Celebrity criminal and all-American bad boy John Dillinger was a legend. During Dillinger’s heyday of crime sprees, his face was plastered on as many newspapers as Hollywood’s A-list. Crime may not pay, but automobile companies were happy to exploit Dillinger’s infamy, and his choice of getaway cars to hawk their vehicles.
A photogenic public enemy
John Herbert Dillinger Jr. was born June 22, 1903, in Indianapolis, Indiana. As a teenager, Dillinger reportedly committed his first crime, after moving to the small farming community of Mooresville, Indiana. Dillinger gave the movie Gone In 60 Seconds a run for its money after joyriding in a stolen car.
The thrill of boosting cars was not enough for young John, and he escalated to strong-armed robberies. During his criminal career, John enlisted the help of male acquaintances and ladyfriends to pull off many crimes. Dillinger was sometimes called “The Gentleman Bandit” for winking at ladies and giving coins to kids.
Fooled by a phony
After being arrested in Tucson, Arizona, John Dillinger was sent to the Lake County Jail in Crown Point, Indiana in 1934. Maybe the law enforcement who boasted the jail was escape-proof was unfamiliar with the Titanic, or Murphy’s Law. When there’s a will, there’s a way.
Somehow John Dillinger got his hands on a piece of wood, which was rumored to be taken from a washboard. After carving the wood into a fine looking gun replica, Dillinger used the fake pistol to escape and stole the Sherrif’s car to get away.
Getaway gangster on the lam
John Dillinger’s escape from the Lake County Jail was not his first successful prison break. The infamous criminal mastermind had experience after busting out of the joint in Ohio, and he had often helped break friends out of jail.
J.Edgar Hoover had a personal vendetta against Dillinger and placed a hefty sum on the marked man’s head. The FBI systematically took out Dillinger’s gang members, and eventually, John Dillinger met his end at the Biograph theater in 1934. Ironically, before it was curtains for Dillinger, he had just finished viewing a popular gangster film.