Public Hero ﹟1

Public Hero ﹟1 is a 1935 American crime film starring Lionel Barrymore, Jean Arthur, Chester Morris and Joseph Calleia. The Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer production was directed by J. Walter Ruben.

Public Hero ﹟1
Directed byJ. Walter Ruben
Produced byLucien Hubbard
Screenplay byWells Root
Based onStory by J. Walter Ruben
and Wells Root
StarringLionel Barrymore
Jean Arthur
Chester Morris
Joseph Calleia
Music byEdward Ward
CinematographyGregg Toland, A.S.C.
Edited byFrank Sullivan
Distributed byMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • May 31, 1935 (1935-05-31)
Running time
89 minutes
CountryUnited States


Undercover FBI agent Jeff Crane (Chester Morris) is planted in the same prison as Sonny Black (Joseph Calleia), who is suspected of belonging to the notorious Purple Gang. Jeff helps Sonny escape in the hope that he will lead Jeff back to the rest of the gang.

Sonny is seriously wounded during the escape, and makes his way to his home in central Wisconsin. He sends Jeff for Dr. Josiah Glass (Lionel Barrymore), an alcoholic who has saved the lives of many of the gang members. In his rush, Jeff forces a bus off the road during a late-night rainstorm. One of the passengers, Maria Theresa "Terry" O'Reilly (Jean Arthur), gets him to take the stranded people back to town. However, he refuses Terry's persistent requests that he drive her to her destination, only a few miles away.

Jeff finds Dr. Glass, but has to wait, as the storm has made a bridge impassible. During that time, he and Terry become acquainted. He learns that she is going to see her brother "Dinkie". She has not seen him in many years, and he has refused to respond to her letters about an inheritance from their uncle. Jeff is shocked when he sees a photograph of her brother: Dinkie is Sonny. Terry is unaware of Sonny's criminal activity.

When Jeff takes Dr. Glass to Sonny, Terry stows away in the car. She meets Sonny, and learns that he is the subject of a nationwide manhunt. However, family ties are strong, and she helps nurse him back to health. Later, when Sonny slaps Terry for persistently trying to persuade him to turn himself in, Jeff cannot control himself. He punches Sonny. Sonny angrily orders Jeff and Terry to leave, at gunpoint.

Jeff's boss, Special Agent James Duff (Paul Kelly), had warned Jeff not to get involved with Terry. The whole operation seems to be ruined, so Duff fires Jeff.

However, Jeff has an idea. Knowing that the gang is planning to strike that day, he tricks Dr. Glass into taking him to their hideout, a roadhouse named Little Paree. He notifies Duff, and a fierce gunfight ensues. All of the gang members are killed except Sonny, who escapes. A dying Dr. Glass confirms that Sonny was the boss.

Weeks go by, but Sonny eludes capture. A newspaper publishes photographs of Sonny and Jeff side by side—one captioned "Public Enemy No. 1", and the other "Public Hero No. 1". Duff and Jeff learn that Sonny has undergone plastic surgery. Knowing that he must be out of money, they have his sister watched at the vaudeville theater where she is the cashier. They also place an advertisement supposedly from Terry offering to help Dinkie. Sure enough, he approaches her for money and is spotted. Terry warns him, but he is gunned down in an alley by Jeff.

Afterwards, Terry wants nothing to do with her brother's killer. However, Jeff corners her on a train and they reconcile.



New York Times film critic Andre Sennwald called Public Hero ﹟1 "a rattling good show, equally effective in its snarling violence and in its humor",[2] and cited Joseph Calleia's portrayal of the gunman as one of the year's ten best male performances.[3] Writing for The Spectator, Graham Greene described the film as "a conventional but exciting film" and gave specific praise for the acting skills of Chester Morris and Lionel Barrymore whom Greene suggested had given "one of the best performances of his career". Greene's only criticism for the film was that its romantic situation had "spoilt … the realistic subject of 'men on a job'".[4]

Home media

On October 13, 2015, Public Hero ﹟1 was released on Region 1 DVD (manufactured on demand) by the Warner Archive Collection.[5][6]


Public Hero ﹟1 was remade in 1941 as The Get-Away, starring Robert Sterling, Dan Dailey and Donna Reed. Edward Buzzell directed the MGM film, which was produced by J. Walter Ruben, director of the original film.[1]

See also


  1. "Public Hero No. 1". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. American Film Institute. Retrieved 2015-11-12.
  2. Sennwald, Andre (June 8, 1935). "Movie Review: Public Hero No. 1". The New York Times. Retrieved 2015-11-10.
  3. Sennwald, Andre (January 5, 1936). "Best Ten, More or Less". The New York Times. Retrieved 2015-11-10.
  4. Greene, Graham (19 July 1935). "Becky Sharp/Public Hero No. 1/Barcarole". The Spectator. (reprinted in: Taylor, John Russell, ed. (1980). The Pleasure Dome. p. 8. ISBN 0192812866.)
  5. "Public Hero Number 1 (1935)". Warner Bros. Retrieved 2015-11-22.
  6. "Public Hero Number 1 (1935)". TCM Shop. Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 2015-11-22.
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