Tuesday, July 17, 2012
Happy Birthday, James Cagney!!!
Happy 113th birthday to the amazingly talented James Cagney (July 17, 1899-March 30, 1986)
Mr. Cagney is easily one of my top 5 favorite actors of all time; in fact, he's pretty much at "beloved" status in my book. (Yes, I am extremely feminine and adore romantic dramas, but I also love gangster films.) I truly believe James Cagney may be the most incredible actor Hollywood has ever known. I think he was simply sensational in every role he ever took on, and I find it nearly impossible to believe that he received only three Academy Award nominations (which garnered one win) in his entire career. Truly, I think this man could (and ought to!) have won at least a half dozen Oscars. He was always THAT good.
My all-time favorite James Cagney film is Angels with Dirty Faces, a film for which he did receive an Academy Award nomination. His portrayal of Rocky Sullivan is completely brilliant. With regard to the final scene in this wonderful film, here is what Mr. Cagney had to say (as learned through reading his autobiography): "Through the years I have actually had little kids come up to me on the street and ask, "Didya do it for the father, huh?" I think in looking at the film it is virtually impossible to say which course Rocky took---which is just the way I wanted it. I played it with deliberate ambiguity so that the spectator can take his choice. It seems to me it works out fine in either case. You have to decide."
Rounding out my list of five favorite James Cagney films are:
2. The Public Enemy (with Jean Harlow---the quintessential gangster film, even today, some 80 years later---reviewed HERE)
3. White Heat (with Virginia Mayo and Edmond O'Brien---amazingly, this film didn't even garner Mr. Cagney an Academy Award nomination, let alone the win)
4. Yankee Doodle Dandy (his Academy Award-winning role)
5. Each Dawn I Die (with George Raft and Jane Bryan---reviewed HERE)
So, Mr. James Cagney, here's to you on your 113th birthday. You were a completely brilliant actor---probably the best there has ever been. Thank you for making so many wonderful films!! And thank you, also, for your wonderful autobiography, Cagney by Cagney. I have enjoyed getting to know you better by reading your own words.