Born in 1899 on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, Cagney dropped out of college after one semester when his father died in the 1918 flu epidemic and appeared in his first Broadway show in 1919. For the next ten years he worked in vaudeville and Broadway and for a time ran a dancing school. After receiving good notices in the play Penny Arcade, he was signed by Warner Brothers in 1930 to make the movie version, retitled Sinners' Holiday.
Cagney's fourth film for Warners, The Public Enemy (1931), made him a star. Originally cast in the second lead as the best friend of gangster Tom Powers, Cagney was switched to the lead role by director William Wellman after filming began. The film also established the tough, feisty screen image that brought Cagney his greatest fame, even though he continually tried to break out of that image by playing a diversity of character types. When asked in later years which of his movies he most enjoyed watching, his answer was unequivocal: "The ones with the music and dance." In fact, he received some of the greatest critical acclaim of his career—and won an Oscar as best actor—for his performance as the singing and dancing showman George M. Cohan in Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942).
In 1961 Cagney retired from the screen after making One, Two, Three. He did make a handful of television appearances after that and in 1980 briefly came out of retirement when his friend Milos Forman asked him to take a small role in Ragtime (1981). During his film career Cagney received three Academy Award nominations, winning once, and was twice named best actor by the New York Film Critics Circle. In 1974 he received the Life Achievement Award from the American Film Institute, which in 1999 named him one of the 50 Greatest American Screen Legends. James Cagney died in 1986.
BLOGATHON SCHEDULE APRIL 8-12, 2013
Monday, April 8
- They Don't Make 'Em Like They Used To: The Public Enemy
- Shadows and Satin: Lady Killer
- The Nitrate Diva: Each Dawn I Die
- Movie Classics: The Strawberry Blonde
- Journeys in Classic Film: Man of a Thousand Faces
- 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die: Angels with Dirty Faces
- Twenty Four Frames: The Films of James Cagney & Joan Blondell
- Grand Old Movies: Footlight Parade
- Ferdy on Films: Taxi!
- Caftan Woman: Johnny Come Lately
- Classic Film and TV Cafe: Roles Cagney Turned Down
- The Movie Projector: White Heat
- Kevin's Movie Corner: Devil Dogs of the Air & Here Comes the Navy
- Wonders in the Dark: A Midsummer Night's Dream
- Comet Over Hollywood: The West Point Story
- Immortal Ephemera: G-Men
- DREAMS ARE WHAT LE CINEMA IS FOR: Love Me or Leave Me
- Crítica Retrô: "James Cagney: Memories" (vlog, in English)
- The Man on the Flying Trapeze: Blonde Crazy
- The Girl with the White Parasol: City for Conquest
- Once Upon a Screen: Other Men's Women
- Thrilling Days of Yesteryear: Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye
- The Lady Eve's REEL LIFE: "Cagney - a profile"
- Classic Filmboy's Movie Paradise: Yankee Doodle Dandy
- Pre-Code.Com: The Mayor of Hell
- Classic Movie Gab: The Time of Your Life
- A Person in the Dark: The Roaring Twenties
- Films Worth Watching: One, Two, Three
CAGNEY BLOGATHON GIVEAWAY
As part of the Cagney Blogathon, The Movie Projector is giving away a copy of the Two-Disc Special Edition DVD of Yankee Doodle Dandy. Here's how to enter:
- Send your name and e-mail address to email@example.com
- Be sure to put Yankee Doodle Dandy on the subject line
- Only one entry per person, please
- Submit your entry before midnight PDT, April 14, 2013