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TomJH

Bogart Vs. Cagney Vs. Robinson

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James Cagney lived until he was 86, considerably outliving both Edward G. Robinson (79) and Humphrey Bogart (57).

 

He had a good life, an honoured film career and remained married to the same woman, Billie, for his last 64 years. If Cagney had a major personal issue that I wish might have worked out better for him it would have been in regard to his increasing health issues in his final years. A very private man, it's my understanding that he also had estranged relations with both his adopted son and daughter at the end.

 

As for Cagney's film career, his most famous films (Public Enemy, Yankee Doodle Dandy, White Heat) remain the stuff of Hollywood legend, assuring him one of the strongest standings among classic stars of the studio system days. Always respected by his peers, he received three Oscar nominations, with one win.

 

In retrospect, Cagney's decision to leave Warners at the very peak of his career to go into independent film production with his brother was a mistake, both artistically and financially. He lost what might have been some great years of productivity by not remaining at the studio during the mid and late '40s. Cagney, though, was far from the only star to feel stifled by his studio. Making that attempt at greater artistic freedom is, at least, understandable.

 

In retrospect I feel that his decision to retire after Billy Wilder's One, Two, Three in 1961 was a smart one (going out with a good performance and film with a major director at a time when good roles were becoming increasing difficult for an actor his age to acquire). One may wonder what kind of Alfred Doolittle he might have been if he had succumbed to the temptation to appear in My Fair Lady when that role was offered to him a couple of years later.

 

The respect for Cagney as an actor who could dance was still great enough in the early '60s that he actually turned down a major role in a film that others would have killed to have been in. Cagney admitted this part tempted him, moreso than when Francis Ford Coppola later tried to lure him out of retirement for The Godfather.

 

Of course, he was talked into accepting (primarily for health reasons)a small, if distinguished, part when he played the role of a police commissioner in Ragtime, released in 1981. Soon after that would come a final film, made for TV, Terrible Joe Moran, featuring the actor in a wheel chair as a retired fighter. It's been too many years since I saw this film to make a fair assessement, though I do recall finding it depressing that this was Jim's final farewell to the public.

 

Far better, I feel, is to remember a still feisty and funny Cagney when he appeared in public to receive the AFI Lifetime Achievement Award in 1974. It was a gala presentation, with seemingly as many stars appearing there to pay tribute to Cagney as appeared at the average Academy Awards presentation.

 

And Cagney did not let his audience down when he addressed them. His first words to the esteemed crowd as he stood on the podium before them were typically punchy and to the point: "I'm a wreck!" The audience, clearly eating out of his hands, burst into laughter. Jimmy would go on to regale them for the next nine minutes or so, funny and witty, with a bit of Irish sentiment thrown in.

 

It was a glorious public appearance by the actor who had not been seen for thirteen years since the Wilder film. His serious heath problems would be, fortunately, still a few years away, not until after the actor would go on to have an autobiography, Cagney By Cagney, published.

 

A quiet man who loved horses and the countryside, Cagney enjoyed the peace and serenity of that lifestyle with homes in both Massachusetts and New York state. It was in his New York home, a surprisingly modest structure, where he breathed his last, and I'm sure that the New York Irishman wouldn't have wanted to have it any other way.

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Cagney as Alfred Doolittle? If Audrey Hepburn was also cast this would of been yet another movie where the man Audrey ends up with is around 30 years older.

 

Harrison was 8 years younger but that still made him 21 years older than Audrey.

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Tom, Terrible Joe Moran is a good film. Not depressing. Sure it was Cagney's last film and he is old, in a wheel chair but he still gave a great performance. Also, there are clips shown in the movie of Cagney in early films as a boxer and some of Cagney's paintings can be seen throughout the movie. A seller on ebay is selling an official release of the movie on dvd.Buy it and give it another chance. It deserves it. I met Mr. Cagney when he was 82 at the World Series [Yankees and Dodgers] at Yankees Stadium. My brother and I were a few seats away from him. When he came out the crowd went wild. They sang Yankee Doodle Dandy and Mr. Cagney started to cry. He waved to me. After awhile my brother and I went over and said Hello to him. I was 17 and shy, I wish I would have said more to the man. If it happened now, I know I would have said more. Anyway, I was so in awe that I don't remember the game at all- just MR. CAGNEY!

