Perspectives; James Cagney

James Francis Cagney Jr. (1899 – 1986) was an American actor and dancer on stage and in film. Known for his consistently energetic performances, distinctive vocal style, and deadpan comic timing, he won acclaim and major awards for a wide variety of performances. He is remembered for playing multifaceted tough guys in films such as The Public Enemy (1931), Taxi! (1932), Angels with Dirty Faces (1938), The Roaring Twenties (1939) and White Heat (1949). Finding himself typecast and limited by this reputation earlier in his career he was able to negotiate dancing opportunities in his films and ended up winning the Academy Award for his role in the musical Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942). In 1999 the American Film Institute ranked him eighth among its list of greatest male stars of the Golden Age of Hollywood. Orson Welles described Cagney as “maybe the greatest actor who ever appeared in front of a camera”.

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“I hate the word superstar". I have never been able to think in those terms. They are overstatements. You dont hear them speak of Shakespeare as a superpoet. You dont hear them call Michelangelo a superpainter. They only apply the word to this mundane market”

“My childhood was surrounded by trouble, illness, and my dad’s alcoholism, but as I said, we just didn’t have the time to be impressed by all those misfortunes. I have an idea that the Irish possess a built-in don’t-give-a-damn that helps them through all the stress.”

. . . .

"From a very early age all I ever wanted to do was farm…Farmers are the backbone of this country. We drive across America each fall from my farm in New York to Los Angeles because I love to see this country and you can’t see it from 28,000 feet in an airplane.”."

"I got a part as a chorus girl in a show called Every Sailor and I had fun doing it. Mother didn’t really approve of it, though."

"Perhaps people, and kids especially, are spoiled today, because all the kids today have cars, it seems. When I was young you were lucky to have a bike."

"Outside of my family, the prime concern of my life has been nature and its order, and how we have been savagely altering that order."


The first movie I remember seeing him in was Yankee Doodle Dandy. My father suggested it, or was watching it, and I was a child at the time, but I loved it. Didn’t see it again for probably 30 or 40 years and I still enjoyed it.

Angels with Dirty Faces was another one of his I saw when I was younger.

Looking back now, I can see my dad must have been a Cagney fan. :shamrock:


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