James Cagney


Actor
James Cagney

About

Also Known As
James Francis Cagney Jr.
Birth Place
New York City, New York, USA
Born
July 17, 1899
Died
March 30, 1986

Biography

The American gangster film, and the output of Warner Bros. in its most influential decade, would be unimaginable without the contributions of James Cagney. One of talking pictures' first generation of actors, Cagney forever romanticized the figures of the criminal and the con artist with his jittery physical dynamism and breakneck staccato vocal patterns. Raised in New York City's tough ...

Photos & Videos

A Midsummer Night's Dream (1935) - Scene Stills
Yankee Doodle Dandy - Color-Glos Scene Still
Yankee Doodle Dandy - Publicity Stills

Family & Companions

Frances Willard Vernon
Wife
Married from 1922 until his death; died on October 10, 1994 at the age of 95.

Bibliography

"Cagney"
John McCabe, Alfred A. Knopf (1997)

Biography

The American gangster film, and the output of Warner Bros. in its most influential decade, would be unimaginable without the contributions of James Cagney. One of talking pictures' first generation of actors, Cagney forever romanticized the figures of the criminal and the con artist with his jittery physical dynamism and breakneck staccato vocal patterns.

Raised in New York City's tough Yorkville neighborhood, Cagney was a veteran of settlement house revues, vaudeville and five years of Broadway when he came to Warner Bros. in 1930. Cagney, Bette Davis and Edward G. Robinson, all signed to long-term contracts during this period, became the core of the studio's stock company, which also included character and supporting players such as Alan Jenkins and Frank McHugh. After playing several featured roles Cagney attained instant and lasting fame with his role as vicious gunman Tom Powers in William Wellman's "The Public Enemy" (1931).

"The Public Enemy"'s story of a wisecracking hood who seemed to delight in violence indelibly stamped the gangster genre. Along with "Little Caesar" (1931) and "I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang" (1932), the picture cemented Warner Bros.' position as a major studio. Between 1930 and 1941, Cagney made 38 films at Warner Bros. While most were crime and action dramas or comedies, quickly produced on modest budgets and featuring few other box office "names," many have become genre classics. Several, including "Angels With Dirty Faces" (1938) and "The Roaring Twenties" (1939), remain seminal works in American film history. Cagney reached a creative peak with "Yankee Doodle Dandy" (1942), a biopic based on the life of composer George M. Cohan. A sentimental masterpiece, the film drew on Cagney's prodigious dancing talents, largely unexploited at Warner Bros. (except for the marvelous "Footlight Parade" 1933), and brought him the Academy Award for best actor.

A series of well-publicized salary disputes at Warner Bros. led to Cagney's forming an independent production company, Cagney Productions. Headed by James and his brother William, a former actor, the firm was based on terms developed in James's last Warner Bros. contract and gave him unprecedented leeway in choosing vehicles and participating in profits. It proved a failure, releasing only three films through United Artists, but was nevertheless a path-breaking model which many others in the industry would soon follow.

In 1949 Cagney made an explosive return to Warner Bros. in the Raoul Walsh-directed "White Heat," playing Cody Jarrett, a violent, Freudianized update of the Tom Powers character in "The Public Enemy." Like the earlier film, "White Heat" was both profitable and enormously influential.

Throughout the 1950s Cagney played sardonic and often villainous characters for several studios, in films occasionally produced by Cagney Productions. The decade also saw his only directing assignment, "Short Cut To Hell" (1957), and his last musical, the uneven but sometimes delightful "Never Steal Anything Small" (1959).

After a bravura performance in Billy Wilder's ironic farce "One, Two, Three" (1961), Cagney retired. The following years saw him receive many honors, including the 1974 Life Achievement Award of the American Film Institute--the second such award ever given. His good friend and neighbor, director Milos Forman, lured him from retirement for "Ragtime" (1981), but Cagney's own desires to perform again were hampered by increasing ill health. He made only one more appearance before his death, the made-for-TV movie "Terrible Joe Moran" (1984).