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>Cagney as Alfred Doolittle? If Audrey Hepburn was also cast this would of been yet another movie where the man Audrey ends up with is around 30 years older.

 

 

 

Alfred Doolittle was Eliza's father, so he was the man that Hepburn started with (and she was cast). Rex Harrison plays "Poor Professor Higgins."

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crazyblonde, meeting James Cagney at that ball game is obviously a great memory for anyone to have. You're very fortunate to have it.

 

I received a letter from him in 1969, something I'll always treasure.

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The classic James Cagney film WHITE HEAT is airing tonight on TCM  so I thought it would be a good reason to resurrect this thread. Paging back in this thread there was a lot of discussion of the film and Cagney's characterization of Cody Jarrett.  This was a film Cagney felt compelled to do  A few years earlier he swore off "gangster" roles and then ended his association with Warner Brothers . Cagney started to work as an independent with his own film projects. But financially it was a tough road so when the opportunity came to do a film at WB and work with director Raoul Walsh again ,  Cagney couldn't resist. And he set out to make one last "ultimate" gangster picture, WHITE HEAT, with Cody Jarrett as the most notorious criminal  Cagney could make him.

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Yes in response Cagney was a private man. He was also more soft spoken off camera; according to sources, the only time Cagney really got aggressive was in his battles with Jack Warner. Everyone who worked on the WB lot knew that Jack Warner was a rude, crude S.O.B. and many were afraid of him. But not Cagney! Jack Warner threatened to suspend him and Cagney said "Go ahead". He called Warner's bluff. Mr. Cagney in reality hated California; only stayed to do the movies. He rented property in California but OWNED property back East - and when not working on a film, he was on the East coast.

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Yes in response Cagney was a private man. He was also more soft spoken off camera

 

I'm sure that there are many on these boards that know that you can catch glimpses of many of Hollywood's golden era stars on old clips of the 50s-60s televison show What's My Line?, to be found on You Tube.

 

Cagney's being soft spoken is apparent on his What's My Line appearance. He's quite straight forward on the show, employing little of the personality that made him so distinctive on film. That is in complete contrast to Edward G. Robinson on the same show (he appeared four times). Robinson is funny and charming, employing fake little voices to disguise his own, to the extent that some of the blindfolded panalists trying to identify him as "the mystery guest" in one show think that he might be a comedy actor.

 

Cagney wrote in his autobiography that someone once said to him that while he was a pretty boisterious person on screen he was a pretty quiet one off it. The question the person then asked him, so which is the real Cagney, on screen or off?

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Yes in response Cagney was a private man. He was also more soft spoken off camera; according to sources, the only time Cagney really got aggressive was in his battles with Jack Warner. Everyone who worked on the WB lot knew that Jack Warner was a rude, crude S.O.B. and many were afraid of him. But not Cagney! Jack Warner threatened to suspend him and Cagney said "Go ahead". He called Warner's bluff. Mr. Cagney in reality hated California; only stayed to do the movies. He rented property in California but OWNED property back East - and when not working on a film, he was on the East coast.

If Cagney WASN'T more soft-spoken off-camera, his film career would have ended pretty quickly. It's tough to make films while you're doing time.

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If Cagney WASN'T more soft-spoken off-camera, his film career would have ended pretty quickly. It's tough to make films while you're doing time.

What's doing time got to do with it? Point is, he was a gentle man but didn't let his boss push him around! 

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In his personal life James Cagney may have been a soft spoken,   mannered gentleman but he was also a man who had some very strong principles and would stand up to anyone who he felt violated those principles. Jack Warner, like most studio bosses, ran his business like a king rules his kingdom, his word is to be obeyed, no questions asked. That did not sit well with a fellow like Cagney and as he became a major, money making star for the studio he wasn't a bit hesitant to use that as leverage to push back at Warner.  Cagney wanted pay increases and some sense of control over his career like movie role approval, etc. So the two men were constantly at odds, Warner could "suspend" Cagney but if Cagney wasn't making a film, no money coming in either. And Cagney was willing to call the boss's bluff at times. There were other actors (Bette Davis for example) who were also willing to push back at their bosses. Eventually Cagney fought for and won the right to get out of his Warners contract altogether. But in later years (1949, WHITE HEAT) Cagney was willing to go back and work for Warners under negotiated contracts.

