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John Dillinger appears to be working for Wisconsin

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Ellsworth,Wisconsin 54011
Pierce County Herald
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John Dillinger appears to be working for Wisconsin
Ellsworth Wisconsin 126 S. Chestnut St. 54011

MILWAUKEE -- John Dillinger's legacy as a bank robber actually seems to be helping put money into the coffers of groups who are often looking for financial help -- the state's historical societies.


Director Michael Mann's film biography of the gangster, "Public Enemies," has relied heavily on authentic-looking locations across Wisconsin.

One of them is the former Second Ward office of First Wisconsin Bank in Milwaukee. The 95-year old building -- which now hosts the Milwaukee Historical Society -- was halfway through a five-year, $7.5 million renovation when Mann's scouts picked it as a location.

The Society's executive director, Bob Teske, says the generous location fee the crew paid was just the beginning.

"Just in terms for the two scagliola columns that surround our building we have had a pair of those repaired last year when we installed an elevator and just that one pair the work came to around $15,000," said Teske.

He says the filmmakers restored another six in preparation for filming on site, as well as a good deal of other repair work that brought the total to over $100,000.

Teske says that's money the Society didn't have to fork out, and the craftsmanship was top-notch.

Rick Bernstein of the Wisconsin Historical Society's Field Services Program adds that as long as people remember a movie, they can also remember the sites where it was filmed and visit them, something known as "heritage tourism."

"It's a form of tourism that really keys into this historic preservation ethic and people who are heritage tourists generally stay longer and spend more money than average tourists will," said Bernstein.

Meanwhile, the Milwaukee Historical Society's Bob Teske says they're trying to host the local premiere of "Public Enemies" next year, to help raise more money and publicity for their efforts.

The movie Public Enemies began filming in Columbus in March and is directed by Michael Mann of Miami Vice fame.

The movie stars Johnny Depp and is about the efforts of FBI agent Melvin Purvis to bring notorious criminals, including John Dillinger, to justice in the 1930s.

Film crews have been shooting at locations around Wisconsin including Oshkosh and in Manitowish Waters in Vilas County.

Filming in Manitowish Waters was at the Little Bohemia Lodge which was the actual location of a shootout between FBI agents and Dillinger on April 28, 1934.

Wisconsin recently enacted a film tax credit program to entice filmmakers to the state. Public Enemies is the first major film production to take advantage of the program which started in 2007.