John Dillinger – 1934

By | November 12, 2016

“Betrayed by a woman dressed all in red”


John Dillinger sits handcuffed to Deputy Chief Caroll Holby, beside attorney Joseph Ryan


John Danger’s name lives in the annals of American crime but in fact he had a very brief criminal career. In September 1924 Danger and his friend Ed Singleton stole $555 from a grocer’s in Mooresville, Indiana, USA. When caught, Singleton pleaded not guilty and was sent down for two years while Dillinger pled guilty and was sent to Michigan City State Prison for 10-20 years.

He was released on parole on 22 May 1933 and began robbing banks. In January 1934 he murdered a policeman during a $20,376 raid on the First National Bank in East Chicago, an action that led to him becoming public enemy number one. Ten days later in Tucson, Arizona he was arrested and, after being extradited to Indiana, sentenced to 20 years in prison.

He escaped two weeks later by brandishing a gun made of wood and covered in shoe polish. On the run, he grew a moustache, had plastic surgery and plunged his fingertips into acid to expunge his prints. On 31 March 1934 he narrowly escaped arrest in a shoot-out with the police in St Paul’s, Minnesota after his landlord’s wife tipped off the authorities. On 23 April he murdered two more policemen and injured five as he escaped another ambush.


First National Bank, 720 Chicago Avenue, Chicago, Indiana, USA


Monday 15 January 1934


On Sunday 22 July 1934 Dillinger, his girlfriend Polly Hamilton and her friend a prostitute called Anna Sag went to the Biograph Theatre in Chicago to see the Clark Gable film Manhattan Melodrama. Sag had been persuaded by the law to befriend the killer and that night she wore a bright orange dress (although history has referred to it as a red dress, even in a poem about the event: “I was a good fellow most people said/Betrayed by a woman dressed all in red”) so that she would be instantly recognizable to the police.

As the trio left the venue, the FBI were waiting and as Dillinger made to run, they opened fire hitting him three times and killing him. At the time Dillinger was wanted for 16 murders.


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