James Cagney
Actor, dancer
James Cagney
James Francis Cagney, Jr. was an American actor, first on stage, then in film, where he had his greatest impact. Although he won acclaim and major awards for a wide variety of performances, he is best remembered for playing tough guys. In 1999, the American Film Institute ranked him eighth among its 50 Greatest American Screen Legends. In his first professional acting performance, he danced dressed as a woman in the chorus line of the 1919 revue Every Sailor.
Biography
James Cagney's personal information overview.
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Popular photos of James Cagney
News
News abour James Cagney from around the web
Anne Francis Movie Schedule: BRAINSTORM, IMPASSE, A LION IS IN THE STREETS - Alt Film Guide (blog)
Google News - over 5 years
Cast: James Cagney, Barbara Hale, Anne Francis. C-88 mins. 4:00 AM IMPASSE (1969) World War II veterans brave the Philippine jungle in search of buried gold. Dir: Richard Benedict. Cast: Burt Reynolds, Anne Francis, Lyle Bettger
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Yiddishkeit: Fun Dor Tsu Dor - Swans
Google News - over 5 years
It even has a guide to celebrities fluent in Yiddish (eg, Molly Picon, Zero Mostel, James Cagney, Kirk Douglas, etc.) or performers who have used Yiddish (Mel Brooks, Groucho Marx, Paul Robeson, Woody Allen, etc.) -- but forget about Isaac Bashevis
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Joan Blondell Q&A Pt.2: Joan Blondell-Dick Powell-June Allyson Triangle, Lost ... - Alt Film Guide (blog)
Google News - over 5 years
What about Ruby Keeler, James Cagney, and her other fellow contract players? Did she get along with them? [Photo: Joan Blondell in Mervyn LeRoy's Gold Diggers of 1933.] Joan said, not surprisingly, that those musicals were tough
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Commission responds to BLM regarding wilderness designations - Craig Daily Press
Google News - over 5 years
• Approved, 3-0, sending a letter to Bureau of Land Management District Manager James Cagney about wilderness issues. • Approved, 3-0, a modified surface use agreement with Gulfport Energy. • Approved, 3-0, Moffat County Department of
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DVD; How Crimes Have Changed
NYTimes - over 5 years
JUST as hemlines rise and fall, so do fashions in crime -- or, at least, its fictional representation -- evolve from decade to decade and even from year to year. Bracketing the 1950s a group of four crime films recently released by the Warner Archive Collection suggest just how radical those shifts can be. A pair of films from 1949, Richard O.
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How Crimes Have Changed - New York Times
Google News - over 5 years
At first they were traditional gangsters marked by a new streak of sadism and neuroticism, embodied by James Cagney's mama's-boy train robber in Raoul Walsh's 1949 “White Heat.” In “The Threat” Charles McGraw plays a very similar figure,
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One, Two, Three (1961) - TIME
Google News - over 5 years
CC MacNamara (James Cagney, in his last film for 20 years) is head of West Berlin operations for the Coca-Cola Company and dreams of a promotion to run all of Europe. But his boss's daughter (Pamela Tiffin) is in love with scruffy Otto, an East German
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Ann Dvorak Movie Schedule: THREE ON A MATCH, OUR VERY OWN, COLLEGE COACH - Alt Film Guide (blog)
Google News - over 5 years
Cast: James Cagney, Margaret Lindsay, Ann Dvorak. BW-86 mins. 8:00 PM SCARFACE (1932) A murderous thug shoots his way to the top of the mobs while trying to protect his sister from the criminal life. Dir: Howard Hawks. Cast: Paul Muni, Ann Dvorak,
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Joshua Tree National Park a draw for artists, musicians - The Desert Sun
Google News - over 5 years
JIMMY DURANTE and JAMES CAGNEY: The piano-playing comic and tough guy actor were frequent visitors to the 29 Palms Inn in the 1930s. “Durante liked to play the piano, and Cagney liked to sing for the guests,” owner Paul Smith said
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The Listings
NYTimes - over 5 years
Movies Ratings and running times are in parentheses; foreign films have English subtitles. Full reviews of all current releases, movie trailers, showtimes and tickets: nytimes.com/movies. 'Another Earth' (PG-13, 1:32) The director Mike Cahill and his star, the promising newcomer Brit Marling, wrote this moody, modest science-fiction film about
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Respecting fame for its own sake - Irish Echo
Google News - over 5 years
James Cagney rose to fame at Warner Brothers by playing Irish-American gangsters in the 1930s. Real-life gangster Al Capone approached iconic status as an American anti-hero at around the same time, thanks to the same kind of breathless press coverage
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YMCA Teams Clock In At Buehler Meet - Journal & Topics Newspapers Online
Google News - over 5 years
But boy Neptunes touched out Palatine with James Cagney placing 1st (52:18) and Roznai in 3rd (52.71). Piekarski the Blue Marlin slipped in 2nd (52.38). In the 100 back Grzybek and Griswold both gained two seconds placing 1:10.69 and 1:10.83
