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Tuesday July 23rd 2024

Public Enemies | 2009

Public Enemies location: Biograph Theatre, North Lincoln Avenue, Chicago
Public Enemies location: Dillinger is finally gunned down: The Biograph Theatre, North Lincoln Avenue, Chicago

Where to start? 114 locations dressed as the 1930s, scattered around Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin and even California – but no soundstages.

Avoiding the cliches of period drama with the startling immediacy of high-definition video, director Michael Mann turns in more of a mood piece than an action drama (though the shoot-outs are as visceral as you'd expect from the director of Heat).

Mann's potent use of architecture is evident from the word go, with the forbidding 33-feet-tall concrete perimeter of Stateville Correctional Center at Crest Hill, southwest of Chicago, standing in ‘Indiana State Penitentiary’ as John Dillinger (Johnny Depp) and crew break into the prison to spring his associates.

Still in use, this maximum security facility, three miles north of Joliet – and containing the longest cell block in the world – was home to Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb (the murderous couple who inspired Compulsion and Alfred Hitchcock's Rope), and serial killer John Wayne Gacy. Not far away, the interior shots were filmed in the old – and now closed – Joliet Correctional Facility (familiar from the opening of The Blues Brothers).

Public Enemies location: Masonic Temple, Washington Avenue, Oshkosh, Wisconsin
Public Enemies location: the robbery in ‘Racine’: Masonic Temple, Washington Avenue, Oshkosh, Wisconsin | Photograph: flickr/Royal Broil

Two separate locations were also knitted together for the robbery in ‘Racine, Wisconsin’. The exterior really is Wisconsin: it’s the Masonic Temple, 204 Washington Avenue in the city of Oshkosh, in the Fox River Valley on the west shore of Lake Winnebago. The stunning deco interior, though, is the rotunda of the Bridgeview Bank, 4748 North Broadway, at West Lawrence Street, uptown Chicago (CTA: Lawrence, Red Line).

Public Enemies location: Aragon, Lawrence Avenue, Northside, Chicago
Public Enemies location: John Dillinger meets Billie Frechette at the nightclub: The Aragon, Lawrence Avenue, Northside, Chicago

There’s plenty more filming in Oshkosh – but first, more Chicago locations. Also Uptown, just along Lawrence from the Bridgeview Bank, you can find the nightclub in which Dillinger first meets Billie Frechette (Marion Cotillard) as the band plays Bye Bye Blackbird. It’s the Aragon Ballroom, 1106 West Lawrence Avenue at Winthrop Avenue (CTA: Lawrence, Red Line).

Built in 1925, this Spanish-themed fantasia once naturally hosted the big bands such as Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller and Duke Ellington – not to mention Frank Sinatra – before an inevitable decline during the Sixties, when it became a boxing venue, skating rink and a disco. It’s since found a new lease of life as a Latin and rock venue (you could have caught Muse, Marilyn Manson or Franz Ferdinand here recently).

The exterior of the Aragon becomes the cinema at which the Wayne family have been watching The Sword of Zorro in Batman V Superman.

Fans of Gangster era Chicago will want to pop into the Green Mill Tavern, almost opposite the Bridgeview Bank on North Broadway, a favoured hangout of Al Capone himself (see the Tavern on-screen in High Fidelity, with John Cusack).

The ever-forceful Dillinger whisks Frechette off for dinner at a classy restaurant. Sorry to disappoint, but you can't enjoy a meal in this glamorous setting – it’s no more than the side entrance lobby of 135 LaSalle Street – formerly the LaSalle Bank Building. Dating from 1934, this deco joy of multi-coloured marble, polished metal and mirrors could easily pass as the set for an RKO musical. If you visit, you’ll recognise LaSalle Street itself as a familiar backdrop for such Chicago movies as The Untouchables and The Dark Knight.

Public Enemies location: Auditorium Theatre, East Congress Parkway, Chicago
Public Enemies location: Billie Frechette works at the 'Steuben Nightclub': the lobby of the Auditorium Theatre, East Congress Parkway, Chicago | Photograph: Auditorium Theatre, Chicago

Likewise, you won’t be able to dance the night away in the 'Steuben Nightclub’, where Frechette works as hat-check girl. You can see the venue, though, if you catch a production at the Auditorium Theatre, 50 East Congress Parkway at South Michigan Avenue (CTA: Van Buren Street) – it’s the theatre’s lobby. Although you can't bop till you drop, you can watch the best of dance here. The theatre, part of of Roosevelt University, is home to the famed Joffrey Ballet, and also presents Broadway musicals and concerts.

