James Cagney

Interesting Facts about James Cagney – Was an actor, dancer and film director. On stage and in film, Cagney was known for his consistently energetic performances, distinctive vocal style, and deadpan comic timing. He won acclaim and major awards for a wide variety of performances.
Here are some interesting facts about James Cagney…
Cagney played multifaceted tough guys in films such as 1931s The Public Enemy, 1932s Taxi!, 1938s Angels with Dirty Faces, 1939s The Roaring Twenties, 1940s City for Conquest and 1949s White Heat, typecast or limited by this reputation earlier in his career. He negotiated dancing parts in his films then winning the Academy Award for his role in the musical 1942s Yankee Doodle Dandy. In 1999 the American Film Institute ranked him eighth among its list of greatest male stars of the Golden Age of Hollywood. Orson Welles said Cagney was “maybe the greatest actor who ever appeared in front of a camera”.
In his first professional acting performance in 1919, Cagney was dressed as a woman when he danced in the chorus line of the revue Every Sailor. He spent some years in vaudeville as a dancer and comedian, when he got his first major acting part in 1925. Several other roles followed, getting good reviews, before receiving the lead in the 1929 play Penny Arcade. Al Jolson saw Cagney in the play then bought the movie rights, selling them to Warner Bros. with the condition that James Cagney and Joan Blondell star in the movie. With rave reviews, Warner Bros. signed him for an initial $400-a-week, three-week contract; after the studio executives saw the first dailies from the film, Cagney’s contract was extended immediately.
The Public Enemy, Cagney’s fifth film, was one of the most significant gangster movies of the era. Famous for the scene in which Cagney pushes half a grapefruit against Mae Clarke’s face, the film landed him in the spotlight. Becoming one of Hollywood’s leading men and one of Warner Bros.’ biggest contracts. He received his first Academy Award nomination for Best Actor in 1938 for his portrayal of the tough guy/man-child Rocky Sullivan in Angels with Dirty Faces. Cagney won the Oscar for his energetic portrayal of George M. Cohan in Yankee Doodle Dandy in 1942. Then nominated a third time in 1955 for Love Me or Leave Me with Doris Day. Retiring from acting and dancing in 1961 to spend time with his family on his farm. Came out of retirement 20 years later for a part in the movie 1981s Ragtime, mainly to help his recovery after a stroke.
Walking out on Warner Bros. several times over his career, each time returning on much improved personal and artistic terms. In 1935 he sued Warner for breach of contract and won. One of the first times an actor prevailed over a studio on a contract issue. He worked for the independent film company Grand National Pictures (starring in two films: the musical ‘Something to Sing About’ and the drama ‘Great Guy’) for a year while the suit was being settled, creating his own production company, Cagney Productions, in 1942 before returning to Warner seven years later. In reference to Cagney’s refusal to be pushed around, Jack L. Warner called him “the Professional Againster”. Cagney also performed in numerous USO tours before and during World War II and served as president of the Screen Actors Guild for two years.


Leave a Comment