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Video Reviews: Wacky 'Rango' is Western run amuck - Providence Journal
Google News - over 5 years
TCM Greatest Classic Films: Shakespeare” has “A Midsummer Night's Dream” with James Cagney and Mickey Rooney; “Othello” starring Laurence Olivier and Maggie Smith; “Romeo and Juliet” featuring Norma Shearer and Leslie Howard; “Antony and Cleopatra”
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The truth about a truth-stretcher - Philadelphia Inquirer
Google News - over 5 years
... Flynn as the goldilocks general); a taut on-the-lam thriller with Humphrey Bogart; a "woman's picture" steeped in noir starring the glorious Ida Lupino; and one of the iconic gangster movies of the ages, featuring James Cagney in full psycho mode
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Information Please - Vancouver Sun
Google News - over 5 years
If I remember correctly, there is another movie of the same name, made in the 1950s and starring James Cagney. I believe it was about the IRA. Is it available on DVD? The original Shake Hands With the Devil was a 1959 film by Michael Anderson (Around
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Pam Grier, 'Gordon's War' DVD reviews - The Star-Ledger - NJ.com
Google News - over 5 years
By Mark Voger/The Star-Ledger The history of the cinema is dotted with "a-star-is-born" films: James Cagney in "Public Enemy," Boris Karloff in "Frankenstein," Sylvester Stallone in "Rocky," Robert De Niro in "Mean Streets." But for Pam Grier,
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On your radar: New talent at Skipper's, 'Yankee Doodle Dandy' and fun with the ... - Tampabay.com
Google News - over 5 years
Yankee Doodle Dandy: This part of the Capitol Classics Film Series features the three-time Academy Award-winning 1942 musical starring James Cagney, Joan Leslie and Walter Huston. In a biography of George M. Cohan, Cagney's dancing is spectacular and
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Timeline
Learn about memorable moments in the evolution of James Cagney
    LATE_ADULTHOOD
  • 1986
    Age 86
    Cagney died at his Dutchess County farm in Stanfordville, New York, on Easter Sunday 1986, of a heart attack.
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  • 1984
    Age 84
    In 1984, Ronald Reagan awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
    More Details Hide Details In 1999, the U.S. Postal Service issued a 33-cent stamp honoring Cagney. Cagney was among the most favored actors for the director Stanley Kubrick and the actor Marlon Brando, and was considered by Orson Welles to be " maybe the greatest actor to ever appear in front of a camera." Warner Bros. arranged private screenings of Cagney films for Winston Churchill. On May 19, 2015, a brand-new musical celebrating Cagney, and dramatizing his relationship with Warner Bros., opened off-Broadway in New York City at the York Theatre. Cagney, The Musical has moved to the Westside Theatre in NYC. Source:
    Cagney Jr. died from a heart attack on January 27, 1984 in Washington, DC, two years before his father's death.
    More Details Hide Details He had become estranged from his father and had not seen or talked to him since 1982.
    Cagney made a rare TV appearance in the lead role of the movie Terrible Joe Moran in 1984.
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  • 1980
    Age 80
    By 1980, Cagney was contributing financially to the Republican Party, supporting his friend Ronald Reagan's bid for the presidency in the 1980 election.
    More Details Hide Details As he got older, he became more and more conservative, referring to himself in his autobiography as "arch-conservative." He regarded his move away from liberal politics as " a totally natural reaction once I began to see undisciplined elements in our country stimulating a breakdown of our system... Those functionless creatures, the hippies... just didn't appear out of a vacuum."
    Cagney's frequent co-star, Pat O'Brien, appeared with him on the British chat show Parkinson in the early 1980s and they both made a surprise appearance at the Queen Mother's command birthday performance at the London Palladium in 1980.
    More Details Hide Details His appearance on stage prompted the Queen Mother to rise to her feet, the only time she did so during the whole show, and she later broke protocol to go backstage to speak with Cagney directly.
  • 1977
    Age 77
    While at Coldwater Canyon in 1977, Cagney had a minor stroke.
    More Details Hide Details After two weeks in the hospital, Zimmermann became his full-time caregiver, traveling with Billie Vernon and him wherever they went. After the stroke, Cagney was no longer able to undertake many of his favorite pastimes, including horseback riding and dancing, and as he became more depressed, he even gave up painting. Encouraged by his wife and Zimmermann, Cagney accepted an offer from the director Miloš Forman to star in a small but pivotal role in the film Ragtime (1981). This film was shot mainly at Shepperton Studios in Surrey, England, and on his arrival at Southampton aboard the Queen Elizabeth 2, Cagney was mobbed by hundreds of fans. Cunard Line officials, who were responsible for the security at the dock, said they had never seen anything like it, although they had experienced past visits by Marlon Brando and Robert Redford.
