PE Question #17 ~ Billie & Johnnie

by Bryan Burrough

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DeppInTheHeartOfTexas
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PE Question #17 ~ Billie & Johnnie

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Wed Feb 27, 2008 8:57 am

In an interview from prison Billie Frechette said:

“I kept on working here and there and I got some girlfriends and we would date up often and go out cabareting. I liked going out where people were laughing and having a good time and cutting up. It was in a cabaret on the North Side where I met John Dillinger.

I'll never forget that. It happened the way things do in the movies. I was 25 years old and I wasn't any different from all the other girls that were 25 years old. Nothing that happened to me up to that time to amount to anything. Then I met John and everything was changed. I started a new kind of life.

It was in November, just about a year ago now, I remember. I was sitting at the table with some other girls and some fellows. We were having a good time.

I looked up and I saw a man at a table across the room looking at me. He didn't look away when I looked up. He just stared at me and smiled a little bit with the corner of his mouth. His eyes seemed to go all the way through me. A thing like that happens to a girl often and doesn't seem to mean anything. This was different.”


And later in the same interview:

“I always figured that what he did was one thing and what he was was another. I was in love with what he was. Oh, maybe I was wrong, but you can't argue yourself out of falling in love! You just can't sit down and think it out.”

Comment on Billie’s words.

Noodlemantras, please keep your answers in reference to Billie, we will be discussing the other women of Public Enemies in a future question!
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Unread postby KYwoman » Wed Feb 27, 2008 10:13 am

Sorry Ma DITHOT, I got sidetracked when I read this part and pictured Johnny in the movie..... :cloud9:

I looked up and I saw a man at a table across the room looking at me. He didn't look away when I looked up. He just stared at me and smiled a little bit with the corner of his mouth. His eyes seemed to go all the way through me. A thing like that happens to a girl often and doesn't seem to mean anything. This was different.”

She sounds like a woman in love. Young gal with a hard early life, so-so adult life who met a man that treated her well. She seems to have wanted the fantasy/idealism of love and Dillinger and ignore the reality that interfered with that.

Also, the bit about seeing someone for who they are and not for what they do is somthing Johnny Depp tends to do too.
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Unread postby Sheri » Wed Feb 27, 2008 12:55 pm

Billie had been an excitement seeking woman interested in guys who were on the wrong side of the law before, so it was probably inevitable that she ended up with someone like him. She is quoted in the book as saying that she never wanted anyone but him from the time she met him and that he treated her like a lady. I imagine that was what made him different from anyone else for her. To be treated with respect from a man in their orbit was probably intoxicating to her. In that realm, women are generally just treated as possessions.

Dillinger seemed more compassionate and empathetic toward people in general, and had more class than the other guys, to me. I can see how she'd be attracted to him.

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Unread postby Parlez » Wed Feb 27, 2008 2:28 pm

It seems back then men and women were inclined toward a more romantic notion of love. Across a crowded room...a stranger...I saw this back...etc.. :heart: The movies from that era tended to support the possibility of love at first sight, whereby immediate attraction could be reciprocated and become the foundation of lasting love. The practical day-to-day realities didn't seem to be a big concern. Love (here having the meaning of romance) would conquer all.
Billie seemed to be worthy of Johnnie's attention...she wasn't just any old floozy. And, for her part, I think JD's gangster ways probably made him more alluring, especially as he gained more notoriety and celebrity. Who could resist? And the danger...there's no discounting the excitement of that particular sensation. However, JD didn't appear to be dangerous or tempermental in his personal life (as we'd expect someone like BFN to be), so Billie probably had a real pussycat on her hands when they were together. And, like others have said, he treated her very well. In an era when a single woman either had to grab the gusto or go under (here having the meaning of playing it safe), I can understand Billie's romantic, risk-taking sensibilities.
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Unread postby gemini » Wed Feb 27, 2008 2:44 pm

I think that we forget because she was so modern for her day that her mother was an Indian and Billie was raised on a reservation and then went to an Indian boarding school. She was married at 18 and her husband went to jail for mail robbery. I think she felt like she was on the wrong side of making it in life and even though she tried waitressing and being a nursemaid she fell in with a bad crowd and in her own words "had a blurred image of life". She was 26 when she met Dillinger and he must have seemed like she had finally met someone who cared about her. I think they were together 4 years and that was the closest Dillinger ever got to a soulmate. I think he really cared about Billie.

Here is an excerp from a PBS article about Billy. I think it shows just how much Dillinger cared for her.

Dillinger paid Louis Piquett, his own lawyer, to take on Frechette's case, and try to free her through legal means. During her trial in St. Paul, Frechette testified that during her D.O.I. interrogation, she had been slapped and deprived of food and sleep for two days. Dillinger became so angry that he vowed to kill Harold H. Reinecke, the agent in charge of Frechette's interrogation. Dillinger reluctantly gave up his intention only after Piquett threatened to leave him if he killed anyone.
Before his death, Dillinger frequently met Piquett or his legal investigator, Arthur O'Leary. Each time he asked about Frechette's appeal, even though he was already dating Polly Hamilton. In one letter Frechette sent Dillinger through O'Leary, she begged him not to try to rescue her, for fear he would be killed. In spite of her protests, on July 11, 1934, Dillinger told O'Leary on about a recent trip to Milan, Michigan. He had driven there to see the federal prison where Frechette was being held. After looking over the surrounding area, he reluctantly decided that any escape attempt would be impossible.
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/dillinger/peopleevents/p_frechette.html
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Unread postby nebraska » Wed Feb 27, 2008 4:08 pm

In spite of having been through a lot of difficulty in her life, Billie was still quite young when she met Dillinger. When I was young I had a similar view of love; now, as an older woman, my priorities are different, but I can sure understand what she was saying. As a couple, they seemed to have a wonderful chemistry and Dillinger seemed to care for her as much as she cared for him. She probably had good reason to be so wrapped up in him.

