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What is "THE" James Cagney Film For You?


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WHITE HEAT tops my list, for me his best performance in a film. Oscar worthy

 

-Angels with Dirty Faces- the look on Rocky's face going to the chair and breaking down in answer to Pat O'Brien's request

 

THE PUBLIC ENEMY- again the facial expression- Cagney walking in the rain with that look on his face is terrifying

 

THE ROARING TWENTIES- this is his sympathetic role, know how Gladys George felt, just wanted to comfort him

 

YANKEE DOODLE DANDY- it showcases his musical talents

 

WEST POINT STORY- this is one of my go to films when I need cheering up. His B'KLYN dance routine is one of my all time favorite musical numbers

 

My picks too.

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James Cagney is definitely in my upper tier of favorite actors ;  I like most all of the films already mentioned here, and Cagney's presence in those films is the main reason why I like those films. As I have stated many times before on these message boards my favorite Cagney film is THE STRAWBERRY BLONDE. Why?  I like Cagney having a bit of fun spoofing the very persona he developed in all of those 30's Warner films;  being the cocky little wise guy always quick to put up his dukes with the slightest provocation, and yet in this film he (comically) always comes out second best. Of course getting a black eye never discourages him from bouncing right back up and trying again.  Reading about the real life James Cagney you know he had a lot in common with "Biff Grimes" .  THE STRAWBERRY BLONDE has a lot of those great WB stock actors and they all come off well here. Olivia de Havilland never looked better, she shows quite a flair for comedy and  she has wonderful chemistry with Cagney.  And if that's not enough, this film really helped elevate Rita Hayworth's status as an actress in Hollywood.  Still, all in all, this film is still primarily James Cagney's film. After doing this and YANKEE DOODLE DANDY, Cagney broke free of Warner Brothers control to go independent , but he also lost the resources of a major studio and his career did suffer as a result.  By the way in his autobio, Cagney lists THE STRAWBERRY BLONDE as one of his personal favorite films.

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This is a hard question to answer b/c he is probably my favorite actor of his era along with Eddie G. His career spans many decades and I love him in Mr Roberts and White Heat. Re his pick of Yankee Doodle for a time capsule I agree to a point b/c you get to see his vast musical dance talent.

 

I can't pick just one so I'll just go with Angels With Dirty Faces, Roaring Twenties and The Public Enemy. Honorable mention to Footlight Parade for the Shanghai Lil number. 

 

Look the other guy in the eye and tell the truth. No better acting advice and he did it every time. A real Star.

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I know that this is going to be complete blasphemy; but I don't think I've seen any James Cagney film except for The Bride Came COD and that I watched because it had my favorite-- Bette Davis.  It wasn't even that great of a movie!

 

Reading this board has given me a lot of great ideas for more films to watch.  Unfortunately, the Cagney birthday salute came and went for me and I didn't DVR anything.  I guess there's always Watch TCM that I could watch.

 

I, being a big fan of musicals, am interested in the Cagney musicals.  I've always wanted to see Yankee Doodle Dandy.  I'll definitely have to seek that one out. 

 

While I can't say that I've seen a lot of Cagney's work; I am familiar with it. 

 

I'd especially like to see:

 

White Heat

Roaring Twenties

The Strawberry Blonde (it has a couple of my other favorites: Olivia de Havilland and Rita Hayworth)

Yankee Doodle Dandy

Angels With Dirty Faces

Captains of the Clouds

 

EDIT: I just remembered, I've also seen Love Me or Leave Me with Doris Day.  That movie was pretty good.  While I enjoy Day's work, I was happy to see her in a role where she wasn't playing the perennial virgin.  I hated James Cagney's character; but I know that I'm supposed to hate him, so kudos to Cagney for his portrayal.

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I, being a big fan of musicals, am interested in the Cagney musicals.  I've always wanted to see Yankee Doodle Dandy.  I'll definitely have to seek that one out. 

 

 

 

Well Speedy, I'll tell ya...IF you like watchin' tap dancing with the guy doin' it lookin' like he's a marionette on strings, you're gonna LOVE "Yankee Doodle Dandy"!!!

 

(...okay, okay, I'm kiddin' little Jimmy's dancing here, BUT I gotta admit he IS pretty good in this flick overall!)

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I'm also a big fan of Torrid Zone. It's probably my favorite version of The Front Page. I can't  understand why it's so relatively obscure.

 

Cagney has too many classics for me to pick just one. Hell I love The Oklahoma Kid.