  • 1974
    Age 74
    Such was her success that, by the time Cagney made a rare public appearance at his American Film Institute Lifetime Achievement award ceremony in 1974, he had lost and his vision had improved.
    More Details Hide Details Charlton Heston opened the ceremony, and Frank Sinatra introduced Cagney. So many Hollywood stars attended—said to be more than for any event in history—that one columnist wrote at the time that a bomb in the dining room would have ended the movie industry. In his acceptance speech, Cagney lightly chastised the impressionist Frank Gorshin, saying, "Oh, Frankie, just in passing, I never said 'MMMMmmmm, you dirty rat!' What I actually did say was 'Judy, Judy, Judy!'"—a joking reference to a similar misquotation attributed to Cary Grant.
  • 1962
    Age 62
    Cagney's daughter Cathleen married Jack W. Thomas in 1962.
    More Details Hide Details She, too, was estranged from her father during the final years of his life. She died on August 11, 2004. As a young man, Cagney became interested in farming – sparked by a soil conservation lecture he had attended – to the extent that during his first walkout from Warner Bros., he helped to found a farm in Martha's Vineyard. Cagney loved that no concrete roads surrounded the property, only dirt tracks. The house was rather run-down and ramshackle, and Billie was initially reluctant to move in, but soon came to love the place, as well. After being inundated by movie fans, Cagney sent out a rumor that he had hired a gunman for security. The ruse proved so successful that when Spencer Tracy came to visit, his taxi driver refused to drive up to the house, saying, "I hear they shoot!" Tracy had to go the rest of the way on foot.
    Cagney's son married Jill Lisbeth Inness in 1962.
    More Details Hide Details The couple had two children, James III and Cindy.
  • 1960
    Age 60
    Cagney's career began winding down, and he made only one film in 1960, the critically acclaimed The Gallant Hours, in which he played Admiral William F. "Bull" Halsey.
    More Details Hide Details The film, although set during the Guadalcanal Campaign in the Pacific Theater during World War II, was not a war film, but instead focused on the impact of command. Cagney Productions, which shared the production credit with Robert Montgomery's company, made a brief return, though in name only. The film was a success, and The New York Times Bosley Crowther singled its star out for praise: "It is Mr. Cagney's performance, controlled to the last detail, that gives life and strong, heroic stature to the principal figure in the film. There is no braggadocio in it, no straining for bold or sharp effects. It is one of the quietest, most reflective, subtlest jobs that Mr. Cagney has ever done." Cagney's penultimate film was a comedy. He was hand-picked by Billy Wilder to play a hard-driving Coca-Cola executive in the film One, Two, Three. Cagney had concerns with the script, remembering back 23 years to Boy Meets Girl, in which scenes were reshot to try to make them funnier by speeding up the pacing, with the opposite effect. Cagney received assurances from Wilder that the script was balanced. Filming did not go well, though, with one scene requiring 50 takes, something to which Cagney was unaccustomed. In fact, it was one of the worst experiences of his long career. For the first time, Cagney considered walking out of a film.
  • FIFTIES
  • 1959
    Age 59
    In 1959, Cagney played a labor leader in what proved to be his final musical, Never Steal Anything Small, which featured a comical song and dance duet with Cara Williams, who played his girlfriend.
    More Details Hide Details For Cagney's next film, he traveled to Ireland for Shake Hands with the Devil, directed by Michael Anderson. Cagney had hoped to spend some time tracing his Irish ancestry, but time constraints and poor weather meant that he was unable to do so. The overriding message of violence inevitably leading to more violence attracted Cagney to the role of an Irish Republican Army commander, and resulted in what some critics would regard as the finest performance of his final years.
  • 1957
    Age 57
    Later in 1957, Cagney ventured behind the camera for the first and only time to direct Short Cut to Hell, a remake of the 1941 Alan Ladd film This Gun for Hire, which in turn was based on the Graham Greene novel A Gun for Sale.
    More Details Hide Details Cagney had long been told by friends that he would make an excellent director, so when he was approached by his friend, producer A. C. Lyles, he instinctively said yes. He refused all offers of payment, saying he was an actor, not a director. The film was low budget, and shot quickly. As Cagney recalled, "We shot it in twenty days, and that was long enough for me. I find directing a bore, I have no desire to tell other people their business".
  • 1956
    Age 56
    In 1956, Cagney undertook one of his very rare television roles, starring in Robert Montgomery's Soldiers From the War Returning.
    More Details Hide Details This was a favor to Montgomery, who needed a strong fall season opener to stop the network from dropping his series. Cagney's appearance ensured that it was a success. The actor made it clear to reporters afterwards that television was not his medium: "I do enough work in movies. This is a high-tension business. I have tremendous admiration for the people who go through this sort of thing every week, but it's not for me." The following year, Cagney appeared in Man of a Thousand Faces, in which he played Lon Chaney. He received excellent reviews, with the New York Journal American rating it one of his best performances, and the film, made for Universal, was a box office hit. Cagney's skill at mimicry, combined with a physical similarity to Chaney, helped him generate empathy for his character.