I think at some point we all need to overlook some of the things that people say or do in order to maintain love. None of us are perfect , after all. Billie just had more to overlook than a lot of us.

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Unread postby teacher » Wed Feb 27, 2008 5:13 pm

I have been lurking around reading your posts since the tidbits, but I can't find the book :bawl: and so can't participate. I just wanted to say thanks to all who do, it's really fascinating to read your opinions and the introductions compensate at least a bit.
Yes, I have tricks in my pocket, I have things up my sleeve. But I am the opposite of a stage magician. He gives you illusion that has the appearance of truth. I give you truth in the pleasant disguise of illusion. - Tom Wingfield, Glass Menagerie

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Unread postby Lady Jill » Wed Feb 27, 2008 5:20 pm

“I always figured that what he did was one thing and what he was was another.

This is the line that I relate to. Like "don't judge a book by it's cover". She apparently saw something so much more deeper inside Dillinger than what was bouncing around on the surface. ( Sound like anyone we might know??) ;-)

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Unread postby Lady Jill » Wed Feb 27, 2008 6:07 pm

teacher wrote:I have been lurking around reading your posts since the tidbits, but I can't find the book :bawl: and so can't participate. I just wanted to say thanks to all who do, it's really fascinating to read your opinions and the introductions compensate at least a bit.


Teacher:
I found my book, a hard back library book from Amazon.com. It came from a seller in Washington state and wasn't very much at all. It's worth the read!

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" After we're gone, the only thing that matters is the love we left behind."

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Unread postby Liz » Wed Feb 27, 2008 6:22 pm

I’ve enjoyed reading all of your answers to this question. :disco:

:welcome: teacher. I’m sorry you couldn’t locate the book. But I’m sure that if you’ve been reading the tidbits and keeping up with the discussion, you have a pretty good feel for the book and the people entailed in it. Pop in anytime. :cool:

I can relate to these words of Billie’s:
you can't argue yourself out of falling in love! You just can't sit down and think it out.” Plus I can certainly see the attraction she had for him. He had a lot of those qualities that attract Johnny to a role. And I guess I would say that I am attracted to those sorts because I am sympathetic with most of the characters that Johnny plays. I can almost always see goodness in them.

I have to admit, though, I was bit disappointed in him for starting up with Polly Hamilton.
:-/
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Unread postby Sheri » Wed Feb 27, 2008 8:00 pm

I was disappointed in Dillinger for taking up with Polly, too, Liz. Basically, because it didn't take him long. I really thought that he loved her completely; but then just found myself wondering if he's in love with being in love the way Billie seemed to be, and he can just be that way with anyone who is available. It seemed to me he was treating Polly as he did Billie. After he met Polly, did he even think about her anymore? :-/

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Unread postby Parlez » Wed Feb 27, 2008 8:23 pm

Hey youse guys - aren't we just supposed to be talking about Billie here?? I've got tons to say about Polly and Johnnie if that's going to be allowed. Are we going to get a chance to talk about them later, or is now a good time/place?
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Unread postby Liz » Wed Feb 27, 2008 8:26 pm

Parlez wrote:Hey youse guys - aren't we just supposed to be talking about Billie here?? I've got tons to say about Polly and Johnnie if that's going to be allowed. Are we going to get a chance to talk about them later, or is now a good time/place?


Oops. Me bad. :blush:
You can't judge a book by its cover.

The only thing that matters is the ending. It's the most important part of the story.

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Unread postby suec » Wed Feb 27, 2008 8:32 pm

Comparing their first sight of each other to how it is in the movies rings a bit of a warning bell for me. On the other hand, I can think of examples where it really is like that, and not just Johnny seeing Vanessa. I was with my brother when he first set eyes on his future wife, and I knew there and then how it would be. Furthermore, it is apparently a very good sign when couples start to romanticise their first meeting and build it up into something major, according to some pscychologist - sorry, can't remember who.

I always figured that what he did was one thing and what he was was another. I was in love with what he was.


This seems like a classic case of compartmentalising to me. This bit of information goes here and that bit goes there, and never the twain shall meet. But again, I think it's pretty normal and predictable. And I think the love was reciprocated:

Billie beseeched Dillinger not to attempt her rescue. She would only be killed. She promised to do her time in prison and meet him afterward. Dillinger appeared moved. He handed O'Leary a letter for Billie... In it Dillinger expressed his love for Billie and asked to die in her arms.
p 347

Liz, I see your point about Polly. It would have been the icing on the cake if he had stayed true to her. But on the other hand, he was lonely without her and missed her. It's possibly like when a loved one dies but before you know it they're hooked up with someone else and it doesn't seem right at all. When really, the grief is real and strong but they can't deal with being without her so they look for a replacement. I think it's interesting he chose someone said to look like Billie - though of course that could be just down to him being attracted to a certain type.

Edit: sorry for drifting a bit into Polly there - hopefully it was still within the context of the Billie relationship.
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Unread postby gemini » Wed Feb 27, 2008 8:40 pm

I hate to look at things like a cynic but having Billie arrested right under his nose probably shook Dillinger up more than just for her sake. It gave him a good idea how soon his time was coming. He must have felt after realizing he couldn't break her out of jail that he wouldn't see her again if she served a very long sentence.
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