Filmography

 

Director (Feature Film)

Short Cut to Hell (1957)
Director

Cast (Feature Film)

Entertaining the Troops (1989)
Himself
Going Hollywood: The War Years (1988)
Himself
Terrible Joe Moran (1984)
Ragtime (1981)
It's Showtime (1976)
Himself
Arizona Bushwhackers (1968)
Narrator
One, Two, Three (1961)
C. R. MacNamara
The Gallant Hours (1960)
Fleet Admiral William F. ["Bull"] Halsey, Jr., USN
Never Steal Anything Small (1959)
Jake MacIllaney
Shake Hands with the Devil (1959)
Sean Lenihan
Man of a Thousand Faces (1957)
Lon Chaney
Tribute to a Bad Man (1956)
Jeremy Rodock
These Wilder Years (1956)
Steve Bradford
Run for Cover (1955)
Matt Dow
The Seven Little Foys (1955)
George M. Cohan
Mister Roberts (1955)
The Captain
Love Me or Leave Me (1955)
Martin Snyder
A Lion Is in the Streets (1953)
Hank Martin
What Price Glory (1952)
Capt. Flagg
Starlift (1951)
Himself
Come Fill the Cup (1951)
Lew Marsh
Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye (1950)
Ralph Cotter
The West Point Story (1950)
Elwin "Bix" Bixby
White Heat (1949)
Cody Jarrett
The Time of Your Life (1948)
Joe...whose hobby is people
13 Rue Madeleine (1947)
Robert Sharkey
Blood on the Sun (1945)
Nick Condon
Johnny Come Lately (1943)
Tom Richards
Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)
George M. Cohan
Captains of the Clouds (1942)
Brian MacLean
The Strawberry Blonde (1941)
Biff Grimes
The Bride Came C.O.D. (1941)
Steve Collins
Torrid Zone (1940)
Nick Butler
The Fighting 69th (1940)
Jerry Plunkett
City for Conquest (1940)
Danny Kenny
Each Dawn I Die (1939)
Frank Ross
The Roaring Twenties (1939)
Eddie Bartlett
The Oklahoma Kid (1939)
Jim Kincaid, the Oklahoma Kid
Boy Meets Girl (1938)
Robert Law
Angels with Dirty Faces (1938)
Rocky Sullivan
Something to Sing About (1937)
Terry Rooney
Great Guy (1937)
Johnny Cave
Ceiling Zero (1936)
Dizzy Davis
'G' Men (1935)
[James] "Brick" Davis
The Irish in Us (1935)
Danny O'Hara
The Frisco Kid (1935)
Bat Morgan
Devil Dogs of the Air (1935)
[Thomas Jefferson] Tommy O'Toole
A Midsummer Night's Dream (1935)
Bottom, the weaver
Here Comes the Navy (1934)
Chesty [O'Conner]
Jimmy the Gent (1934)
Jimmy Corrigan
The St. Louis Kid (1934)
Eddie Kennedy
He Was Her Man (1934)
Flicker [Hayes, later known as Jerry Allen]
Hard to Handle (1933)
[Myron C.] Lefty Merrill
Footlight Parade (1933)
Chester Kent
Lady Killer (1933)
Dan [Quigley]
Picture Snatcher (1933)
Danny Kean
The Mayor of Hell (1933)
Patsy [Gargan]
Taxi! (1932)
Matt Nolan
The Crowd Roars (1932)
Joe Greer
Winner Take All (1932)
Jim Kane
Other Men's Women (1931)
Editor
Blonde Crazy (1931)
Bert Harris
The Public Enemy (1931)
Tom Powers
Smart Money (1931)
Jack
The Millionaire (1931)
Schofield
Sinner's Holiday (1930)
Harry
The Doorway to Hell (1930)
[Steve] Mileaway

Misc. Crew (Feature Film)

Entertaining the Troops (1989)
Other
Going Hollywood: The War Years (1988)
Other
It's Showtime (1976)
Other

Cast (Special)

Tom Snyder's Celebrity Spotlight (1980)
The American Film Institute Salute to James Cagney (1974)
Performer
The Men Who Made the Movies: Raoul Walsh (1973)
Himself

Cast (Short)

You, John Jones! (1943)
Hollywood Hobbies (1939)
Himself
A Trip Thru a Hollywood Studio (1935)
Himself
Things You Never See on the Screen (1935)
Himself
Intimate Interviews: James Cagney (1931)
Himself
Practice Shots (1931)
Himself

Misc. Crew (Short)

James Cagney (1962)
Archival Footage
Okay for Sound (1946)
Archival Footage
The Voice That Thrilled the World (1943)
Archival Footage
Calling All Girls (1942)
Archival Footage
Breakdowns of 1941 (1941)
Archival Footage

Life Events

1920

Broadway debut in chorus of "Pitter Patter"

1921

Worked in vaudeville

1930

Signed by Warner Bros.; film acting debut in "Penny Arcade" adaptation "Sinner's Holiday" (reviving role from stage version)

1931

Achieved stardom in "The Public Enemy"

1942

Broke with Warner Bros.