  • 1955
    Age 55
    In 1955, Cagney replaced Spencer Tracy on the Western film Tribute to a Bad Man for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.
    More Details Hide Details He received praise for his performance, and the studio liked his work enough to offer him These Wilder Years with Barbara Stanwyck. The two stars got on well; they had both previously worked in vaudeville, and they entertained the cast and crew off-screen by singing and dancing.
    Cagney's next notable role was the 1955 film Love Me or Leave Me, his third with Day.
    More Details Hide Details Cagney played Martin "Moe the Gimp" Snyder, a lame Jewish-American gangster from Chicago, a part Spencer Tracy had turned down. Cagney described the script as "that extremely rare thing, the perfect script". When the film was released, Snyder reportedly asked how Cagney had so accurately copied his limp, but Cagney himself insisted he had not, having based it on personal observation of other people when they limped: "What I did was very simple. I just slapped my foot down as I turned it out while walking. That's all". His performance earned him another Best Actor Academy Award nomination, 17 years after his first. Reviews were strong, and the film is considered one of the best of his later career. In Day, he found a co-star with whom he could build a rapport, such as he had had with Blondell at the start of his career. Day herself was full of praise for Cagney, stating that he was "the most professional actor I've ever known. He was always 'real'. I simply forgot we were making a picture. His eyes would actually fill up when we were working on a tender scene. And you never needed drops to make your eyes shine when Jimmy was on the set."
  • 1953
    Age 53
    Cagney Productions was not a great success, however, and in 1953, after William Cagney produced his last film, A Lion Is in the Streets, the company came to an end.
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  • 1950
    Age 50
    However, Warner Bros., perhaps searching for another Yankee Doodle Dandy, assigned Cagney a musical for his next picture, 1950's The West Point Story with Doris Day, an actress he admired.
    More Details Hide Details His next film, Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye, was another gangster movie, which was the first by Cagney Productions since its acquisition. While compared unfavorably to White Heat by critics, it was fairly successful at the box office, with $500,000 going straight to Cagney Productions' bankers to pay off their losses.
  • FORTIES
  • 1949
    Age 49
    Cagney's portrayal of Cody Jarrett in the 1949 film White Heat is one of his most memorable.
    More Details Hide Details Cinema had changed in the 10 years since Walsh last directed Cagney (in The Strawberry Blonde), and the actor's portrayal of gangsters had also changed. Unlike Tom Powers in The Public Enemy, Jarrett was portrayed as a raging lunatic with few if any sympathetic qualities. In the 18 intervening years, Cagney's hair had begun to gray, and he developed a paunch for the first time. He was no longer a romantic commodity, and this was reflected in his performance. Cagney himself had the idea of playing Jarrett as psychotic; he later stated, "it was essentially a cheapie one-two-three-four kind of thing, so I suggested we make him nuts. It was agreed so we put in all those fits and headaches." Cagney's final lines in the film – "Made it, Ma! Top of the world!" – was voted the 18th-greatest movie line by the American Film Institute. Likewise, Jarrett's explosion of rage in prison on being told of his mother's death is widely hailed as one of Cagney's most memorable performances. Some of the extras on set actually became terrified of the actor because of his violent portrayal. Cagney attributed the performance to his father's alcoholic rages, which he had witnessed as a child, as well as someone that he had seen on a visit to a mental hospital.
  • 1943
    Age 43
    Almost a year after its creation, Cagney Productions produced its first film, Johnny Come Lately, in 1943.
    More Details Hide Details While the major studios were producing patriotic war movies, Cagney was determined to continue dispelling his tough-guy image, so he produced a movie that was a "complete and exhilarating exposition of the Cagney 'alter-ego' on film". According to Cagney, the film "made money but it was no great winner", and reviews varied from excellent (Time) to poor (New York's PM). Following the film's completion, Cagney went back to the USO and toured US military bases in the UK. He refused to give interviews to the British press, preferring to concentrate on rehearsals and performances. He gave several performances a day for the Army Signal Corps of The American Cavalcade of Dance, which consisted of a history of American dance, from the earliest days to Fred Astaire, and culminated with dances from Yankee Doodle Dandy. The second movie Cagney's company produced was Blood on the Sun. Insisting on doing his own stunts, Cagney required judo training from expert Ken Kuniyuki and Jack Halloran, a former policeman. The Cagneys had hoped that an action film would appeal more to audiences, but it fared worse at the box office than Johnny Come Lately. At this time, Cagney heard of young war hero Audie Murphy, who had appeared on the cover of Life magazine. Cagney thought that Murphy had the looks to be a movie star, and suggested that he come to Hollywood. Cagney felt, however, that Murphy could not act, and his contract was loaned out and then sold.
