William Helmer Q&A # 11

Co-author of DILLINGER: THE UNTOLD STORY

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William Helmer Q&A # 11

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Thu Aug 13, 2009 7:52 am

ONBC: Have you seen Michael Mann's movie? If so, what is your opinion of the film? Did you think the portrayal of Dillinger was accurate? What did you like or dislike about the portrayal? What did you find to be accurate or inaccurate?

WH: The sets were excellent, but I thought the performances lame, and no doubt for Hollywood reasons its “history” was pretty garbled, especially as to sequence of the killings of Nelson and Floyd, both of which occurred months after Dillinger died. The last scenes were mainly accurate, except for the “Bye, Bye, Blackbird.”
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Re: William Helmer Q&A # 11

Unread postby fansmom » Thu Aug 13, 2009 3:07 pm

DeppInTheHeartOfTexas wrote:WH: The sets were excellent, but I thought the performances lame,
WHAT?!?

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Re: William Helmer Q&A # 11

Unread postby ladylinn » Thu Aug 13, 2009 3:35 pm

:perplexed: I agree fansmom WHAT???? Or perhaps WH is just upset because the script didn't follow his book as close as he thought it should. :-/ Lame - that word could never apply to a Johnny Depp performance!

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Re: William Helmer Q&A # 11

Unread postby gemini » Thu Aug 13, 2009 4:25 pm

At the risk of being hurt, I am with Mr Helmer here. He is correct the sets were great. The facts were terrible. What he says about Nelson and Floyd being killed months after Dillinger is true and one of the first things that annoyed me in the film. The film was also the first I ever heard of Bye Bye blackbird. I think he is referring to the film making Billy his girlfriend at the end instead of Polly.

Ladylin, I think you are correct. I had no trouble with Johnnys acting but the film was lame compared to the real facts . It riled me up and I didn't spend all that time writing a book to get the true facts out there like Mr Helmer did.. I can understand his feelings.
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Re: William Helmer Q&A # 11

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Thu Aug 13, 2009 5:00 pm

I think he missed seeing the sense of humor and charisma that Dillinger had. I think others here have made similar comments. I'm not sure it's a cut at Johnny himself but how Dillinger's character came out in the final cut. Just so you know, he says some of his absolute favorite movies of all times are the Pirate movies and he loves Johnny's portrayal of Captain Jack!
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Re: William Helmer Q&A # 11

Unread postby shadowydog » Thu Aug 13, 2009 5:22 pm

gemini wrote:At the risk of being hurt, I am with Mr Helmer here. He is correct the sets were great. The facts were terrible. What he says about Nelson and Floyd being killed months after Dillinger is true and one of the first things that annoyed me in the film. The film was also the first I ever heard of Bye Bye blackbird. I think he is referring to the film making Billy his girlfriend at the end instead of Polly.

Ladylin, I think you are correct. I had no trouble with Johnnys acting but the film was lame compared to the real facts . It riled me up and I didn't spend all that time writing a book to get the true facts out there like Mr Helmer did.. I can understand his feelings.


What about Burrough stating that it is the most accurate film Hollywood has ever made about this era and that if there were no inconsistencies, it would be a documentary not a movie. The killing of Nelson and Floyd were accurate to how they were killed if not as to when. The killings introduced Purvis and the "hired killers" in the FBI early in the movie. I can't fault the logic there. Polly was his girlfriend at the end in the movie. That doesn't mean Dillinger wasn't still in love with Billie. He wanted to break her out of jail in real life and was talked out of it. He wanted to kill the FBI agent who abused her in real life and was talked out of it. He still had feelings for her and the movie showed that in the "bye-bye-birdie" scene.

I felt the movie was truthful where it needed to be truthful. The inconsistencies were inconsequential in my opinion since the story was about Dillinger's last year of life not a documentary of the history of the era.
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Re: William Helmer Q&A # 11

Unread postby gemini » Thu Aug 13, 2009 7:39 pm

shadowydog wrote:
gemini wrote:At the risk of being hurt, I am with Mr Helmer here. He is correct the sets were great. The facts were terrible. What he says about Nelson and Floyd being killed months after Dillinger is true and one of the first things that annoyed me in the film. The film was also the first I ever heard of Bye Bye blackbird. I think he is referring to the film making Billy his girlfriend at the end instead of Polly.

Ladylin, I think you are correct. I had no trouble with Johnnys acting but the film was lame compared to the real facts . It riled me up and I didn't spend all that time writing a book to get the true facts out there like Mr Helmer did.. I can understand his feelings.


