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TomJH

Bogart Vs. Cagney Vs. Robinson

999 posts in this topic

Thanks again, MissW, for one of your typically thoughtful, contemplative contributions, this time dealing with that multi talented dynamo called Cagney. I look forward to any further contributions you may care to make.

 

Well, it's apparent that we are both HUGE fans of White Heat (his performance in that film clearly establishes him as one of the great actors of any era, as far as I'm concerned, not that there aren't other performances of his that are mesmerizing as well), I want to concentrate now, as did you, on his most famous role and film, George M. Cohan in Yankee Doodle Dandy.

 

And the truth is that I've near been a big fan of this, to me, very old fashioned sentimental flag waving musical. However, we all know that this was the one film of his career that Cagney most wanted put in a time capsule because, above everything else, he regarded himself as a song-and-dance man.

 

What I do like about Yankee Doodle Dandy is the obvious enthusiasm of Cagney's performance (though, dramatically, this film offers him little to do compared to the dynamics of Cody Jarrett), as well as some of the musical numbers. When Cagney and Frances Langford are extolling the WWI servicemen to join them with a rousing rendition of Over There, I'm almost leaping to my feet to join in.

 

Yankee Doodle Dandy is also a film, big budget 1942 style, of course, that pays tribute to the times and characters that flowed through vaudeville. Unlike today, many members of original audiences viewing this Warners effort must have had strong memories of vaudeville themselves (as did, of course, Cagney). I have a feeling that this film may glamourize it just a tad and make it appear more attractive (possibly much, much more) than it really was.

 

To get an even truer feeling for the acts in vaudeville, it's best that we see some of those early Vitaphone shorts played by TCM, with the likes of Trixie Friganza or whoever recreating their acts before a stationary camera. Still Yankee Doodle Dandy does attempt to bring us a sentimental portrait of an era in show business that was no more, and for that, since the film involved actual participants of that time, I am grateful.

 

As for Cagney's talk singing patter he, as they say, gets the job done with it (as did Rex Harrison, as you pointed out). Cagney's real joy and freedom as a musical performer clearly came when he used that stiff legged, at times high kicking, dancing technique of his and was able to cut loose with it. And like everything else about Cagney, it certainly has an individual personality stamp upon it. Have you seen any other dancer with a style quite like his?

 

By the way, if you haven't seen it, and want a real hoot, try to catch Cagney in a later Warners musical he made in 1950 called West Point Story. Don't get me wrong - this is a corny musical with a tired plot and it is at times mawkishly sentimental.

 

HOWEVER, West Point Story has a GREAT musical number at the end called Brooklyn. It features Cagney as a New Yawk wise guy wearing a fedora and zoot suit (at least, I hope that's what it's called) who dances on stage with a beautiful leggy Virginia Mayo (yes, the same Mayo he had been slapping around the year before in White Heat).

 

Cagney may have been 50 when he made this film but his character in this number exudes wise guy attitude and he's fun, REALLY fun to watch, as he kicks up his heels and looks like he's having the time of his life in this number.

 

The following shots are from Brooklyn. Believe me, Jimmy's a pure joy in this number:

 

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From 1943 until 1948 Cagney and his production company didn't do well. They made some good spy films like Blood on the Sun and 13 Rue Madeleine but no great ones. While Cagney wanted to get away from his gangster persona the films he made during this period didn't really do that. i.e. he still played the wise cracking, full of energy, take nothing from nobody type, but he was too old for those type of roles and they the type of depth he would bring to White Heat.

 

 

 

So to me those years are a valley period.

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But that's not the only valley in Cagney's career, James. After 1949's White Heat it wasn't until the releases of Love Me Or Leave Me and Mister Roberts in 1955 that he had a couple of good roles in good films. And after those two films his career took another dip, with only Man of a Thousand Faces and One Two Three compensating (though the very grim Shake Hands with the Devil is worth a look).

 

Cagney's last truly great role, in my opinion, was Cody Jarrett. But, for my money, Cagney at is best is pretty well the best there is.

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My guess is that Cagney himself would be very disappointed that you feel Cody Jarrett is his last great role. As you know he didn't want to play that type of character (which is why he formed his own production company), but did so only because he needed the money (his company failed and was in debt).

 

So while I tend to agree with what you posted compare that to Bogie. After Casablanca he was criticized for playing Rick type characters too much. But then he did movies like Treasures, African Queen, The Barefoot Contessa, Caine; i.e. very different characters in high quality movies.