  • 1942
    Age 42
    Cagney became president of the Screen Actors Guild in 1942 for a two-year term.
    More Details Hide Details He took a role in the Guild's fight against the Mafia, which had begun to take an active interest in the movie industry. His wife, Billie Vernon, once received a phone call telling her that Cagney was dead. Cagney alleged that, having failed to scare off the Guild and him, they sent a hitman to kill him by dropping a heavy light onto his head. Upon hearing of the rumor of a hit, George Raft made a call, and the hit was supposedly canceled. During World War II, Cagney raised money for war bonds by taking part in racing exhibitions at the Roosevelt Raceway and selling seats for the premiere of Yankee Doodle Dandy. He also let the Army practice maneuvers at his Martha's Vineyard farm.
    In September 1942, he was elected president of the Screen Actors Guild.
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    Cagney announced in March 1942 that his brother William and he were setting up Cagney Productions to release films though United Artists.
    More Details Hide Details Free of Warner Bros. again, Cagney spent some time relaxing on his farm in Martha's Vineyard before volunteering to join the USO. He spent several weeks touring the US, entertaining troops with vaudeville routines and scenes from Yankee Doodle Dandy.
    In 1942, Cagney won the Oscar for his energetic portrayal of George M. Cohan in Yankee Doodle Dandy.
    More Details Hide Details He was nominated a third time in 1955 for Love Me or Leave Me. Cagney retired from acting and dancing in 1961 to spend time on his farm with his family. He exited retirement, 20 years later, for a part in the movie Ragtime (1981), mainly to aid his recovery from a stroke. Cagney walked out on Warner Bros. several times over the course of his career, each time returning on much improved personal and artistic terms. In 1935, he sued Warner for breach of contract and won. This was one of the first times an actor prevailed over a studio on a contract issue. He worked for an independent film company for a year while the suit was being settled—and established his own production company, Cagney Productions, in 1942, before returning to Warner four years later. In reference to Cagney's refusal to be pushed around, Jack L. Warner called him "the Professional Againster". Cagney also made numerous morale-boosting troop tours before and during World War II and was president of the Screen Actors Guild for two years.
  • 1940
    Age 40
    After the war, Cagney's politics started to change. He had worked on Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt's presidential campaigns, including the 1940 presidential election against Wendell Willkie.
    More Details Hide Details However, by the time of the 1948 election, he had become disillusioned with Harry S. Truman, and voted for Thomas E. Dewey, his first non-Democratic vote.
  • THIRTIES
  • 1939
    Age 39
    In 1939, Cagney was second to only Gary Cooper in the national acting wage stakes, earning $368,333.
    More Details Hide Details His next notable role was as George M. Cohan in Yankee Doodle Dandy, a film Cagney "took great pride in" and considered his best. Producer Hal Wallis said that having seen Cohan in I'd Rather Be Right, he never considered anyone other than Cagney for the part. Cagney, though, insisted that Fred Astaire had been the first choice, but turned it down. Filming began the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and the cast and crew worked in a "patriotic frenzy" as the United States' involvement in World War II gave the cast and crew a feeling that "they might be sending the last message from the free world", according to actress Rosemary DeCamp. Cohan was given a private showing of the film shortly before his death, and thanked Cagney "for a wonderful job". A paid première, with seats ranging from $25 to $25,000, raised $5,750,000 for war bonds for the US treasury.
    He completed his first decade of movie-making in 1939 with The Roaring Twenties, his first film with Raoul Walsh and his last with Bogart.
    More Details Hide Details After The Roaring Twenties, it would be a decade before Cagney made another gangster film. Cagney again received good reviews; Graham Greene stated, "Mr. Cagney, of the bull-calf brow, is as always a superb and witty actor". The Roaring Twenties was the last film in which Cagney's character's violence was explained by poor upbringing, or his environment, as was the case in The Public Enemy. From that point on, violence was attached to mania, as in White Heat.
  • 1938
    Age 38
    The film is regarded by many as one of Cagney's finest, and garnered him an Academy Award for Best Actor nomination for 1938.
    More Details Hide Details He lost to Spencer Tracy in Boys Town. Cagney had been considered for the role, but lost out on it due to his typecasting. (He also lost the role of Notre Dame football coach Knute Rockne in Knute Rockne, All American to his friend Pat O'Brien for the same reason.) Cagney did, however, win that year's New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor. His earlier insistence on not filming with live ammunition proved to be a good decision. Having been told while filming Angels with Dirty Faces that he would be doing a scene with real machine gun bullets (a common practice in the Hollywood of the time), Cagney refused and insisted the shots be added afterwards. As it turned out, a ricocheting bullet passed through exactly where his head would have been. During his first year back at Warner Bros., Cagney became the studio's highest earner, making $324,000.
