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The popular misconception of John Dillinger kicking Evelyn “Billie” Frechette around is based on two sources only. One is the 1969 movie starring Warren Oates and Michelle Phillips. The other source of information is John Toland’s “The Dillinger Days,” published in 1962.

New information has come out which sheds light on the ridiculous nature of the rumored violence between Johnnie and his beloved Billie Frechette.

As far as the Warren Oates film, historians all know the reality of historical truth when Hollywood gets involved: distortion. While “Mamas and Papas” actress Michelle Phillips played Evelyn Frechette with passion and beauty, she was in no way portraying the historical Evelyn. Case in point is the scene where she is wildly firing a machine gun from the window of Little Bohemia Lodge in Wisconsin. In real life, Billie was in a St. Paul county jail awaiting trial when John shot his way out of Little Bohemia.

In the Warren Oates film, when Evelyn does return to the Reservation, she is greeted by family members wrapped in blankets, portraying every Native American movie stereotype known to John Wayne. In reality, Evelyn’s family members were community delegates and labor leaders in Shawano, Wisconsin. In a movie that showed no interest in portraying the molls correctly, it is obvious they fabricated the violence between John and Billie.

The argument that John did not hit Billie is not mere feminist portrayal of a newly empowered historical gunmoll. This is also, not based on attempts to humanize the bank robber Dillinger. Hard, case-file evidence confirms that in Florida, Dillinger did not abuse Evelyn Frechette.

Author Toland based his account of the Florida “knock down drag out” between John Dillinger and Billie Frechette on interviews with gang member Mary Kinder. According to a credible witness, Kinder later became enraged when she read "The Dillinger Days," alleging that Toland had written a fiction. Kinder wanted to distance herself from Toland’s account of the Dillinger story.

Evelyn Frechette, according to Toland, was beaten black and blue by Dillinger on or about Christmas Day, 1933. She limped to the dresser drawers, packed her things, and left to return to the Reservation at Menominee in Wisconsin.

Toland neglected to mention that Dillinger transferred title of his Essex Terraplane to Frechette so that she would have a vehicle. Would a man, in the height of a violent episode meant to crush a woman’s spirit and body, issue her freedom and independence by gifting her with a big, expensive car? Men who are abusive will take a woman’s keys away, lock the doors and steal her purse in order to limit her freedom and cause frustration and mental cruelty. John Dillinger did not act as an abusive man would have in a violent situation. He did the opposite: he gifted his woman with a car and said he would see her in a few weeks. That is not mentioned in Toland’s account yet it is backed by documentation: the dated, notorized transfer of title from “Frank Kirkley,” Dillinger’s alias, to Evelyn Frechette.”

Other documentation is found in FBI reports. On January 1-10, 1934, Evelyn Frechette was traveling with her girlhood friend, Vivian. Vivian was interviewed by the FBI and did not mention bruises on Evelyn’s face or “blackened eyes.” The hotel manager in the Inn where they lodged together in Milwaukee, also related that Evelyn’s eyes seemed “glassy.” It was commonly said that Evelyn’s had beautiful, black irises that seemed to glisten. If she were suffering from two black eyes, would the innkeeper in her interview with the FBI, forget to mention two glaring black eyes? You draw the conclusion there.

Interviews with the Frechette descendants also confirmed that the relationship between John and Billie was never abusive. Some people who knew Evelyn personally, absolutely hated the Warren Oates film because of the emphasis it placed on the physical abuse of Evelyn Frechette at the hands of Dillinger.

John’s family members, also, knew that Dillinger was never abusive toward women. This was also confirmed by family members of the woman who was his wife, Beryl Hovious.

The old stereotype of the gangster who slapped the dumb molls around is also based in film.

This photo of Errol Flynn, about to smack actress Margaret Lindsay, appeared in Warner Bros.'s 1935 B-Movie entitled, "The Case of the Curious Bride."



Who doesn’t remember the grapefruit scene between James Cagney and Mae Marsh in “Public Enemy,”



or Humphrey Bogart causing the violent death of Anne Dvorak in “Three On A Match.” These scenes gave the stories their power and depth.

The relationships of the real-time 1930s Public Enemies to their women, were complex and based on the fractured, damaged emotional make-up of both partners. Historians need to look at the facts before they assume there was violence between John Dillinger and Evelyn “Billie” Frechette.

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