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PUBLIC ENEMY: Why does everyone talk about the grapefruit?


Paul F.
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I have been wondering as to why everyone talks about James Cagney pushing a grapefruit into Mae Clarke's face in PUBLIC ENEMY, considering the horrible murders that take place in this film! There is one scene where Cagney coldly shoots his old friend to death while the man is playing the piano; the camera discreetly moves away before this happens (today, they would show it in the most gruesome detail). And then there is the gruesome ending of the film in which we see what happened to Cagney's character, which I will not spoil (I feel for his poor mother). Yet it was not these scenes that endured, but the GRAPEFRUIT! Maybe this is because it is more pleasant to dwell on this scene which is not one of horrible violence and which can even be seen as humorous. It was interesting to find out that Mae Clarke wasn't in most of the film! Some might say that this film glorified being a gangster. I don't think so! If anything, it showed how you can end up if you live that life.  


 

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That grapefruit scene seemingly being the most memorable in that film is probably because since the advent of the cinema, how many times have audiences watched someone being blown away by gunfire, and yet how many times have you seen some guy push a grapefruit in some woman's face? It was the uniqueness of the scene, ya see. 

 

(...hell for THAT matter dude, in the REAL world and especially in THIS gun-obsessed country, I'll bet there are THOUSANDS of people being blown away by gunfire for every woman OR man who's had a freakin' grapefruit pushed in their face, RIGHT???!!!)   ;)

 

LOL

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Yet it was not these scenes that endured, but the GRAPEFRUIT! 

 

 

It symbolizes the rebellious tough-guy character that Cagney played--

There's not as much iconic about Public Enemy's plot to distinguish it from The Roaring Twenties or Angels With Dirty Faces on an iconic-scene famous-movie compilation (like TCM's "100 Years of Movies"), and at least White Heat has "Top of the world, Ma!" to fall back on.

If he'd slapped her for what she'd said, he'd be a jerk, but if it was a sour grapefruit in the kisser, she'd have "had it coming".

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Because grapefruit provides many essential nutrients.

 

Now, as I recall here DGF, in that flick Mae didn't have the look of someone deficient in vitamin-C.

 

(...nope, now maybe vitamin-D or maybe even Riboflavin, but certainly not vitamin-C)

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How would it have looked if Cagney took the olive out of a martini and shoved that in Mae Clarke's face? Now you know why it's a grapefruit.

 

(Actually my understanding is that Cagney and Clarke did it as a practical joke one take and it worked out so well that they kept that take in the movie.)

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   Several reasons folks! During that early era of "The Studio-System" men on screen simply didn't get rough w/the ladies, that is until "'Mr Dynamite" as Virginia Mayo always called him came around *James (Francis) Cagney-(l899-l986)-(TRIVIA: WB's used to try & lie & say he was born in 1904 instead, *Jim quickly straightened that out   He hated phony business, like fellow "Irish Mafia" "The Boys Club" leader *Spencer Tracy.

"Studio-System"-(l925-l960) as perfect as it was, it's publicity dept was very corrupt at time

They always insisted NATALIE was 5'3. when all knew she was barely 5'0 at best? & many, many other tricks were up the sleeves

 

She (Clarke) kept a huge poster in her room until she passed away. As did Fat Wray in regards to "Kong"

 

However, all can attest soon as the footage/take was over *Cagney was all over them apologizing

 

He really through her around the the vintage comedy from 1933 "Lady Killer" (***) & maybe also "Bonde Crazy?"

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   Several reasons folks! During that early era of "The Studio-System" men on screen simply didn't get rough w/the ladies, that is until 'Mr Dynamo" came around *James (Francis) Cagney-(l899-l986)-(TRIVIA: WB's used to try & lie & say he was born in 1904 instead, *Jim quickly straightened that out   He hated phony business, like fellow "Irish Mafia" "The Boys Club" leader *Spencer Tracy.

 

She (Clarke) kept a huge poster in her room until she passed away. as did Fat Wray in regards to "Kong"

 

However, all can attest soon as the footage/take was over *Cagney was all over them apologizing

 

He really through her around the the vintage comedy from 1933 "Lady Killer" (***)

 

 

C'mon, you can proofread your posts.  It's inconsiderate to make people struggle through all the misspellings and difficult grammar.

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In the original script, Gallagher was going to smash a watermelon over her head.

 

Who's Gallagher? You mean Tom Powers?

 

The only character named Gallagher that I know from a 1931 was Loretta Young in Platinum Blonde but it's a little difficult to confuse her with Jimmy Cagney.

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Because it is so iconic...it resonates with the Cagney character in the movie and it is so spontaneous.  No set up, not inkling, just the grapefruit. Why the grapefruit?, who knows but it couldn't happen to a nicer fruit. 

 

Mom always had grapefruits for breakfast....in those days it was Corn Flakes, Rice Krispies at our house with toast and because orange juice had to be made grapefruit was the best option...plus one fed two kids.

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I thought mostly because, if you notice, the grapefruit was at hand.

 

Otherwise he'd have had to reach across the table or over to the other side to get ahold of something more substantial.

 

And because the grapefruit scene is about the ONLY "violence" in the movie that WASN'T fake.

 

I mean, none of the BULLETS were real, were they?  ;)

 

 

Sepiatone

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And because the grapefruit scene is about the ONLY "violence" in the movie that WASN'T fake.

 

I mean, none of the BULLETS were real, were they?  ;)

 

 

Sepiatone

 

Yes, the bullets were real. Cagney wrote in his autobiography about some real bullets just missed his head in one scene while making the film. Sounds crazy, I know, but that's how they did it in those days, apparently, before safety concerns for cast and crew became more strictly enforced.

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Yes, the bullets were real. Cagney wrote in his autobiography about some real bullets just missed his head in one scene while making the film. Sounds crazy, I know, but that's how they did it in those days, apparently, before safety concerns for cast and crew became more strictly enforced.

 

Yep. Doesn't TCM occasionally run a tribute short to Jimmy where this issue of live ammunition is mentioned, and the clip shown while this is mentioned is of Cagney ducking back behind the corner of some building just before real machine gun fire is shown chipping away at it?

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Yep. Doesn't TCM occasionally run a tribute short to Jimmy where this issue of live ammunition is mentioned, and the clip shown while this is mentioned is of Cagney ducking back behind the corner of some building just before real machine gun fire is shown chipping away at it?

 

Here's a shot of Cagney on the set for the ambush scene that was about to be shot. The bullets that will rip off the corner of the building near Cagney's head were real.

 

public+enemy+on+set+by+robin.jpg

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William Wellman the director said he had always wanted to hit his ex wife in the kisser with a grapefruit, but figured he would pay for it in the divorce. So when he directed "Public Enemy" Mae got the fruit by proxy. Wellman said he had also considered a omelet but went with the grapefruit....That was according to Wellman...

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Yes, the bullets were real. Cagney wrote in his autobiography about some real bullets just missed his head in one scene while making the film. Sounds crazy, I know, but that's how they did it in those days, apparently, before safety concerns for cast and crew became more strictly enforced.

OK , maybe I should amend that to read that none of the actors really got SHOT.

 

 

Sepiatone

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William Wellman the director said he had always wanted to hit his ex wife in the kisser with a grapefruit, but figured he would pay for it in the divorce. So when he directed "Public Enemy" Mae got the fruit by proxy. Wellman said he had also considered a omelet but went with the grapefruit....That was according to Wellman...

I wonder whether grapefruit sales increased after the release of PUBLIC ENEMY.

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