    Cagney's two films of 1938, Boy Meets Girl and Angels with Dirty Faces, both costarred Pat O'Brien.
    More Details Hide Details The former had Cagney in a comedy role, and received mixed reviews. Warner Bros. had allowed Cagney his change of pace, but was keen to get him back to playing tough guys, which was more lucrative. Ironically, the script for Angels was one that Cagney had hoped to do while with Grand National, but the studio had been unable to secure funding. Cagney starred as Rocky Sullivan, a gangster fresh out of jail and looking for his former associate, played by Humphrey Bogart, who owes him money. While revisiting his old haunts, he runs into his old friend Jerry Connolly, played by O'Brien, who is now a priest concerned about the Dead End Kids' futures, particularly as they idolize Rocky. After a messy shootout, Sullivan is eventually captured by the police and sentenced to death in the electric chair. Connolly pleads with Rocky to "turn yellow" on his way to the chair so the Kids will lose their admiration for him, and hopefully avoid turning to crime. Sullivan refuses, but on his way to his execution, he breaks down and begs for his life. It is unclear whether this cowardice is real or just feigned for the Kids' benefit. Cagney himself refused to say, insisting he liked the ambiguity.
  • 1936
    Age 36
    Cagney also became involved in political causes, and in 1936, agreed to sponsor the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League.
    More Details Hide Details Unknown to Cagney, the League was in fact a front organization for the Communist International (Comintern), which sought to enlist support for the Soviet Union and its foreign policies. The courts eventually decided the Warner Bros. lawsuit in Cagney's favor. He had done what many thought unthinkable: taking on the studios and winning. Not only did he win, but Warner Bros. also knew that he was still their foremost box office draw and invited him back for a five-year, $150,000-a-film deal, with no more than two pictures a year. Cagney also had full say over what films he did and did not make. Additionally, William Cagney was guaranteed the position of assistant producer for the movies in which his brother starred. Cagney had demonstrated the power of the walkout in keeping the studios to their word. He later explained his reasons, saying, "I walked out because I depended on the studio heads to keep their word on this, that or other promise, and when the promise was not kept, my only recourse was to deprive them of my services." Cagney himself acknowledged the importance of the walkout for other actors in breaking the dominance of the studio system. Normally, when a star walked out, the time he or she was absent was added onto the end of an already long contract, as happened with Olivia de Havilland and Bette Davis. Cagney, however, walked out and came back to a better contract.
  • 1934
    Age 34
    The accusation in 1934 stemmed from a letter police found from a local Communist official that alleged that Cagney would bring other Hollywood stars to meetings.
    More Details Hide Details Cagney denied this, and Lincoln Steffens, husband of the letter's writer, backed up this denial, asserting that the accusation stemmed solely from Cagney's donation to striking cotton workers in the San Joaquin Valley. William Cagney claimed this donation was the root of the charges in 1940. Cagney was cleared by U.S. Representative Martin Dies, Jr., on the House Un-American Activities Committee.
    This, combined with the fact that Cagney had made five movies in 1934, again against his contract terms, caused him to bring legal proceedings against Warner Bros. for breach of contract.
    More Details Hide Details The dispute dragged on for several months. Cagney received calls from David Selznick and Sam Goldwyn, but neither felt in a position to offer him work while the dispute went on. Meanwhile, while being represented by his brother William in court, Cagney went back to New York to search for a country property where he could indulge his passion for farming. Cagney spent most of the next year on his farm, and went back to work only when Edward L. Alperson from Grand National Films, a newly established, independent studio, approached him to make movies for $100,000 a film and 10% of the profits. Cagney made two films for Grand National: Great Guy and Something to Sing About. He received good reviews for both, but overall the production quality was not up to Warner Bros. standards, and the films did not do well. A third film, Dynamite, was planned, but Grand National ran out of money.
    His next notable film was 1934's Here Comes the Navy, which paired him with Pat O'Brien for the first time.
    More Details Hide Details The two would have an enduring friendship. In 1935, Cagney was listed as one of the Top Ten Moneymakers in Hollywood for the first time, and was cast more frequently in nongangster roles; he played a lawyer who joins the FBI in G-Men, and he also took on his first, and only, Shakespearean role, as top-billed Nick Bottom in A Midsummer Night's Dream alongside Joe E. Brown as Flute and Mickey Rooney as Puck Cagney's last movie in 1935 was Ceiling Zero, his third film with Pat O'Brien. O'Brien received top billing, which was a clear breach of Cagney's contract.
  • 1933
    Age 33
    Cagney returned to the studio and made Hard to Handle in 1933.
    More Details Hide Details This was followed by a steady stream of films, including the highly regarded Footlight Parade, which gave Cagney the chance to return to his song-and-dance roots. The film includes show-stopping scenes with Busby Berkeley-choreographed routines.