I'm with you. I'd be hard pressed to be able to compile a meaningful list from all his films.I love. I like him in any genre and during any phase of his movie career. His dynamism and charisma shine through every time.

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It is so difficult for me to pick "the" James Cagney film, but if I had to it would be "Yankee Doodle Dandy".  His performance is infectious; his charm contagious.  It is easy to see why he was so proud of this film.  

 

I also enjoy some of his later performances:  "These Wilder Years" ( which TCM showed just the other day ). Yes its a bit melodramatic in parts and the end is a bit too tidy but I really loved his performance; earnest without being maudlin.  Hard to believe this was his only teaming with Stanwyck.  

 

Other favorites:

Man of a Thousand Faces

The Strawberry Blonde 

One, Two, Three

Mister Roberts  ( I can not imagine this film without Cagney and Powell )

The Bride Came C.O.D  ( slight but sweet )

White Heat ( WOW he is frightening in this film ... iconic villain)

Angels with Dirty Faces ( powerful ending ) 

 

If I keep this up I'll list them all  ... 

 

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Well Speedy, I'll tell ya...IF you like watchin' tap dancing with the guy doin' it lookin' like he's a marionette on strings, you're gonna LOVE "Yankee Doodle Dandy"!!!

 

(...okay, okay, I'm kiddin' little Jimmy's dancing here, BUT I gotta admit he IS pretty good in this flick overall!)

Haha.  I've heard that Cagney was such a great dancer (I think singer too? But I am not sure on that one).  I read that he kept requesting that Warner Bros cast him in the occasional musical alongside his gangster movies; but Warners rarely acquiesced.  I hope he dances better than a marionette on strings (Pinocchio comes to mind when I think of that image).  However, I'm definitely not expecting him to be as good as Fred Astaire and my favorite, Gene Kelly. 

 

I saw that Yankee Doodle Dandy is included on one of the new TCM Greatest Classics Collections.  This one features Wartime musicals.  I was planning on buying it purely for Thank Your Lucky Stars.

 

I see Cagney is in another musical-- Footlight Parade... But ugh, it's a Busby Berkeley musical.  I'm not a fan. 

 

What other musicals does he appear in?

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Haha.  I've heard that Cagney was such a great dancer (I think singer too? But I am not sure on that one).  I read that he kept requesting that Warner Bros cast him in the occasional musical alongside his gangster movies; but Warners rarely acquiesced.  I hope he dances better than a marionette on strings (Pinocchio comes to mind when I think of that image).  

 

Cagney has the ability to create and exude a personality purely through dance movement, which is at least something:

 

 

 

 

But IMHO even more significant is the influence of dance on his acting and the precision of his gestures. I think specifically of the scene in Angels With Dirty Faces where Cagney pretends to walk out of the office but actually sneaks into the bathroom to eavesdrop om Bogart and Bancroft. His movements are quite graceful without ever coming across as effete or artificial.

 

 

I see Cagney is in another musical-- Footlight Parade... But ugh, it's a Busby Berkeley musical.  I'm not a fan.

 

It's my personal favorite of his musicals. If you're a fan of Cagney and/or precodes, it's really a must.

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I saw that Yankee Doodle Dandy is included on one of the new TCM Greatest Classics Collections.  This one features Wartime musicals.  I was planning on buying it purely for Thank Your Lucky Stars.

 

I see Cagney is in another musical-- Footlight Parade... But ugh, it's a Busby Berkeley musical.  I'm not a fan. 

 

What other musicals does he appear in?

Cagney only starred in four musicals. Yankee Doodle Dandy is by far the most famous and legendary, and gives him more opportunity to demonstrate his dancing (and singing) skills than the others.

 

Footlight Parade is my favourite, though, not only for the one big number in which Cagney dances (Shanghai Lil) but for his remarkable high energy performance. And this is a film in which, for a change, Cagney is not a wiseguy with the ladies. In fact, he's even a little naive, though he has faithful secretary Joan Blondell (with whom I wish he had made more films as good as this) standing nearby. Love this film.

 

His other two musicals, the small budget Something to Sing About and the later West Point Story, are both minor affairs, with decidedly corny plotlines. The latter, though, does have a sexy Virginia Mayo in the cast, with whom, as lavenderblue already pointed out in this thread, Cagney does a terrific dance number in which he also sings, "It Could Only Happen in Brooklyn." Cagney plays a Brooklyn wiseguy in this number, wears what I believe to be called a zoot suit, and looks likes he's having a ball. Cagney wrote in his autobiography that this particular dance number gave him a lot of satisfaction.