 

 

 

 

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James, I have a feeling that Cagney himself was probably very disappointed with his career after Yankee Doodle Dandy. The actor always seemed to send out rather mixed signals even in his feelings about White Heat. I think he took some pride in the critical and fan response to the film but at the same time took no particular pleasure in playing that kind of part. It was simply a job to him that brought in some money. He would much prefer to be remembered for the Cohan film.

 

I don't know if Jimmy was inclined to play films of his own during his retirement. I have a feeling, though, that if he did he would have worn out the sprockets on the film for Yankee Doodle Dandy.

 

Years ago I sent Cagney a letter to which he responded with a small note. Now somewhat emboldened by his response, I sent him a second letter, this time asking him what it was that had motivated him to play the prison cafeteria scene in White Heat in the manner in which he did.

 

How Cagney must have thought I was some kind of geeky college student from a film course. He was a "just do the job, don't analyze it" kind of actor. I don't believe any interviewers he ever saw ever got any real replies out of him whenever he was asked any questions about acting. Naturally, I received no more of a response from him than had any of the others, far better versed on the subject of his films than I, that had preceded me.

 

If I had sent Cagney, instead, a letter asking about Morgan horses I would have had a far better chance at receiving an answer (though not nearly so interested in what he had to say).

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As a followup on my last posting, I have the following quote on the making of White Heat by James Cagney, from his autobiography Cagney By Cagney:

 

Not long ago a reporter asked me if I didn't have to "psych" myself up for the scene in White Heat where I go berserk on learning of my mother's death. My answer to the question is that you don't psych yourself up for these things, you do them. I can image what some of the old-timers would have said in answer to that question. They would have laughed aloud at the idea of an actor pumping himself up with emotional motivations to do a scene. The pro is supposed to know what to do, then go ahead and do it. In this particular scene, I knew what deranged people sounded like because once as a youngster I had visited Ward's Island where a pal's uncle was in the hospital for the insane. My God, what an education that was! The shrieks, the screams of those people under restraint! I remembered those cries, saw that they fitted, and I called on my memory to do as required. No need to psych up.

 

It's apparent that Cagney was not a Method actor.

 

It's also interesting to read his account of having visited a mental hospital when he was a boy. Just as years later Cagney would remember the cries that he had heard there that day, so, too, does any viewer who sees the prison cafeteria scene in White Heat remember the final sounds heard emanating from Cody Jarrett as he is carried away by guards, those of the anguished screams of an insane asylum.

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Sort of the same take as when Olivier once supposedly asked Dustin Hoffman just before the "dentist' scene in "Marathon Man" was filmed "if he had thought of acting" instead of staying up all night before the cameras rolled that morning, eh Tom?! ;)

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Dargo, Women are just as visual as men.I find Cagney as a young man Handsome and Sexy. I'm attracted to inside and outside when it comes to men. Look at all the Handsome men women swooned over through the years. Proof that we are just as visual as men! I could ad more here but I will get censored.

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To MissW- Cagney did a stiff joint dance only in Yankee Doodle Dandy because that was how Cohan danced. In many of his other films he is much more graceful. Footlight Parade is one example.

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Well cg, did I NOT admit much earlier in this thing that when he was younger I also thought he was "a cute little guy"?! Oh, and yeah, "fiery" TOO!!!

 

(...though CERTAINLY ill-suited to play ROBIN HOOD...though now that I THINK about it, that might've been in another thread somewhere!!!)

 

LOL

 

;)

 

Edited by: Dargo2 on Jul 9, 2013 3:17 PM

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TomJH-I'm attracted to different actors for different reasons. Some it's the way they kiss and how romantic they are[Mostly handsome men though]. Some it's their magnetism and charisma. Some I like just for their acting-like Basil Rathbone.Cagney- My favorite movies are Angels with Dirty Faces, Mayor of Hell, Ceiling Zero, Taxi and Hard to Handle. I love when he is teamed up with pretty, nice, good women.

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*finance wrote:* *I NEVER saw Boagart as having the slightest bit of sex appeal*

 

I can understand why someone might initially think this. However, earlier in this thread I did a little dime store psychology on what I figured was Bogie's sexual/romantic appeal to some female viewers. I'll re-produce it here because it's pretty brilliant stuff. ;) Okay, okay, not brilliant, but it's the best I could do:

 

As far as Bogart is concerned, I could be right out to lunch on what I'm about to say - but, watching him, particularly in his scenes with Bacall, he comes across as a world weary cynic ready to act protective of her. There's no Jimmy Cagney "little boy" quality about him. Watching him banter with Bacall (in particular that racetrack double entendre scene in Big Sleep) he also comes across to me like something of a sophisticate. I think that a woman looking for a man-of-the-world type may find that Bogart attractive.

