Wednesday, October 6, 2010

James Cagney (1899-1986)

 Google image

American born James Cagney started his career as a song and dance man in vaudeville and later sky rocketed to fame playing "tough guys".  Cagney was most famously known for these roles but ironically won his only Oscar for his role in "Yankee Doodle Dandy" in 1942.  Once again putting his singing and dancing skills to good use. 

Cagney's most recognizable "gangster" role came in 1931's  "The Public Enemy".  The movie where Cagney's character smashes a grapefruit half in the face of co-star Mae Clarke.  Even though both Jean Harlow and Joan Blondell starred in the film it was this scene that is the most talked about.

Cagney and Mae Clarke

Cagney starred in over 70 films during his career and is considered one of the Top 50 Greatest Actors Of All Time in both American and International polls.  Other than his one Oscar win, Cagney was also honored with The Medal Of Freedom. Which he accepted from President Ronald Reagan in 1984.  (He had starred in a film with Ronald Reagan and considered him a close, long time friend. Ronald Reagan also delivered the eulogy at James Cagney's funeral.). James Cagney was also the first actor awarded  the Lifetime Achievement Award by the American Film Institute in 1974. 

Cagney retired from acting in 1961 and returned to his home state of New York where he tried his hand at farming.  He wrote a great autobiography in 1975 titled Cagney By Cagney.  (I have read the book and it is one of the few autobiographies that is both very humble and open).  Cagney left retirement to star in the film "Ragtime" in 1981.  Cagney was one of the few actors in Hollywood to marry only once and his marriage to Frances lasted 64 years until his death. They adopted a son and a daughter during their marriage. You can view a postcard image of Cagney's Hollywood home HERE.

Mr. Cagney is buried at The Gate Of The Heaven Cemetery in Hawthorne, NY. His grave site can be viewed HERE

Interesting Facts:
James Cagney was a Black Belt in Judo. 

Cagney was offered the role of Dr. Doolittle in My Fair Lady but passed it up.

He also stated many times that he never said the phrase "You Dirty Rat" in any film.

Favorite Cagney quote: "I'm sick of carrying guns and beating up women".  1931

*Unless otherwise stated, all photos and autographs are from my personal collection.

Have a great day, 

No comments:

Post a Comment