Could there be a Johnny Depp sighting in the Old Pueblo this weekend?
Depp is playing John Dillinger in the upcoming movie, “Public Enemies.” So maybe the quirky actor will show up in Tucson for the annual celebration named after the famous gangster.
Hey, it could happen.
This year Dillinger Days celebrates the 75th anniversary of the capture of the suave, badass bank robber. Tucsonans who like vintage ’30s cars and attire, re-enactments of bank heist shootouts, or who just want to sound smart when the movie premieres in July, should check out the event.
“We’re bigger and better than ever,” says Allison Baron, manager of the Hotel Congress, which has partnered with the Fox Theatre this year to present activities Friday and Saturday.
In the movie, Christian Bale will play Max Purvis, the ambitious agent in the then-newly created FBI obsessed with capturing Dillinger.
During their highly publicized bank robbery spree from 1933-34, Dillinger and his gang killed at least 11 men, including a sheriff in Ohio. They escaped from several jails.
Despite the violence, Dillinger was revered by many Americans during the Great Depression as a symbol of rebellion against the wealthy banks.
Recognizing that allure, Shana Oseran and her husband, Richard – who purchased and restored the Hotel Congress in 1984 – started Dillinger Days in 1992. It began as a one-act presentation by local actors in the hotel lobby.
“(Dillinger Days) started as an art form and turned into a history lesson,” explains Oseran, who likes to stress Tucson’s role in history rather than the man himself.
During a respite from pillaging banks in 1933, Dillinger’s gang and girlfriends traveled to Tucson and rented a third-floor room in the hotel.
On Jan. 21, a fire forced the evacuation of all the guests, and Dillinger’s cronies were exposed when they tried to bribe a Tucson firefighter to rescue their loot. They were arrested and Dillinger was taken into custody without incident two days later on a downtown street corner.
“There are still people in this town who come out of the woodwork every time we do this,” Oseran says. “We can really look at our own Tucson history and feel a connection . . . what yesterday was all about.”
In addition to a 1930s-themed gala, re-enactments and historical presentations, the Fox Theatre has scheduled two showings of “The Gay Desperado,” a 1936 black-and-white movie filmed Tucson about a Mexican bandit who kidnaps an opera singer and an heiress. The showings will be at 2:45 and 5:45 pm.
IF YOU GO
What: Dillinger Days festival
When: 7 p.m. Friday; 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday
Where: Hotel Congress, 311 E. Congress St., and the Fox Theatre, 17 W. Congress St.
Price: All outdoor activities Saturday are free including a vintage car show, historical presentations, re-enactments of street shootouts, bank heists and the 1933 fire.
Info: 622-8848, www.hotelcongress.com
7 p.m. 1930s-themed gala benefitting Arizona Concerns of Police Citizens, with food, cocktails, casino games, a costume contest, and the Kings of Pleasure, a swing-like blues ensemble; Copper Hall of the Hotel Congress; $50
9 a.m. vintage car show; free
10 a.m.-6 p.m.: Street fair with carnival games, exhibits, and live music for all ages.
11-11:30 a.m.: Dillinger re-enactment Scene 1.
11:45: Dillinger lecture in Copper Hall of Hotel Congress followed by tour of the building.
noon: Hot Club of Tucson (band) on the outside stage.
1-1:30 p.m.: Dillinger re-enactment Scene 2
1:45-2:45: Hotel Congress tour, downtown walking tour.
2: Dusty Buskers outside stage (music)
2:45: Fox Theatre screening of “Gay Desperado” (a cowboy film shot in Tucson)
4:30-5:15: Dillinger re-enactment Scene 1 and 2
5:45: Fox Theatre screening of “Gay Desperado”