Jump to content
 
Search In
  • More options...
Find results that contain...
Find results in...

What if James Cagney had not retired?


LiamCasey
 Share

Recommended Posts

An idle thought while perusing the November schedule for movies featuring one of my favorite actors...

 

As everyone on this board surely knows, James Cagney spent 20 years in retirement between *One, Two, Three* in 1961 and *Ragtime* in 1981. What movie during that period would you have liked to see him in and why?

 

The first two movies that occur to me are *The Godfather* and *The Godfather: Part II* because it would have been interesting to see him revisit in his 70's the genre that first propelled him to fame in his 30's.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

> {quote:title=LiamCasey wrote:}{quote}An idle thought while perusing the November schedule for movies featuring one of my favorite actors...

>

> As everyone on this board surely knows, James Cagney spent 20 years in retirement between *One, Two, Three* in 1961 and *Ragtime* in 1981. What movie during that period would you have liked to see him in and why?

>

>

> The first two movies that occur to me are *The Godfather* and *The Godfather: Part II* because it would have been interesting to see him revisit in his 70's the genre that first propelled him to fame in his 30's.

>

I love James Cagney too, but I don't think he would have even come back to do Ragtime if it had not been for his doctors telling him it would be good for him to be more active. Cagney had been suffering from diabetes for some time by the time he did Ragtime.

 

I find it somewhat ironic that he never liked the roles that Warner Brothers gave him, yet those were his most successful films. The independent films he made on his own never did nearly as well. I watched a rare one just the other night that was a Warner Bros. film he did after he had been out on his own for awhile - "Come Fill the Cup" from 1951. It's been out of circulation due to rights problems, but it is one of Cagney's finest roles in my opinion.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Coppola tried hard to get Cagney for a role in GODFATHER II. He even visited the actor at his home in Martha's Vineyard. It was never mentioned by Cagney exactly what part the director had in mind although either the Michael V. Gazzo role or the Lee Strasburg part would have been age appropriate - just have to change the nationality, that's all. But then, Cagney did speak some Yiddish, he might have gotten away with being Hyman Roth.

 

It wasn't a total loss for Coppola, he ended up with one of Cagney's paintings.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Cagney said that he was very tempted when he was ask to play Alfred Dolittle in "My Fair Lady". He always considered himself to be a song and dance man first. I would have loved to have seen him singing and dancing to "Get Me to the Church on Time". It was only a couple of years after he did "One,Two,Three" But he sadly said "No".

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Roy,

 

I'm with you on Cagney as Alfred Doolittle. How great would that have been!

 

As for Cagney as Don Vito, I agree with the poster who thought it would have been bad casting. Cagney didn't have much love for his gangster roles and given the arc of Vito's story, I can't see Cagney seeing much humanity in that role.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 

Personally, I don't think Cagney could have pulled off Papa doolittle as well as Holloway did. I DO think he'd have been the better choice for the Demarest role in "MAD, MAD, ETC". And as iconic STROTHER MARTIN became for his turn as "CAP'N" in *Cool Hand Luke* , Cagney could have handled that role with equal, if not better, aplomb.

 

 

Sepiatone

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I don't see Cagney as being a good choice for the Vito Corleone part in *The Godfather* , but Edward G Robinson would have been the ultimate actor for that part (except for the fact that Eddie was a little too old by that time). As for Cagney, how about the Walter Matthau part in *The Sunshine Boys* (I'm thinking Cagney as in his Mister Roberts' Captain role) ? Cagney could have been great in the Art Carney part in *Harry And Tonto* . Cagney could have done well as a supporting actor in a number of films, but I am sure he would have avoided any kind of gangster type of roles. But once he "retired" , Mr Cagney obviously enjoyed his new lifestyle and had no interest in returning to movies (just like William Powell and Cary Grant did).

 

Edited by: mrroberts on Nov 4, 2012 2:37 PM

Link to comment
Share on other sites

> {quote:title=LiamCasey wrote:}{quote}An idle thought while perusing the November schedule for movies featuring one of my favorite actors...

>

> As everyone on this board surely knows, James Cagney spent 20 years in retirement between *One, Two, Three* in 1961 and *Ragtime* in 1981. What movie during that period would you have liked to see him in and why?

>

 

I like anything with Cagney in it and so any movie would be fine with me. No need for whys... He's James Cagney, that's enough.

 

Might have been interesting to see how Cagney would've handled the Edward G. Robinson part in "Key Largo."

Roles he turned down, apparently, included the part of Doolittle in "My Fair Lady."

Also the part of Dobbs in "High Sierra."

Other parts he didn't want or get here:

http://www.notstarring.com/actors/cagney-james

 

Would be nice to see "Ragtime" on TCM...

I remember seeing it in a theatre after it came out more than 30 years ago:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ragtime_%28film%29

 

And I remember the audible gasp from the audience that happened after something Cagney's character did near the end of the film. (I ain't gonna give it away, but audience was shocked, obviously.)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

> {quote:title=sfpcc1 wrote:}{quote}James Cagney as Vito Corleone would have just been weird.

>

> However, I can see him playing the Sterling Hayden role.