    This experience was an integral reason for his involvement in forming the Screen Actors Guild in 1933.
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  • 1932
    Age 32
    Cagney's first film upon returning from New York was 1932's Taxi!
    More Details Hide Details The film is notable for not only being the first time that Cagney danced on screen, but it was also the last time he allowed himself to be shot at with live ammunition (a relatively common occurrence at the time, as blank cartridges and squibs were considered too expensive and hard to find to use in most motion picture filming). He had been shot at in The Public Enemy, but during filming for Taxi!, he was almost hit. In his opening scene, Cagney spoke fluent Yiddish, a language he had picked up during his boyhood in New York City. Critics praised the film. Taxi! was the source of one of Cagney's most misquoted lines; he never actually said, "MMMmmm, you dirty rat!", a line commonly used by impressionists. The closest he got to it in the film was, "Come out and take it, you dirty, yellow-bellied rat, or I'll give it to you through the door!" The film was swiftly followed by The Crowd Roars and Winner Take All.
  • 1931
    Age 31
    Warner Bros. was quick to team its two rising gangster stars—Edward G. Robinson and Cagney—for the 1931 film Smart Money.
    More Details Hide Details So keen was the studio to follow up the success of Robinson's Little Caesar that Cagney actually shot Smart Money (for which he received second billing in a supporting role) at the same time as The Public Enemy. As in The Public Enemy, Cagney was required to be physically violent to a woman on screen, a signal that Warner Bros. was keen to keep Cagney in the public eye. This time, he slapped co-star Evalyn Knapp. With the introduction of the United States Motion Picture Production Code of 1930, and particularly its edicts concerning on-screen violence, Warners allowed Cagney a change of pace. They cast him in the comedy Blonde Crazy, again opposite Blondell. As he completed filming, The Public Enemy was filling cinemas with all-night showings. Cagney began to compare his pay with his peers, thinking his contract allowed for salary adjustments based on the success of his films. Warner Bros. disagreed, however, and refused to give him a raise. The studio heads also insisted that Cagney continue promoting their films, even ones he was not in, which he opposed. Cagney moved back to New York, leaving his brother Bill to look after his apartment.
  • TWENTIES
  • 1928
    Age 28
    He had built a reputation as an innovative teacher, so when he was cast as the lead in Grand Street Follies of 1928, he was also appointed the choreographer.
    More Details Hide Details The show received rave reviews and was followed by Grand Street Follies of 1929. These roles led to a part in George Kelly's Maggie the Magnificent, a play the critics disliked, though they liked Cagney's performance. Cagney saw this role (and Women Go on Forever) as significant because of the talented directors he met. He learned " what a director was for and what a director could do. They were directors who could play all the parts in the play better than the actors cast for them." Playing opposite Cagney in Maggie the Magnificent was Joan Blondell, who starred again with him a few months later in Marie Baumer's new play Penny Arcade. While the critics panned Penny Arcade, they praised Cagney and Blondell. Al Jolson, sensing film potential, bought the rights for $20,000. He then sold the play to Warner Bros., with the stipulation that they cast Cagney and Blondell in the film version. Retitled Sinners' Holiday, the film was released in 1930. Cagney was given a $500-a-week, three-week contract. In the film, he portrays Harry Delano, a tough guy who becomes a killer, but generates sympathy because of his unfortunate upbringing. This role of the sympathetic "bad" guy was a recurring character type for Cagney throughout his career. During filming of Sinners' Holiday, he also demonstrated the stubbornness that characterized his work attitude. He later recalled an argument he had with director John Adolfi about a line: "There was a line in the show where I was supposed to be crying on my mother's breast... line was 'I'm your baby, ain't I?' I refused to say it.
  • 1926
    Age 26
    Cagney secured the lead role in the 1926–27 season West End production of Broadway by George Abbott.
    More Details Hide Details The show's management insisted that he copy Broadway lead Lee Tracy's performance, despite Cagney's discomfort in doing so, but the day before the show sailed for England, they decided to replace him. This was a devastating turn of events for Cagney; apart from the logistical difficulties this presented—the couple's luggage was in the hold of the ship and they had given up their apartment. He almost quit show business. As Vernon recalled, "Jimmy said that it was all over. He made up his mind that he would get a job doing something else." The Cagneys had run-of-the-play contracts, which lasted as long as the play did. Vernon was in the chorus line of the show, and with help from the Actors’ Equity Association, Cagney understudied Tracy on the Broadway show, providing them with a desperately needed steady income. Cagney also established a dance school for professionals, then landed a part in the play Women Go On Forever, directed by John Cromwell, which ran for four months. By the end of the run, Cagney was exhausted from acting and running the dance school.
  • 1925
    Age 25
    Cagney secured his first significant nondancing role in 1925.
