Tuesday, July 24, 2012
More of James Cagney's Words
Here are just a few more great passages from James Cagney's wonderful autobiography, Cagney by Cagney.
About the final scene of Angels with Dirty Faces:
"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."
About his wife, whom he called Bill:
"I went from chorus boy to specialty dancer---and in the show I met the great girl who became my wife. I can't conceive of how lucky a guy can get, but this lady and I just celebrated our fifty-fourth wedding anniversary the other day, and it's been joy all the way." (My take---in Hollywood, where most marriages were filled with unfaithfulness or ended in divorce, Mr. Cagney is one of the brilliant exceptions. He was a faithful husband to one woman for over sixty years. You gotta love that!)
"Mister Roberts is the kind of thing I enjoy doing best in the non-musical field, drama with comic overtones. Comedies as such have never appealed to me particularly. I have always thought a story with opportunities to drop in some fun was a lot better than trying to be funny for two solid hours." (My take---most of my blog readers know I don't care much for comedy. Far and away, I prefer drama---high drama; however, drama with occasional comic relief---the kind Mr. Cagney likes---works for me too.)
After talking a bit about Babe Ruth, he says this: "It may be hard for young people to get such a kick now because I sense in America these years---and I'm saddened to say it---I sense a systematic attempt to tear down our heroes. Eddie Robinson just said in his posthumously published autobiography about Charles A. Lindbergh, "To hell with his politics. He is our last, great hero." If ever our country needed heroes, it is in these melancholy days (he wrote this in 1976), and when I hear of things like the broadcast not long ago that said Thomas Jefferson slept with his slave girls, I am depressed. Maybe Jefferson did, maybe he didn't; in any case, why drag that in? What does that have to do with the greatness of this man? I've seen announcement of a projected story on George Washington purporting to prove he was drunk when he instigated a massacre of some French troops. This robbing us of our heroes is the heritage of some fine so-called liberal thinking that tries to kill one of the finest things we possess---warrantable pride in our past..."
Mr. Cagney's thoughts echo my own; however, he said it far more eloquently than I could have. I suppose the dismantling of "heroes," of digging up the dirt on people and then publishing a "tell-all" book, of sullying the character of men and women who aren't even alive to refute the story, is the main reason I don't read many biographies anymore. I think it is important to think highly of people, and when shocking, scandalous stories are published about people long-dead, it only serves to ruin their good names. Quite honestly, I don't think all "dirty laundry" needs to be made public. (In my recent review of Slander [HERE], I said this same thing.)
I hope you all have enjoyed this small glimpse into the great Jimmy Cagney's autobiography. If you are a Cagney fan...or if you would just like to learn a bit more about him...check your library for a copy of Cagney by Cagney. It is a wonderful read!!