You are absolutely correct. With his Irish and Norwegian heritage, it would have been difficult for James Cagney to pass himself off as someone with an Italian surname no matter how an accomplished actor he was. But a cop named {font:sans-serif}McCluskey? No problem.{font}

Link to comment
Share on other sites

> {quote:title=TopBilled wrote:}{quote}What if any big-name film star hadn't retired? What if Lassie hadn't retired? Think of all the lost product endorsements for Purina.

You are correct in that this question can be asked about other movie actors and actresses. However, in many cases, these actors and actresses appear more to fade away due to changes in the marketplace. Or transition themselves to the stage or to television (Please note that I am not being negative when I say that. For example, my favorite mini-series is *The Winds of War* and, although Robert Mitchum was older than his character of Victor Henry, he was an ideal choice by the producers. And, in the interest of full disclosure, I had read the novel that the mini-series was based upon a number of years before the mini-series first aired.).

 

But when a legendary movie actor or actress like James Cagney or Cary Grant or Greta Garbo walk away when they are still at the top of their game, the question of what might have been becomes bigger than most. And, in the case of Mr. Cagney, considering the reaction that occurred when it was announced that he would appear in *Ragtime*, I'm fairly confident that audiences would have loved to see him on the movie screen during the previous twenty years.

 

As for Lassie, are we sure that she retired? She appears to have an active website. Obviously a dog for the 21st century! :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

> {quote:title=sfpcc1 wrote:}{quote}I heard somewhere that the tried to get Cagney to play Eliza Dolittle father in My Fair Lady.

One part of me wonders if James Cagney could have pulled off the accent. Another part of me remembers that that didn't stop Dick Van Dyke from appearing in *Mary Poppins* during the same time frame. :)

 

Considering my enjoyment of *Footlight Parade* and, of course, *Yankee Doodle Dandy*, I would have loved to have seen him in another musical.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 

 

 

> {quote:title=mrroberts wrote:}{quote}As for Cagney, how about the Walter Matthau part in *The Sunshine Boys* (I'm thinking Cagney as in his Mister Roberts' Captain role) ?

I highly agree. *The Sunshine Boys* would have been an excellent vehicle for James Cagney.

 

 

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

> {quote:title=RMeingast wrote:}{quote}And I remember the audible gasp from the audience that happened after something Cagney's character did near the end of the film. (I ain't gonna give it away, but audience was shocked, obviously.)

It took me and the audience I was in back then by surprise also.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The cultural institution I worked for was rented by the National Board of Review for its awards presentation, 1982 I think it was. I was assigned to James Cagney. Another colleague was assigned to help his wife. The paparazzi were intolerable, desperate to get to Cagney. Lauren Bacall shouted at them, "Why don't you leave him alone, he's an old man!" I have a photograph taken with Cagney and Mona Washbourne, who also received an award that year. I also helped Myrna Loy put her books on that night.

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

*You are correct in that this question can be asked about other movie actors and actresses. However, in many cases, these actors and actresses appear more to fade away due to changes in the marketplace. . .*

 

*But when a legendary movie actor or actress like James Cagney or Cary Grant or Greta Garbo walk away when they are still at the top of their game, the question of what might have been becomes bigger than most. And, in the case of Mr. Cagney, considering the reaction that occurred when it was announced that he would appear in Ragtime, I'm fairly confident that audiences would have loved to see him on the movie screen during the previous twenty years.*

 

Sometimes legendary actors at the top of their game don't so much walk away, but may feel pushed or nudged away, usually "due to changes in the marketplace". Times change, and the offers a Grant or a Cagney receives may not be up to his standards, and decide retirement is best rather than accept sub-par projects and cheapen their legacy. With the reaction to Cagney's return in the 80s, I think nostalgia had as much to do with the reaction it engendered. I don't know that he would have managed to stay on top in the interim, but most likely would at some point have had to compromise his star status, for "star billing" in featured roles, if he had continued to have an actively ongoing career. Which is probably why he chose to retire when he did, to avoid the almost inevitable downward trajectory. Remember, the 60s youth culture was just around the corner, and many long-time stars decided to get out at this time (Grant and Cagney....Garbo was a special case).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Arturo your post makes a lot of sense, thanks

 

I do remember Cagney making a TV film (I think in the early 80's) where he played a elderly retired boxer and his granddaughter was involved in his care. He was wheelchair bound in the film or at least his character was. I remember he did good job in the film, with his special charm and talent.

 

Does anyone remember the name of this TV film?

 

 

Thanks

Lori

Link to comment
Share on other sites

That was TERRIBLE JOE MORAN and he was pretty much wheelchair bound at this point. The press at the time claimed that Cagney had to loop all of his dialog in post-production. Years later it was revealed that it was actually dubbed by someone else, some sources claim that it was Rich Little.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

James Cagney as Vito Corleone would have just been weird.

 

However, I can see him playing the Sterling Hayden role.

 

I have always thought Sterling Hayden was the handsomest man ever to hit the screen, Ty Power and Errol Flynn notwithstanding. Boy, what a good-looking dude.

 

Whenever I think of Jimmy Cagney I remember his story of having to choke down his laughter at Pulver's telling him how long he'd been on the ship in "Mr. Roberts." He made Jack Lemmon go over the line a hundred times till he could stop laughing long enough to do the scene, and said, "When you see it in the movie, I'm just about holding it in." That always makes ME laugh, just thinking about it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

© 2023 Turner Classic Movies Inc. A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Cookie Settings
×
×
  • Create New...