The Public Enemy Era

Bank Robbers, Bootleggers
and National Heroes

Between the years 1931-1935, the American public became fixated on the outlaws and lowlifes that made robbing banks look like public spectacles. The likes of John Dillinger, Bonnie and Clyde, Ma Barker and Pretty Boy Floyd all became national celebrities due to their over the top “hijinks” and larger than life personalities. These “outlaw celebrities” carried out most of their criminal activity in the Midwest, robbing small time banks centered around Chicago, a city known for its criminal activity due to the mob warfare between Al Capone’s Chicago outfit and Bugs Moran and his North Side Gang. Capone’s rapport with the media had begun in the twenties when the mob boss would publicly flaunt his wealth, becoming a national celebrity in the process; this relationship with the media continued into the thirties when Bonnie Parker would send in photos of her exploits with Clyde Barrow, fueling the fascination with the “Romeo and Juliet” of the crime world.

PNP252335 Bonnie and Clyde, 1934 (b/w photo)</BR>Peter Newark American Pictures
PNP252335 Bonnie and Clyde, 1934 (b/w photo)
Peter Newark American Pictures

PNP249287 Warren Oates (1928-82) in the title role and Michelle Philips (b.1944) as Billie Frechette in 'Dillinger', 1973 (b/w photo)</BR>Peter Newark American Pictures
PNP249287 Warren Oates (1928-82) in the title role and Michelle Philips (b.1944) as Billie Frechette in 'Dillinger', 1973 (b/w photo)
Peter Newark American Pictures

PNP249292 Edward G. Robinson (1893-1973) as Rico Bandello in the film 'Little Caesar', 1931 (b/w photo)</BR>Peter Newark American Pictures
PNP249292 Edward G. Robinson (1893-1973) as Rico Bandello in the film 'Little Caesar', 1931 (b/w photo)
Peter Newark American Pictures

PNP252334 Roadhouse sign in Indiana welcoming John Dillinger, 1933 (b/w photo)</BR>Peter Newark American Pictures
PNP252334 Roadhouse sign in Indiana welcoming John Dillinger, 1933 (b/w photo)
Peter Newark American Pictures

The exploits of John Dillinger dominated the attention of the American press; some considered Dillinger to be a dangerous criminal but most idolized him as a sort of Robin Hood, an agent against the evil banks that brought about the Great Depression. This love affair with outlaws originated in the heightening dissatisfaction with big business, government officials and capitalism. The likes of Dillinger, Bonnie and Clyde provided the American public with a sense of living vicariously through these renegade outlaws, up to and including their "glamourous deaths." In Hollywood and in the American psyche, we continue to be fascinated by gangsters of the public enemy era. Bridgeman represents Peter Newark American Pictures, a fantastic archive for movie stills, mugshots, wanted posters and more.

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