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In his personal life James Cagney may have been a soft spoken,   mannered gentleman but he was also a man who had some very strong principles and would stand up to anyone who he felt violated those principles. Jack Warner, like most studio bosses, ran his business like a king rules his kingdom, his word is to be obeyed, no questions asked. That did not sit well with a fellow like Cagney and as he became a major, money making star for the studio he wasn't a bit hesitant to use that as leverage to push back at Warner.  Cagney wanted pay increases and some sense of control over his career like movie role approval, etc. So the two men were constantly at odds, Warner could "suspend" Cagney but if Cagney wasn't making a film, no money coming in either. And Cagney was willing to call the boss's bluff at times. There were other actors (Bette Davis for example) who were also willing to push back at their bosses. Eventually Cagney fought for and won the right to get out of his Warners contract altogether. But in later years (1949, WHITE HEAT) Cagney was willing to go back and work for Warners under negotiated contracts.

That /\

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What's doing time got to do with it? Point is, he was a gentle man but didn't let his boss push him around! 

It sounds as if you've never done time.

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Cagney may have been quiet and soft-spoken in real life but he had a great sense of humor. Maybe he didn't show it on What's My Line but he showed it other times. Watch the AFI Awards. Cagney was very funny! So I disagree that he wasn't as funny as EGR!

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Cagney may have been quiet and soft-spoken in real life but he had a great sense of humor. Maybe he didn't show it on What's My Line but he showed it other times. Watch the AFI Awards. Cagney was very funny! So I disagree that he wasn't as funny as EGR!

 

Oh, I think we all know that Cagney had a strong sense of humour, crazyblonde, and, you're right, he certainly demonstrated it in his address at the AFI celebration. He just didn't show it, or much personality, in general, on his What's My Line appearance, while I was pleasantly surprised that Eddie Robinson was as highly amusing on the show as he was, far moreso than Cagney. I think that Cagney's appearance on What's My Line can be seen, perhaps, as a reflection of the "other" Cagney, the one who wasn't "on" as a performer. After all, when he appeared on that panel program, he was there as himself, not a character out of one of his films.

 

As part of that "Irish Mafia" of actor friends who hung out together, it was Pat O'Brien who was the up beat optimist by nature, always cracking jokes, while Jimmy Cagney seemed to often see the pesimistic side of things. O"Brien nicknamed Cagney the "Faraway Fella" because of his quiet, contemplative nature.

 

I've always had the strong impression that Cagney, while a great screen professional who had the respect of his co-workers and who would, as mrroberts said, stand up to his bosses, was also, by nature, a moody man, perhaps even a bit of a depressive. In regard to that, those early pre-code high energy screen characterizations of his, with Cagney indulging in mile-a-minute dialogue delivery and often comic reactions to situations in those films, could well have served as a form of therapy for a man somewhat inclined towards melancholy at times in his private life.

 

And that's ironic, especially since the actor gripped so often about the script material that he was handed in those little two and three week quickies.

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I disagree about Cagney being moody and pesimistic. I never read that or heard that. He may have been quiet but he was optimistic and very funny. The men who liked to drink were really pesimistic that's why they drank[like Pat O'brien and Humphry Bogart]. Cagney liked to enjoy life and make the most of it, that's why he didn't drink alot.

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I disagree about Cagney being moody and pesimistic. I never read that or heard that.

Richard Schickel is an esteemed film critic, author and documentary filmmaker. His status was enough that James Cagney agreed to sit down with him for a lenghty1980 interview at Shepperton Studios, during the making of Ragtime. Schickel wrote a book, James Cagney, from which one paragraph has stayed with me.

 

In reference to Cagney's early years at Warners he wrote:

 

The antidote to depression is activity, and one cannot help but think that the pace of his (Cagney's) work, the ferocious concentration it required of him, the opportunities it afforded him to discharge physical energies that might otherwise have been turned inward, were good for him. The infectious joy of his comic portrayals in this period may well stem from a need to bury the brooding side of himself in work of a highly kinesthetic kind.

