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How could you not? There is one mystery to me about Cagney, though it doesn't apply to his pre-code films. It's Frisco Kid. I've never seen it, and I notice TCM rarely, if ever, runs it. I've always wondered about that film. As with a lot of films that have been critically lambasted over the years, I wonder it's really as bad as it's supposed to be.

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I just rented Yankee Doodle Dandy and Public Enemy and while they're great movies, I still like Blonde Crazy better. Cagney is so endearing. His "goodies", as he called them, the little human touches he gives Bert Harris, are worth watching the movie over and over again. I love the whole scene where Joan Blondell's in the tub and he gets permission to find her money hidden in her bra. He holds her underwear up and wiggles his hips, then uses her bra as "goggles". Very cute, funny and totally irresistible.

 

Even in "White Heat", as psychotic Cody Jarrett, there are many fascinating touches Cagney gives this character. In the prison scene when he recovers after his headache, he sees for the first time that Edmond O'Brien helped him out. Very gently, Cagney strokes O'Brien's cheek, looks at him almost lovingly and then walks away.

It's a shame Cagney came to despise "White Heat" in his later years.

 

 

 

 

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I think Cagney and Blondell outshone Grant Withers and Evalyn Knapp because they were simply better, or more original actors. I don't mind Withers in the Mr. Wong films but I'm not surprised his career ended up in the B's. I missed Other Men's Women, also with Withers, when TCM showed it a year or two ago as part of a William Wellman day. I was miffed.

 

Cagney utilized those little bits, which I can't remember what he called them, or did he call them little bits, but you know what I mean, those little things he'd do to ingratiate himself with the audience. Withers could only dream of that level of performing. I particularly like Cagney's physical handiwork in The Doorway to Hell as he tells some guy about the handful clouds that come with a gun and what he does in the background of others scenes just to steal them. Brilliance from the get-go, though he'd learned so much on the stage. His pre-code work is so fascinating, I think, because most of his characters are basically unsavory types and probably not entirely ethically decent but Cagney make us care about them, and their fates, with that peculiar human element he brought to everything he did throughout his career, even the lackluster These Wilder Years in the scene where he meets the son he abandoned years ago. A very touching scene, even though the guy who plays the kid is awful. The bit in Blonde Crazy where he labels his behaviour mercenary should really turn us off him but it doesn't. Yanking Mae Clarke across the floor by her hair in Lady Killer should really turn us off his but it doesn't (although I don't know any feminists who've seen it or studied early Cagney vehicles).

 

Sinners Holiday should be far more readily available than it is just to see the young Cagney shine and bring out the best acting in others as great actors usually do, particularly Lucille La Verne in the scene where he breaks down in front her on his knees. Of course, I only think it should be more available because one of my kids accidentally taped over it and Here Comes the Navy another time. Darn brats couldn't have picked Madame DuBarry or Night Must Fall to record over, no.

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Upcoming Cagney on TCM:

 

Blood on the Sun / 1945

PLAYING ON TCM: 10/05/2005 02:30 PM

 

Boy Meets Girl / 1938

PLAYING ON TCM: 09/21/2005 03:30 AM

 

Devil Dogs Of The Air / 1935

PLAYING ON TCM: 09/27/2005 09:15 AM

 

James Cagney: Top of the World / 1992

PLAYING ON TCM: 09/21/2005 05:00 AM

 

Man Of A Thousand Faces / 1957

PLAYING ON TCM: 09/17/2005 10:00 PM

 

Mayor Of Hell, The / 1933

PLAYING ON TCM: 09/27/2005 06:00 AM

 

Midsummer Night's Dream, A / 1935

PLAYING ON TCM: 12/14/2005 10:30 AM

 

Picture Snatcher / 1933

PLAYING ON TCM: 09/27/2005 07:45 AM

 

Strawberry Blonde, The / 1941

PLAYING ON TCM: 10/17/2005 12:30 PM

 

Time Of Your Life, The / 1948

PLAYING ON TCM: 10/09/2005 06:00 AM

 

White Heat / 1949

PLAYING ON TCM: 11/30/2005 06:00 PM

PLAYING ON TCM: 12/17/2005 08:00 PM

PLAYING ON TCM: 12/18/2005 06:00 PM

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