTER he escaped from Crown Point in 1934 ... certainly not during the period of the Racine, Wisconsin robbery in 1933 when Pierpont was actually running the gang.
*Public encounter where Dillinger is violent with a man wanting his coat while talking to Billie Frechette never happened.
*The Chicago encounter where Baby Face Nelson kills an FBI agent outside the apartment he is hiding in while Purvis goes for help NEVER happened!
*The arrest of Dillinger in Tucson did not take place in a hotel room while the outlaw was distracted by his girlfriend Billie taking a bath ... the Tucson cops grabbed Dillinger when he went to visit the location where Russell Clark was staying and had been arrested earlier in the day.
*The gang was in the custody of the Tucson police for several days ... Pierpont, Makley, and Clark were not sent to Ohio the same day they were caught as is depicted in the film.
*In the film there is NO Russell Clark ... one of the Michigan City escapees, core member of the first Dillinger Gang, the man that got a life sentence for his part in the Sheriff Jesse Sarber murder that sprung Dillinger from the Lima, Ohio jail, the man who along with Makley bribed firemen to rescue their luggage from a burning hotel that led to the Tucson police capturing the gang, the man Dillinger was going to visit when he was arrested in Tucson ... yeah, Clark wasn't an important character at all, but Eddie Shouse who is kicked out of the gang almost immediately for drinking and hitting on Dillinger's girlfriend, he is shown as being in the gang all the way to Little Bohemia ... GIVE ME A BREAK!!!!!!!!!
                   Russell Lee Clark
*Dillinger was escorted to Crown Point by over two hundred cops ... including the one in the car that had a shotgun trained on the outlaw and was hoping to use it ... he sat quietly like a statue the whole ride to Crown Point so as not to give his guard an excuse for shooting him ... there was no waving to crowds of citizens that WEREN'T lining the streets in the freezing cold!
*Very little brutalizing of the guards took place during Dillinger's escape from Crown Point ... and unlike the way the movie depicts it, a guard was not sent head over heels down a flight of stairs.
*During the escape, Dillinger took great pains to keep his wooden gun behind his victims where they couldn't see it ... that howver is not the case in Depp's and Mann's recreation of the event.
*Dillinger took over a dozen individuals hostage escaping from the Crown Point jail, but Mann did not believe audiences would find that truth credible so he cut the number back to a more manageable number of seven.
*Unlike in the movie where it is implied that the FBI is chasing Dillinger from the Michigan City breakout, the transportation of Sheriff Lillian Holley's car over state lines as part of the Crown Point escape is when the Feds actually went after the outlaw.
*Dillinger didn't call his girlfriend Billie Frechette with the FBI listening when he escaped from Crown Point ... he met her at his lawyer's office and they were together again from then until her arrest in Chicago in April of 1934.
*Gun drawn Dillinger confrontation with Frank Nitti gangsters NEVER took place!
*Tommy Carroll was not mortally wounded during the Sioux Falls bank robbery and then tortured by the FBI to give up the whereabouts of the gang, resulting in the Little Bohemia debacle ... Carroll died as a result of a shootout with police in Waterloo, Iowa ... AFTER LITTLE BOHEMIA!  The outlaw who was shot and then tortured by the FBI to give information on the gang, though nothing dealing with Little Bohemia, was Eddie Green ... another character not shown in the movie.
*After the Sioux Falls robbery the gang did not flee directly to the Little Bohemia Lodge ... before that happened there was a shootout in St. Paul, Green's killing in St. Paul, the Mason City robbery, and Billie Frechette's arrest.
*Dillinger was shot in right shoulder at Mason City ...not in the arm at Sioux Falls.
*The Little Bohemia raid might be the biggest travesty of the entire movie ... a debacle in which the ENTIRE Dillinger Gang escaped while the FBI killed an innocent civilian and had one of its members murdered by Baby Face Nelson, it is instead depicted as a triumph for the Feds that leaves Dillinger alone and vulnerable.  Here is the BOLOGNA:
@There was NO protracted gun battle ... after hearing the Feds fire on the civilians, the gang let loose with a volley from their positions within the Lodge and then fled.
@Eddie Shouse, not only was not killed at Little Bohemia ... he wasn't even in the gang by that time ... he'd been kicked out in '33 and was back in jail by the time of the FBI raid.
@Homer Van Meter was not killed at Little Bohemia ... he died a month after Dillinger, in August of 1934 in St. Paul ... and Purvis had nothing to do with the death.
@John Hamilton was not killed at Little Bohemia ... attempting to reach St. Paul the next day with Dillinger and Van Meter, in a running gun battle with police Hamilton took a wound in the back that turned septic and he died in agony days later ... and there is also a school of thought that while wounded fleeing Little Bohemia, he survived and lived out his life in hiding in Canada (the story his family now tells) ... and of course, Purvis had nothing to do with the death and neither did Charles Winstead.
@Baby Face Nelson was not killed at Little Bohemia ... after the deaths of Dillinger and Pretty Boy Floyd, he lived long enough to replace them as the country's Public Enemy #1 ... the most wanted bandit in the country until November when though hit seventeen times, the mortally wounded gunman killed FBI agents Herman Hollis and Sam Cowley in Barrington, Illinois ... while Purvis was back at the FBI office in Chicago.
@There is no known instance of Baby Face Nelson EVER doing an impersonation of James Cagney saying "You dirty rat!"
@Carter Baum was not waylaid on a forest road and killed by Baby Face Nelson ... along with two other officers, he was ambushed by Nelson when the trio pulled into the Little Star Lodge to investigate rumors about a car being stolen nearby.
*Billie Frechette's arrest at a bar in Chicago, with Dillinger waiting for her outside, took place before Little Bohemia ... NOT AFTER ... and when it went down, Dillinger did not get out of his car with a weapon in his hand while debating with himself whether or not to attempt a rescue of his girlfriend!
*Purvis did not threaten to have Anna Sage deported within 48 hours if she did not cooperate with the Feds.
*Agent Winstead actually was brought to Chicago to assist with the Dillinger hunt AFTER Little Bohemia ... and in no way did he postulate that Dillinger would go to the Biograph instead of the Marbro based on the outlaw probably preferring Gable to Shirley Temple.
*Dillinger was sometimes in the same building as the police that were hunting for him, but their department was on another floor ... and there is NO known instance of the bandit walking into the office where the Dillinger Squad conducted business and asking how the Cubs game was going.
*The timepiece Dillinger carried at his death contained a picture of Polly Hamilton ... NOT Billie Frechette.
*The scenes showing Myrna Loy in closeup in Manhattan Melodrama took place throughout the film ... not in a montage as is portrayed in Public Enemies.
*There are MANY accounts that claim Purvis was so nervous about confronting the outlaw, fumbling with his matches, that he never got his cigar lit to signal his men to close in on Dillinger.
*If Dillinger wasn't dead when he hit the ground at the head of the alley, he was within seconds of the event ... and whether he was or wasn't, there was certainly NO exchange between the outlaw and Winstead regarding giving Billie a message in prison regarding the song Bye Bye Blackbird ... COMPLETE NONSENSE!!!!!!!!
*The heroic Purvis of the movie was nowhere to be found in reality after Dillinger was killed ... by his own account, the shooting and ghoulish souvenir hunters dipping objects in the dead bandit's blood caused Purvis to throw-up in the alley.
*While Purvis was giving details of the action that brought down Dillinger to the press, the agent that actually called Hoover to tell him his men had taken out Dillinger was Samuel Cowley! 

Watch the movie if you wish, but when you do, know that you are viewing a huge load of malarkey!

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