The real Steuben Club, by the way, occupied one of the upper floors of the Randolph Tower, 188 West Randolph Street, across the Loop to the northwest.

There’s a brief flit back to Wisconsin for the ‘Greencastle’ bank robbery, and two more locations blended into one – both of which began life as bank buildings. The imposing, old-style marble interior is now the Milwaukee County Historical Building, 910 North Old World 3rd Street, Milwaukee. The exterior and the getaway, though, is the West James Gallery (formerly the old First National Bank Building), 116 West James Street, in Columbus, in southwestern Wisconsin, 70 miles northwest of Milwaukee.

Another Milwaukee landmark was also drafted in to stand in for Dillinger's ‘Chicago’ apartment building. The striking 1260 North Prospect Avenue, Milwaukee, known as the Art Deco Building, standing on a bluff which overlooks downtown Milwaukee and Lake Michigan.

Wisconsin’s capital, Madison, doubles for ‘Washington DC’, where the FBI HQ (both interior and exterior, for once) of J Edgar Hoover (Billy Crudup) is the Wisconsin State Capitol Building, 2 East Main Street, Madison.

There’s more trickery, with the ‘New Orleans’ scenes, which were shot under the 'el' on Roscoe and Clark, and Wells and Lincoln, in Wrigleyville, north Chicago, and close to the location seen in both The Untouchables and Wanted.

The FBI Chicago office of Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale) is, naturally, the Windy City itself. It’s the 1927 Pittsfield Building, 55 East Washington Street at North Wabash Avenue, where a a specially rented period train rattles past on the ‘el’ just north of Madison/Wabash Station.

Public Enemies location: Union Station, South Canal Street, Chicago
Public Enemies location: Purvis greets the FBI field agents: Union Station, South Canal Street, Chicago

Field Agent Winstead is greeted by Melvin Purvis on his arrival in Chicago at Chicago Union Station, 210 South Canal Street (CTA: Quincy Station; Pink, Brown, Orange and Purple Lines in the Loop). The station’s classical concourse has been seen in plenty of films, including My Best Friend’s Wedding, The Sting and – most famously – Brian De Palma’s operatic gangster epic The Untouchables.

Public Enemies location: Santa Anita Racetrack, West Huntington Boulevard, Arcadia
Public Enemies location: the ‘Florida’ racetrack: Santa Anita Racetrack, West Huntington Boulevard, Arcadia

Illinois, Wisconsin and Indiana are all fairly short on swaying palms, so the scene at Florida’s 'Hialeah Racetrack' had to be filmed over on the West Coast in California. It’s the venerable Santa Anita Park, 285 West Huntington Boulevard, Arcadia, east of Los Angeles. A screen veteran, the racetrack has previously been featured in George Cukor’s classic 1954 A Star Is Born, with Judy Garland and James Mason, and it’s where the Marx Brothers spent A Day At The Races in 1937.

Public Enemies location: The Rogers, East Maple Avenue, Beaver Dam, Wisconsin
Public Enemies location: Dillinger is arrested at the ‘Hotel Congress, Tucson’: The Rogers, East Maple Avenue, Beaver Dam, Wisconsin | Photograph: flickr/ravesrfun21

More locations in Wisconsin: The ‘Hotel Congress’ in ‘Tucson, Arizona’, into which Dillinger and Frechette check, and where he’s subsequently arrested, is an apartment building called The Rogers (which was previously the Rogers Hotel), 103 East Maple Avenue in Beaver Dam, a town on on Highway 151 about 20 miles northeast of Columbus.

The flight transporting Dillinger from ‘Arizona’ back to 'Chicago' in fact never leaves Wisconsin. It’s back to Oshkosh, with the city’s Wittman Regional Airport, 525 West 20th Avenue, standing in for ‘Chicago Midway Airport’. The brick hangar of Basler Flight Services stands in for ‘Midway’, while the white EAA Pioneer Airport Hangar and the Lone Rock Flight Service Station were dressed to provide intermediate stops.

Dillinger’s arraignment at ‘Lake County Court House, Crown Point’ was filmed in the Lafayette County Courthouse, 636 Main Street in Darlington, down in southwest Wisconsin. You can tour the 1905 landmark building to view its marble walls and Tiffany glass rotunda.