    More Details Hide Details He played a young tough guy in the three-act play Outside Looking In by Maxwell Anderson, earning $200 a week. As with Pitter Patter, Cagney went to the audition with little confidence he would get the part. He had no experience with drama at this point. Cagney felt that he only got the role because his hair was redder than that of Alan Bunce, the only other red-headed performer in New York. Both the play and Cagney received good reviews; Life magazine wrote, "Mr. Cagney, in a less spectacular role his co-star makes a few minutes silence during his mock-trial scene something that many a more established actor might watch with profit." Burns Mantle wrote that it " contained the most honest acting now to be seen in New York." Following the show's four-month run, Cagney went back to vaudeville for the next few years. He achieved varied success, but after appearing in Outside Looking In, the Cagneys were more financially secure. During this period, he met George M. Cohan, whom he later portrayed in Yankee Doodle Dandy, though they never spoke.
  • 1924
    Age 24
    After years of touring and struggling to make money, Cagney and Vernon moved to Hawthorne, California, in 1924, partly for Cagney to meet his new mother-in-law, who had just moved there from Chicago, and partly to investigate breaking into the movies.
    More Details Hide Details Their train fares were paid for by a friend, the press officer of Pitter Patter, who was also desperate to act. They were not successful at first; the dance studio Cagney set up had few clients and folded, and Vernon and he toured the studios, but garnered no interest. Eventually, they borrowed some money and headed back to New York via Chicago and Milwaukee, enduring failure along the way when they attempted to make money on the stage.
  • 1922
    Age 22
    They married on September 28, 1922, and the marriage lasted until his death in 1986.
    More Details Hide Details Frances Cagney died in 1994. In 1941, they adopted a son whom they named James Cagney, Jr., and later a daughter, Cathleen "Casey" Cagney. Cagney was a very private man, and while he was very willing to give the press opportunities for photographs, he generally spent his time out of the public eye.
    Among the chorus line performers was 16-year-old Frances Willard "Billie" Vernon, whom he married in 1922.
    More Details Hide Details The show began Cagney's 10-year association with vaudeville and Broadway. Cagney and his wife were among the early resident of Free Acres, a social experiment established by Bolton Hall in Berkeley Heights, New Jersey. Pitter Patter was not hugely successful, but it did well enough to run for 32 weeks, enabling Cagney to join the vaudeville circuit. Vernon and he toured separately with a number of different troupes, reuniting as "Vernon and Nye" to do simple comedy routines and musical numbers. "Nye" was a rearrangement of the last syllable of Cagney's surname. One of the troupes Cagney joined was Parker, Rand, and Leach, taking over the spot vacated when Archie Leach—who later changed his name to Cary Grant—left.
  • TEENAGE
  • 1919
    Age 19
    While working at Wanamaker's Department Store in 1919, Cagney learned, from a colleague who had seen him dance, of a role in the upcoming production Every Sailor.
    More Details Hide Details A wartime play in which the chorus was made up of servicemen dressed as women, it was originally titled Every Woman. Cagney auditioned for the role of a chorus girl, despite considering it a waste of time; he only knew one dance step, the complicated Peabody, but he knew it perfectly. This was enough to convince the producers that he could dance, and he copied the other dancers' moves while waiting to go on. He did not find it odd to play a woman, nor was he embarrassed. He later recalled how he was able to shed his own natural shy persona when he stepped onto the stage: "For there I am not myself. I am not that fellow, Jim Cagney, at all. I certainly lost all consciousness of him when I put on skirts, wig, paint, powder, feathers and spangles."
  • 1918
    Age 18
    He also took German and joined the Student Army Training Corps but dropped out after one semester, returning home upon the death of his father during the 1918 flu pandemic.
    More Details Hide Details Cagney held a variety of jobs early in his life, giving all his earnings to his family: junior architect, copy boy for The New York Sun, book custodian at the New York Public Library, bellhop, draughtsman, and night doorkeeper. While Cagney was working for the New York Public Library, he met Florence James, who helped him into an acting career. Cagney believed in hard work, later stating, "It was good for me. I feel sorry for the kid who has too cushy a time of it. Suddenly he has to come face-to-face with the realities of life without any mama or papa to do his thinking for him." He started tap dancing as a boy (a skill that eventually contributed to his Academy Award) and was nicknamed "Cellar-Door Cagney" after his habit of dancing on slanted cellar doors. He was a good street fighter, defending his older brother Harry, a medical student, when necessary. He engaged in amateur boxing, and was a runner-up for the New York State lightweight title. His coaches encouraged him to turn professional, but his mother would not allow it. He also played semiprofessional baseball for a local team, and entertained dreams of playing in the Major Leagues.
    The red-haired, blue-eyed Cagney graduated from Stuyvesant High School in New York City, in 1918, and attended Columbia College of Columbia University, where he intended to major in Art.
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  • CHILDHOOD
  • 1899
    Born
    Born on July 17, 1899.
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