 

There is also, as already shown on the thread, his brief dancing duet with Bob Hope in The Seven Little Foys. Cagney later revealed that he injured himself while doing this number but, professional that he was, it doesn't shown on screen.

 

10938856_gal.jpg

 

This is a shot from "Brooklyn" in West Point Story, a piece of dance choreography that ends the picture. Whatever the faults this film may have, this number alone makes the viewing worthwhile. Excluding his number in Seven Little Foys five years later, this is the last time that Cagney would ever dance on screen. I love Cagney in this number.

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I love that dance number in Foys!  It was my intro to Hope's talented dancing, as well.They were both a bit unorthodoxed and I'm sure neither one of them would ever have compared themselves to Astaire or Kelly. 

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Thanks for the information Tom. 

 

I'll have to give Footlight Parade a try, despite it being a Busby Berkeley production.  I know he's acclaimed for his Hollywood musicals; but I can't stand his musical numbers.  I've seen Golddiggers of 1933 and while the backstage story was good and the songs were good; I am just not into his elaborate numbers with the hundreds of chorus girls who move in a kaleidoscope formation while the whole scene is captured from a bird's eye view.  These numbers just don't do anything for me. 

 

If Footlight Parade is heavier on the story and Cagney dancing and light on the signature Berkeley numbers, I'm sure I'll enjoy it. 

 

I'm also intrigued by West Point Story, so I'll check that one out as well.

Cagney only starred in four musicals. Yankee Doodle Dandy is by far the most famous and legendary, and gives him more opportunity to demonstrate his dancing (and singing) skills than the others.

 

Footlight Parade is my favourite, though, not only for the one big number in which Cagney dances (Shanghai Lil) but for his remarkable high energy performance. And this is a film in which, for a change, Cagney is not a wiseguy with the ladies. In fact, he's even a little naive, though he has faithful secretary Joan Blondell (with whom I wish he had made more films as good as this) standing nearby. Love this film.

 

His other two musicals, the small budget Something to Sing About and the later West Point Story, are both minor affairs, with decidedly corny plotlines. The latter, though, does have a sexy Virginia Mayo in the cast, with whom, as lavenderblue already pointed out in this thread, Cagney does a terrific dance number in which he also sings, "It Could Only Happen in Brooklyn." Cagney plays a Brooklyn wiseguy in this number, wears what I believe to be called a zoot suit, and looks likes he's having a ball. Cagney wrote in his autobiography that this particular dance number gave him a lot of satisfaction.

 

There is also, as already shown on the thread, his brief dancing duet with Bob Hope in The Seven Little Foys. Cagney later revealed that he injured himself while doing this number but, professional that he was, it doesn't shown on screen.

 

10938856_gal.jpg

 

This is a shot from "Brooklyn" in West Point Story, a piece of dance choreography that ends the picture. Whatever the faults this film may have, this number alone makes the viewing worthwhile. Excluding his number in Seven Little Foys five years later, this is the last time that Cagney would ever dance on screen. I love Cagney in this number.

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I'll have to give Footlight Parade a try, despite it being a Busby Berkeley production.  I know he's acclaimed for his Hollywood musicals; but I can't stand his musical numbers.  I've seen Golddiggers of 1933 and while the backstage story was good and the songs were good; I am just not into his elaborate numbers with the hundreds of chorus girls who move in a kaleidoscope formation while the whole scene is captured from a bird's eye view.  These numbers just don't do anything for me. 

 

If Footlight Parade is heavier on the story and Cagney dancing and light on the signature Berkeley numbers, I'm sure I'll enjoy it. 

 

 

One of the things that I have always appreciated about those early musicals with work by Busby Berkeley, SpeedRacer, is that, unlike the musicals of other studios, they have a gritty feel to them that is pure Warner Brothers. There's also a street quality to much of the wiseacres dialogue that I love.

 

As an illustration of that in Footlight Parade, there's one scene in which Joan Blondell escorts snooty, money grubbing Claire Dodd (with whom Cagney is infatuated) to the door. After opening the door Blondell gives her a swift kick in the rear with the departing line, "Get going, Countess. As long as there are sidewalks, you've got a job."

 

To me, dialogue like that is not only funny but clever, too, in that hard boiled way that was a trademark of its studio.

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One of the things that I have always appreciated about those early musicals with work by Busby Berkeley, SpeedRacer, is that, unlike the musicals of other studios, they have a gritty feel to them that is pure Warner Brothers. There's also a street quality to much of the wiseacres dialogue that I love.

