The more intriguing mystery of “The Public Enemy” is the department store used in the early part of the film.
Recall that our young ruffians run through an unidentified department store, committing all sorts of mischief and aggravated mopery. One of the most prominent elements of the sequence is a set of three-story escalators that provide our incorrigible lads with a means of escaping the law.
First there’s a chase sequence:
And then we get to the escalators:
Women in c. 1900 dresses ride a set of escalators.
Our mystery building also has elevators.
At the top of the escalators, we find elevators.
A police officer gets off the elevator.
Our young miscreants make their escape!
A three-story escalator. Hm.
A reverse angle shows more of the store.
It seems logical to infer that Warners used a department store that would fit with the 1909 period in filming this sequence in 1931.
The list of such department stores includes:
- Hamburger’s/May Co. (8th and Broadway) 1906. Operated by the May Co., 1923
- The Fifth Street Store (5th and Broadway) 1921.
June 22, 1924: Apparently the possibilities are limited to Hamburger’s/May Co. and the Broadway.
July 2, 1929: There are 30 escalators in Los Angeles.
Is any member of the Brain Trust an expert on department store interiors?