James Cagney….the original gangster
James Cagney, aka The Professional Againster, born 1899 in New York City, New York. Always a tough guy ready to hold his ground while throwing one liners to the headline gal.
Some Cagney facts: According to his authorized biography, Cagney, although of Irish and Norwegian extraction, could speak Yiddish since he had grown up in a heavily Jewish area in New York. He used to converse in Yiddish with Jewish performers.
Though most Cagney imitators use the line “You dirty rat!”, Cagney never actually said it in any of his films.
According to James Cagney‘s autobiography Cagney By Cagney, (Published by Doubleday and Company Inc 1976, and ghost written by show biz biographer Jack McCabe), a Mafia plan to murder Cagney by dropping a several hundred pound klieg light on top of him was stopped at the insistence of George Raft. Cagney at that time was president of the Screen Actors Guild, and was determined not to let the mob infiltrate the industry. Raft used his many mob connections to cancel the hit.
Cagney was known for several of his gangster films like City for Conquest, “G” Men, White Heat, and Each Dawn I Die.
Now to pick a movie suggestion for you. I could say for your first film watch Public Enemy (1931) so you can really get a feel for what he is capable. That and most out there have seen remakes of this film, so you will recognize the story line.
The next film I would suggest is Great Guy (1936)
Cagney is the New York Department of Weights and Measures vs. a systematic effort to cheat the public by giving them less product than they pay for…organized by crooked city alderman Marty Cavanaugh, who put the last chief deputy inspector in the hospital. The new man, pugnacious Johnny Cave, steps on the toes of influential merchants and gets increasing pressure, both political and strong-arm, to desist.
If you ever check these movies out or have others that are favorites of yours, let me know!