 

"It must have been hard on your mother, not having any children!" (Ginger Rogers in 42nd Street)

 

As an illustration of that in Footlight Parade, there's one scene in which Joan Blondell escorts snooty, money grubbing Claire Dodd (with whom Cagney is infatuated) to the door. After opening the door Blondell gives her a swift kick in the rear with the departing line, "Get going, Countess. As long as there are sidewalks, you've got a job."

 

That's a variant of the line that Marie Dressler spoke (though with a certain amount of affection) to Jean Harlow near the end of Dinner at Eight, and it works equally well in both of those cases.

 

And BTW did Claire Dodd ever play anything but low life gold diggers, as opposed to the heart of gold ones?  I just saw another Cagney movie the other day (Hard to Handle) where she tried to steal him right out from under Mary Brian, Cagney's only true love.  It seems to have been a pattern with her roles.

 

To me, dialogue like that is not only funny but clever, too, in that hard boiled way that was a trademark of its studio.

 

Absolutely.  Those pre-code Warner Brothers films were in a class by themselves.

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I always go for Sinners' Holiday because in his first film appearance Cagney just steals the entire film out from under the two leads of this early 1930 film. One of his later films that I like - but you can't ever see it because of rights problems - is "Come Fill the Cup".

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 One of his later films that I like - but you can't ever see it because of rights problems - is "Come Fill the Cup".

Come Fill the Cup is the one Cagney film that I'm dying to add to my DVD collection.

 

I saw it years ago and have vague memories of it being quite a strong film about alcoholism, with Cagney and James Gleason having great chemistry as a couple of AA members. I also recall a scene in which a tearful Cagney confronts Gig Young, repeatedly slapping him across the face.

 

Sorry to hear it's tied up in rights issues. Very frustrating indeed. I don't think it's been on television in decades and it's never been available in any kind of home video format.

 

I have seen some internet companies say they have it for on line viewing, though I've never tried to watch it that way. Therefore, are there rights issues that apply to TV viewing but not the internet (assuming those companies really do have the film)?

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One of the things that I have always appreciated about those early musicals with work by Busby Berkeley, SpeedRacer, is that, unlike the musicals of other studios, they have a gritty feel to them that is pure Warner Brothers. There's also a street quality to much of the wiseacres dialogue that I love.

 

"It must have been hard on your mother, not having any children!" (Ginger Rogers in 42nd Street)

 

As an illustration of that in Footlight Parade, there's one scene in which Joan Blondell escorts snooty, money grubbing Claire Dodd (with whom Cagney is infatuated) to the door. After opening the door Blondell gives her a swift kick in the rear with the departing line, "Get going, Countess. As long as there are sidewalks, you've got a job."

 

That's a variant of the line that Marie Dressler spoke (though with a certain amount of affection) to Jean Harlow near the end of Dinner at Eight, and it works equally well in both of those cases.

 

And BTW did Claire Dodd ever play anything but low life gold diggers, as opposed to the heart of gold ones?  I just saw another Cagney movie the other day (Hard to Handle) where she tried to steal him right out from under Mary Brian, Cagney's only true love.  It seems to have been a pattern with her roles.

 

To me, dialogue like that is not only funny but clever, too, in that hard boiled way that was a trademark of its studio.

 

Absolutely.  Those pre-code Warner Brothers films were in a class by themselves.

 

Your comment on Dodd kind of reminds me of the discussion we had on Robert Ryan;  Instead of saying 'did Dodd ever play anything but'  I would have said 'was Dodd ever given anything but'.      Actors, especially those at Dodd's 'level' where not given choices.    If the producers at a studio decided to type cast them,  they had to perform those roles.

 

Just ask Bogart.   It would be incorrect to say 'Bogart must have liked playing a gansters,  because he played so many'.      

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Your comment on Dodd kind of reminds me of the discussion we had on Robert Ryan;  Instead of saying 'did Dodd ever play anything but'  I would have said 'was Dodd ever given anything but'.      Actors, especially those at Dodd's 'level' where not given choices.    If the producers at a studio decided to type cast them,  they had to perform those roles.

 

Just ask Bogart.   It would be incorrect to say 'Bogart must have liked playing a gansters,  because he played so many'.

 

True.  But unlike with Ryan, I've never heard or read that Claire Dodd ever had a chance at other types of roles. 

 

But like Ryan, if on a much lower level, she was very good in the roles she was given.  A real beauty and a very convincing would-be homewrecker.  The anti-Jane Bryan*, if you will.

 

*or in Hard to Handle, the anti-Mary Brian

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