 

I suspect that one of the reasons that Cagney liked to hang out with an eternal optimist like Pat O'Brien, a man constantly joking around, was that he would be a good antidote for his own inclination toward mood swings. Cagney was always a very private man, of course, so much of this is just speculation. As he aged, of course, with the frustrations of his increasing physical frailties, combined with an inclination towards passivity in dealing with his caretaker, Marge Zimmerman, a woman who increasingly dominated his life, I suspect that he was not a particularly happy man. There was an estrangement with his children at the end. In true Cagney fashion, however, he kept things to himself and was stoic about it.

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I disagree about Cagney being moody and pesimistic. I never read that or heard that. He may have been quiet but he was optimistic and very funny. The men who liked to drink were really pesimistic that's why they drank[like Pat O'brien and Humphry Bogart]. Cagney liked to enjoy life and make the most of it, that's why he didn't drink alot.

John  Wayne, Hollywood's greatest film icon was a drinker too but he sure weren't no pessimist. :)

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As we continue to discuss James Cagney and his private life I continue to be frustrated in my attempts to find my long lost  copy of the Cagney auto biography.  Maybe one of my junior officers took it and threw it overboard. In any event I just ordered a used paperback copy from ebay and should have it shortly. Now all I need is a good bio book on Bogart, anyone recommend which book that's out there is best?

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As we continue to discuss James Cagney and his private life I continue to be frustrated in my attempts to find my long lost  copy of the Cagney auto biography.  Maybe one of my junior officers took it and threw it overboard. In any event I just ordered a used paperback copy from ebay and should have it shortly. Now all I need is a good bio book on Bogart, anyone recommend which book that's out there is best?

mrroberts, I am no expert on Bogart books, of which there is a plethora. However, in a library I read large segments of Stefan Kanfer's Tough Without A Gun: The Life and Extraordinary Afterlife of Humphrey Bogart, and found it to be quite good. As the title indicates, he also discusses the cult following that the actor has acquired after death, and does a brief breakdown on other Bogart books.

 

An interesting section in the book is one in which the author describes Bogart's great flash anger on his yacht one day, enough to really scare Bacall. It was reminiscent of the kind of mood swing that Bogie displayed in his In a Lonely Place characterization, though the actor did not strike his wife on that occasion (nor have I heard that he ever did). Still, many have commented that Bogart was perhaps closer to playing himself in that Nicholas Ray film than any other role in his career.

 

If anyone else has another Bogie book in mind that they consider superior to that one, I bow to their expertise. In the meanwhile, however, Tough Without A Gun is available on Amazon for around $15.

 

I rather doubt that the following may be what you're looking for but another Bogie book out is Bogie and Me: The Love Story of Humphrey Bogart and Verita Thompson. It's by Thompson, who was Bogart's wig maker and claims she was his secret lover from 1942 (when he was still married to Mayo Methot) until 1955, when she got married. Lauren Bacall disputes Thompson's claim, though she initially said nothing when her book was first released. If Thompson's tale is true, it sheds an uncomplimentary light on the movie tough guy who spoke of how much he hated phonies.

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As you say Tom, there are a "plethora" of Bogart books. The trick is to sort out the 1 or 2 good (reasonably accurate) ones from the many superficial writings or the sensational "tell all" ones. I should get around to reading Lauren Bacall's own bio book, but that I would assume will only tell part of the story. Again,  Bogart has become such a legend and cult icon that getting to know about the real man is not easy.  

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If anyone else has another Bogie book in mind that they consider superior to that one, I bow to their expertise. In the meanwhile, however, Tough Without A Gun is available on Amazon for around $15.

 

This one is quite good, and I've read most of them:

 

http://www.amazon.com/Bogart-Ann-Sperber/dp/0062107364

 

Browse:

 

http://www.harpercollins.com/browseinside/index.aspx?isbn13=9780062107367

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The best written bio of Bogie is "BOGART-In Search of My Father", authored by his son, Steven Bogart. It was published in 1993 and gives more insight on Bogie than all other books. After all, who would know the man better than his own son? Also foreworded by his widow, Lauren Bacall.

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