It was announced last week that Johnny Depp will come to Wisconsin to shoot parts of a movie about the life of infamous bank robber John Dillinger. The Michael Mann film "Public Enemies" was lured to the state by tax incentives that went into effect on Jan. 1.
Shooting locations include Milwaukee, Columbus, Baraboo, Oshkosh and Madison. Local activist Alfonso Gardner is taking exception to one notable omission on the list: Racine.
"Dillinger robbed a bank in Downtown Racine," Gardner reasoned. "Local offifcials should be fighting for a scene in Downtown Racine. It would bring some jobs here."
Let's review the story of Dillinger's bank robbery in Racine. This 1933 article describes the $27,000 heist as the "boldest bank robbery in the history of the state." The robbery occurred at the American Bank & Trust Co. at 5th and Main streets, which is now home to the Racine Art Museum.
Dillinger fled to northern Wisconsin and was later caught in Tucson, Arizona, and Racine police officials fought for custody of the bank robber. But they lost their bid and Dillinger later escaped from an Indiana jail. That led Racine Police Chief Grover Lutter to issue a statement saying if Dillinger had been returned to Wisconsin he would be in prison instead of roaming free.
Gardner figures since Racine played such a prominent role in Dillinger's time in Wisconsin, our city should play a prominent role in the movie. "Why don't they shoot the scene of him robbing the bank in Racine?" he asked.
The answer probably has something to do with the lack of a suitable location. The original bank is long gone and replaced by the stylish art museum, which would make a lousy place to recreate a 1933 bank robbery. Instead, the movie is planning to shoot a bank scene at a historic building in Milwaukee.
What we'll probably get is Racine included in the movie, without any actual scenes from Racine. Here's another question: Is Johnny Depp going to use the original tommy gun that Dillinger stole from the Racine bank? It was later recovered by Racine police and displayed at the police department and the Racine Art Museum. Does anyone know where the gun is on display now?