And Dargo made a followup comment which I also think bears repeating:

 

 

 

in Bogie's case, "The Cynic" HAS always been able to hold the interest of intelligent people, but in MOST cases those of BOTH genders)

And that is very true, too, I strongly feel. Humphrey Bogart, unlike the man child appeal of Cagney, had very much the image of an adult who had seen a lot of life. At the same time, that same cynicism in Bogart, I feel, is highly attractive to male viewers as a "cool" nothing-shakes-me-up role model. The fact that he is on the big screen romancing the likes of an Ingrid Bergman or Lauren Bacall, beautiful women who also had rather sophisticated screen images, doesn't hurt either. And the fact that he plays characters who often turn out to be disillusioned idealists who, in the end, come through for someone else is a large part of the reason why the man has become a legend.

 

 

 

Bogart, of course, is not the only actor to have played this kind of role. Look at Mitchum, look at Dick Powell in his latter career, also, at times, look at James Garner. But the image of cynic who's a good guy beneath the hard shell seems to be identified with Bogart, I think, more anyone else.

 

 

Okay, now that I've said my piece, any brickbats?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Tom-I find that some men like to see ugly guys with beautiful women. And out of the men you mentioned James Garner I think appeals more to women than the others. And to other posts here-Sinatra and Elvis don't have as many number ones as Bing. And Bing was bigger than them at the box office and a huge star on radio.

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>Okay, now that I've said my piece, any brickbats?

 

Nope. Not from THIS quarter, anyway.

 

(...but then again, what ELSE is new, EH?!) ;)

 

LOL

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{font:arial, helvetica, sans-serif}*And out of the men you mentioned James Garner I think appeals more to women than the others.*

 

I don' t quite see it that way, crazyblonde. Even though Garner was a very good looking actor, he had a strong down-to-earth "regular guy" appeal about him, particularly in The Rockford Files, which I think is very appealing to both sexes. I don't think there has ever been an actor as good at playing the fraidy cat hero who will come through in the end than Garner.

 

It's television that arguably did him more justice as a performer than the movies (though he had a remarkable delivery of Paddy Chayefsky's clever dialogue in The Americanization of Emily). Garner is very high on my list of often brilliant performers (with the right material) that people have a tendency to take for granted.{font}

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> {quote:title=crazyblonde7 wrote:}{quote}To MissW- Cagney did a stiff joint dance only in Yankee Doodle Dandy because that was how Cohan danced. In many of his other films he is much more graceful. Footlight Parade is one example.

I have seen *Footlight Parade*. And quite frankly, I don't know what all the fuss is about. Several others on this thread have mentioned that film, especially the "Shanghai Lil" scene.

Sorry all you *FP* fans...if it's any consolation, I believe I am in the minority in not being very impressed with it. But this film did not hold my interest much, and I thought that "Shanghai Lil" number went on and on.

For me, it's the music in musicals that counts. If it doesn't strike me as particularly good music, I'm not that interested. And I'm afraid the songs in *Footlight Parade* did not move me at all. I can't even remember them.

That's also partly why *Yankee Doodle Dandy* doesn't engage me. I don't much like those George M. Cohan tunes. They're ok, but his music just fails to connect with me.

 

Edit: crazyblonde, it is not my intention to be disagreeable with you. I think we must have very different tastes. However, we can agree that we both like James Cagney, even if for different reasons !

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Footlight Parade is one of my favorite Cagney films. I see it as much more than a musical. Cagney and Blondell are a great team and they have many funny scenes. The dialogue between the two gals after Cagney, Frank Mchugh, etc... this movies has so much more than just the music.

 

I do agree that the music associated with the musical numbers is only OK, but the scenes themselves are fantastic.

 

Shanghai Lil does go on too long with the patriotic theme.

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Footlight Parade is my favourite of the Busby Berkeley musicals, and a film that was clearly a huge early career highlight for Cagney as it was a musical which allowed him the opportunity to show off his unique dancing style. Not only that, important for the actor, it had probably more production values than any other two or three films that he made at that time combined. Aside from that, his characterization as stage producer Chester Kent has, in my opinion, one of the actor's most amazingly energetic performances, even for this actor. If ever there was a film in which Cagney could be called a whirling dervish as a performer Footlight Parade is it.

