Indiana has consistently captured the attention of Hollywood with its legendary athletic figures and traditions. Such films as Knute Rockne: All-American, The Crowd Roars, Breaking Away, and Hoosiers have lent a glamour to Hoosier sports once reserved for its gangsters. Gangster pictures were all the rage in the twenties and early thirties, until they were brought to a halt in 1934 by Hollywood’s Production Code (or Hays Code) standards, prompted, in part, by the national crime epidemic.
Ironically, the era’s top-ranking thug will enjoy new life on the silver screen thanks to a film set to begin production in March 2008. Actor Johnny Depp will play Hoosier native John Dillinger in a movie based on Bryan Burrough’s 2005 book “Public Enemies: America’s Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933-1934.” The film is set to be shot in Chicago.
The nation’s first criminal to be declared Public Enemy Number One, John Dillinger was born in Indianapolis in 1903, moving to Mooresville as a teenager. Having spent most of his twenties serving time for a botched grocery store hold-up, Dillinger managed to pull off some of the most spectacular heists of the early 1930s. His nefarious existence did not preclude a popular escapist pastime, however; Dillinger spent his last evening at the movies. Emerging from Chicago’s Biograph Theatre on the evening of July 22, 1934, Dillinger was gunned down by FBI agents who’d been tipped off by his female companion.
He’d just screened Manhattan Melodrama, a moralistic crime story starring Clark Gable, who was said to bear a glancing resemblance to Dillinger. Manhattan Melodrama belonged to a new breed of a crime pictures conforming to Hays Code standards. Resulting, in part, from the very mayhem Dillinger had spawned, the code had been in effect since 1930, but was only seriously enforced after July 1, 1934.