Public Enemies location: Lake County Jail, Crown Point, Indiana
Public Enemies location: Dillinger escapes: Lake County Jail, Crown Point, Indiana | Photograph: Jeremy M Farmer

The Lake County Jail, though, from which Dillinger cheekily escapes using a fake wooden gun, is one of the real locations used by the film, this time in Indiana.

On March 3rd 1934, the real Dillinger, as in the film, fled the Old Sheriff's House & Lake County Jail, Crown Point, Indiana, making off in the personal automobile of Sheriff Lillian Holley (Lili Taylor). The front of the building is Sheriff Holley's house, with the jail still existing in the rear – this is where the famous photo of Dillinger leaning on the DA's shoulder was taken.

Public Enemies location: The Paramount, East Galena Boulevard, Aurora, Illinois
Public Enemies location: Dillinger’s mugshot is flashed onto the screen: The Paramount, East Galena Boulevard, Aurora, Illinois | Photograph: The Paramount Theatre

The cinema, in which Dillinger's mugshot is flashed up onscreen and everyone is told to look around for Public Enemy No.1, is the beautiful Paramount Theatre, 23 East Galena Boulevard, Aurora, Illinois. Dating from 1931, The Paramount was commissioned by theater owner JJ Rubens, who sold the company to the Paramount Famous Lasky Corporation before construction.

Public Enemies location: The Paramount, Aurora, Illinois
Public Enemies location: Dillinger’s mugshot is flashed onto the screen: The Paramount, East Galena Boulevard, Aurora, Illinois | Photograph: The Paramount Theatre

With Paramount Pictures owning the design, the theatre was used as a prototype for the movie palaces they built all over the country. It’s been restored to its original glory, as the Paramount Theatre.

Public Enemies location: The Paramount, Aurora, Illinois
Public Enemies location: the ‘Sioux Fall’s robbery: First National Building, North Main Street, Oshkosh, Wisconsin | Photograph: flickr/Royal Broil

It’s briefly back to Oshkosh again, for the 'Sioux Falls' robbery, which is the First National Building, 404 North Main Street. The vaults (not used in the film since they're below ground level) were state-of-the-art for the Thirties, and supposedly robbery-proof.

Public Enemies location: Little Bohemia Lodge, Manitowish Waters, Wsconsin
Public Enemies location: Dillinger and the gang hole up: Little Bohemia Lodge, Manitowish Waters, Wisconsin | Photograph: flickr/js observer

The lodge in the woods, in which Dillinger and the guys hole up, is another real location. It's the Little Bohemia Lodge, Manitowish Waters, Wisconsin. This is the actual hideout raided by the FBI, and the film even uses the original rooms in which Dillinger stayed. The Lodge is still in business, now a restaurant.

From here on, it’s Chicago all the way. The pool hall was an empty property at 1333 West 18th Street, at South Throop Street, on the Lower West Side (CTA: 18th Street; Pink Line).

The 'Tumble Inn' is 435 North Clark Street at Hubbard Street, is where Dillinger sees Frechette arrested (renamed as 'State Street', which is where the incident actually happened).

The final real location is the most famous. It was outside the Biograph Cinema, 2433 North Lincoln Avenue, that John Dillinger was gunned down on July 22nd, 1934, after watching Manhattan Melodrama. The Biograph frontage still remains, only slightly changed, but a whole stretch of Lincoln Avenue was painstakingly returned to its 1934 appearance.

The Biograph itself was purchased by the Victory Gardens Theater company in 2004 and the interior, which was largely stripped out in the 1970s, has been entirely rebuilt to present stage performances.

Public Enemies location: Portage Cinema, North Milwaukee Avenue, Chicago
Public Enemies location: the interior of the famed ‘Biograph’: The Portage Cinema, North Milwaukee Avenue, Chicago

An authentic Chicago movie house, dating from 1920, stands in for the Biograph’s interior. It’s the Portage Cinema, 4050 North Milwaukee Avenue, northwest of the city in the Portage Park area (towards Chris’s Billiards, the pool hall location seen in Martin Scorsese’s The Color of Money). One of the oldest purpose-built cinemas in the city, this 1300-seater has been restored and re-opened, now presenting classic and independent films, and hosting the Chicago Silent Film Festival and portions of the Chicago Polish Film Festival.