 

I love the elaborate musical numbers in the film, Shanghai Lil highlighted, of course, by Cagney's "surprise" appearance (in 1933, at least), as a dancing sailor, though he is teamed up with Ruby Keeler, less than convincing in Oriental makeup. But I also love the far East atmosphere in this number as part of its preamble before Cagney comes on the scene.

 

Aside from that, By a Waterfall is one of the highlight Berkeley numbers when it comes to a demonstration of this choreographer's unique ability to present his remarkable musical numbers with their kaleidoscope effects, combine with rows of women with beautiful legs and perfect sets of teeth. There is a charmingly innocent sexuality about a number like this today but I suspect that male members of the audience in 1933 were steaming just a bit as they watched these blonde chorus girls in this kind of pre-code musical.

 

The other thing that I love about Footlight Parade, as well as the likes of 42nd Street and Gold Diggers of 1933, is the street wise quality to a lot of the dialogue. These are truly Warners films, with those cynical wise cracks thrown into the midst. You're never going to hear this kind of dialogue in a musical from MGM or Paramount. And sometimes the lines are downright clever.

 

Is there anyone who doesn't love that moment in which loyal secretary Joan Blondell escorts beautiful but snooty Claire Dodd (who's been trying to take advantage of the, in this film, female naive Cagney) to the door. Blondell opens the door and gives Dodd a quick boot in the behind with the memorable line, "So long, Countess. As long as they are sidewalks, YOU'VE got a job!"

 

And Cagney has great chemistry with Blondell. She's one of his best leading ladies, inasmuch as she is feisty, too, and can stand up to him. I mean, you got to love it. At least I do.

 

footlightparade.jpg

 

tumblr_ma207n0L1C1qd48zdo1_500.gif

 

 

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MissW- I only mentioned Footlight Parade because I love the dance Cagney does with Ruby Keeler. I thought he was so graceful yet masculine! And yes, we have different taste but we also have 2 things we agree on Classic Movies and liking Cagney!

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If anyone were to ask me why I spend time on these forums, I could give them many reasons.

 

But I think one of the main reasons is because of the different perspectives other old movie fans provide for me. I truly find this enlightening, and have more than once changed my mind, or at least opened my mind, to a new way of thinking about a film, actor, or even genre that I may have up till that point disliked.

 

Since so many here - oh, and also TikiSoo, whose opinion I have great respect for - have praised *Footlight Parade* and given many reasons why they enjoy it, I think it behooves me to give the film another chance. And, in full disclosure, I have seen it only once. How often have we changed our minds about a film we thought we didn't like after a second viewing? (well, 50-50 anyway...)

 

Maybe the key for me is to watch *Footlight Parade* as a fun pre-code with musical numbers, rather than primarily as a musical. As Tom and others have noted, *FP* has a similar feel to *Golddiggers of 33* and *42nd Street*.

And I love Joan Blondell in anything. She and Cagney did make a good comedy team.

 

Ok, what the hell, next time *Footlight Parade* is on I'll give it another shot. :D

 

Edited by: misswonderly on Jul 9, 2013 10:45 PM

This is not to say that my brain is putty in the hands of all you TCM message board posters.

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*{font:arial, helvetica, sans-serif}The other thing that I love about Footlight Parade, as well as the likes of 42nd Street and Gold Diggers of 1933, is the street wise quality to a lot of the dialogue. These are truly Warners films, with those cynical wise cracks thrown into the midst. You're never going to hear this kind of dialogue in a musical from MGM or Paramount. And sometimes the lines are downright clever. {font}*

 

*{font:arial, helvetica, sans-serif}Is there anyone who doesn't love that moment in which loyal secretary Joan Blondell escorts beautiful but snooty Claire Dodd (who's been trying to take advantage of the, in this film, female naive Cagney) to the door. Blondell opens the door and gives Dodd a quick boot in the behind with the memorable line, "So long, Countess. As long as they are sidewalks, YOU'VE got a job!"{font}*

 

Much as I love Joan Blondell, and that line in Footlight Parade, there's never been any line in a musical that topped the comeback of "Anytime Annie" (Ginger Rogers) in 42nd Street:

 

*"MUST HAVE BEEN TOUGH ON YOUR MOTHER, NOT HAVING ANY CHILDREN..."*

 

 

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