What about Burrough stating that it is the most accurate film Hollywood has ever made about this era and that if there were no inconsistencies, it would be a documentary not a movie. The killing of Nelson and Floyd were accurate to how they were killed if not as to when. The killings introduced Purvis and the "hired killers" in the FBI early in the movie. I can't fault the logic there. Polly was his girlfriend at the end in the movie. That doesn't mean Dillinger wasn't still in love with Billie. He wanted to break her out of jail in real life and was talked out of it. He wanted to kill the FBI agent who abused her in real life and was talked out of it. He still had feelings for her and the movie showed that in the "bye-bye-birdie" scene.

I felt the movie was truthful where it needed to be truthful. The inconsistencies were inconsequential in my opinion since the story was about Dillinger's last year of life not a documentary of the history of the era.



I think Mr Burroughs statement is somewhat true and he did get to sell his book for the film so he is making the best of it. Keeping in mind that PE and "Dillinger the Untold Story" are both accurate even to each other for the facts and the movie isn't even close to either one. By saying it is a movie and not a documentary excuses all the inconsistancies in Burroughs mind. . I agree it was about Dillinger and not the rest of the gang but they couldn't even get that close.
Dillinger was not at the Michigan escape, he was in jail, not thowing people out of cars for getting someone shot in the escape, when the real escape went off without a hitch.


You make some good points shadowydog. I agree with you about Dillinger loving Billy but I have not seen anything about the blackbird part. He did want to beat up the agent who abused her and kept up on her trail even when dating Polly. That part was great but they couldn't just leave it at that, they had to go and make up a false ending with the blackbeard nonsense when Dillinger didn't say anything at his death.

The death scenes of Floyd and Nelson were not accurate. They tried to sugar cote the FBI too much. Purvis did not shoot Floyd. He told the local officers to wound him so he could question him. They did, and after Purvis talked to Floyd he told an FBI agent to shook into his body., He did and that is how he died. That is the account of the local officers with Purvis at the time.

Nelson was killed in a shoot out with agent in charge Cawley and agent Hollis after a car chase,( who both died ) , none of the other Dillinger gang were there. It was after Dillingers death and Nelson had become PE #1. He had his wife Helen and Johnny Chase ( a friend of his who was said to be a simpleton.)were with him at the time. After the gunfight, they took off in the car and Nelson died later and they dropped his body off beside a cemetery.

I do think Johnny was great doing the story he was given but I blame Mann for not trying to show Dillinger as he was. I agree with DITHOT Dillinger was known for having a sense of humor, flair and charisma not being so hard. The shame here was that Johnny was just the person to portray that aspect of him and still let him be an outlaw.
Last edited by gemini on Thu Aug 13, 2009 8:00 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: William Helmer Q&A # 11

Unread postby nebraska » Thu Aug 13, 2009 7:45 pm

I was very disappointed in the movie's portrayal of Dillinger. I think the movie was overambitious in its scope and played a lot of gunfire etc for the general public who likes that sort of thing. I don't think it was Johnny Depp's fault that Dillinger came off so cold and hard and one-dimensional --even in his first encounters with Billie he acted like a bully and dominated her. No charm, no warmth, no back story. :-/ I don't think Purvis or Hoover or any of the characters were really developed to the extent they could have been. They were an interesting bunch of characters but the point of the movie was a crime story and not the characters. It was an action movie, and I am used to so much more from Johnny. But what could he do about it? He was not in charge and in the end he had to do the job he was paid to do.

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Re: William Helmer Q&A # 11

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Thu Aug 13, 2009 10:14 pm

I have no doubt whatsoever that Dillinger must have had a hard side given the business he was in and the people he was dealing with. However, we also know he had a charming and charismatic side and that is the part some people missed seeing in the film, a side we all know Johnny can play to perfection. I also think that it can be hard for those of us who have read and studied more of the real people involved and the real story to get past the historical inaccuracies. However, it wasn't meant to be a documentary but a Hollywood movie so we have to expect some inconsistency. Personally I can't wait for the dvd and all the extras. :bounce:
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Re: William Helmer Q&A # 11

Unread postby nebraska » Fri Aug 14, 2009 12:02 am

DeppInTheHeartOfTexas wrote:I have no doubt whatsoever that Dillinger must have had a hard side given the business he was in and the people he was dealing with. However, we also know he had a charming and charismatic side and that is the part some people missed seeing in the film, a side we all know Johnny can play to perfection. I also think that it can be hard for those of us who have read and studied more of the real people involved and the real story to get past the historical inaccuracies. However, it wasn't meant to be a documentary but a Hollywood movie so we have to expect some inconsistency. Personally I can't wait for the dvd and all the extras. :bounce:


I LOVE extras on the DVDs, :bounce: usually more than the movie itself. It would be a really good thing if Mann did a director's commentary, but my understanding is that is not likely.

As a fun action film, the movie had a lot going for it. Maybe we just wanted a different type of movie.


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