1943

Formed production company with brother William Cagney; first film "Johnny Come Lately"

1957

Sole film directing credit, "Short Cut to Hell"

1961

Last film for many years, "One Two Three"; retired to a farm he owned

1981

One-shot return to feature films, "Ragtime"

Photo Collections

A Midsummer Night's Dream (1935) - Scene Stills
Here are some scene stills from the all-star Warner Bros. production of A Midsummer Night's Dream (1935), directed by Max Reinhardt and William Dieterle.
Yankee Doodle Dandy - Color-Glos Scene Still
Here is a Color-Glos still released by Warner Bros. to help publicize Yankee Doodle Dandy (1943). Color-Glos stills were tinted color and were most often used for theater displays.
Yankee Doodle Dandy - Publicity Stills
Here are a few photos taken to publicize Warner Bros' Yankee Doodle Dandy (1943), starring James Cagney and Joan Leslie. Publicity stills were specially-posed photos, usually taken off the set, for purposes of publicity or reference for promotional artwork.
White Heat - Movie Posters
Following are several original release movie posters from White Heat (1949), starring James Cagney as Cody Jarrett.
Footlight Parade - Lobby Cards
Here are several Lobby Cards from Footlight Parade (1933). Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.
The Bride Came C.O.D. - Publicity Stills
Here are a few stills taken to help publicize Warner Bros' The Bride Came C.O.D. (1941), starring James Cagney and Bette Davis. Publicity stills were specially-posed photos, usually taken off the set, for purposes of publicity or reference for promotional artwork.
Picture Snatcher - Lobby Cards
Here are several Lobby Cards from Warner Bros' Picture Snatcher (1933), starring James Cagney. Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.
Blonde Crazy - Movie Posters
Blonde Crazy - Movie Posters
The Public Enemy - Publicity Stills
Here are a few photos taken to help publicize Warner Bros' The Public Enemy (1931), starring James Cagney, Jean Harlow, and Joan Blondell. Publicity stills were specially-posed photos, usually taken off the set, for purposes of publicity or reference for promotional artwork.
Each Dawn I Die - Lobby Card Set
Here is a set of Lobby Cards from Each Dawn I Die (1939). Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.
Love Me or Leave Me - Publicity Art
Here is a specialty drawing created by MGM for newspaper and magazine reproduction to publicize Love Me or Leave Me (1955), starring James Cagney and Doris Day.
Captains of the Clouds - Movie Poster
Here is the American One-Sheet Movie Poster for Captains of the Clouds (1942). One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.
Taxi! - Lobby Cards
Here are several Lobby Cards from Taxi! (1932). Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.
Captains of the Clouds - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
Here are a few photos taken behind-the-scenes during production of Warner Bros' Captains of the Clouds (1942), starring James Cagney. Note the large casing needed for the Technicolor camera.
The Man of a Thousand Faces - Lobby Cards
Here are a few Lobby Cards from The Man of a Thousand Faces (1957). Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.
The Roaring Twenties - Publicity Stills
Here are a few photos taken to help publicize Warner Bros' The Roaring Twenties (1939), starring James Cagney, Humphrey Bogart, and Frank McHugh. Publicity stills were specially-posed photos, usually taken off the set, for purposes of publicity or reference for promotional artwork.
The Roaring Twenties - Lobby Cards
Here are a few Lobby Cards from Warner Bros' The Roaring Twenties (1939), starring James Cagney, Priscilla Lane, and Humphrey Bogart. Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.
The Public Enemy - Movie Posters
Here are a few original-release movie posters from Warner Bros' The Public Enemy (1931), starring James Cagney and Jean Harlow.
Love Me or Leave Me - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
Here are several photos taken behind-the-scenes during production of MGM's Love Me or Leave Me (1955), starring James Cagney and Doris Day.
Angels with Dirty Faces - Publicity Stills
Here are a few Publicity Stills from Angels with Dirty Faces (1938). Publicity stills were specially-posed photos, usually taken off the set, for purposes of publicity or reference for promotional artwork.
Lady Killer - Behind-the-Scenes Photo
Here is a photo taken behind-the-scenes during production of Warner Bros' Lady Killer (1933), starring James Cagney.
G-Men - Movie Poster
Here is a window card movie poster from Warner Bros' G-Men (1935), starring James Cagney. Window Cards were mini posters designed to be placed in store windows around town during a film's engagement. A blank space at the top of the poster featured theater and playdate infromation.
These Wilder Years - Movie Poster
Here is the American one-sheet movie poster for These Wilder Years (1956). One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.
Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye - Lobby Card
Here is a Lobby Card from Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye (1950). Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.
The Bride Came C.O.D. - Movie Poster
Here is the American One-Sheet Movie Poster for Warner Bros' The Bride Came C.O.D. (1941). One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.
Hard to Handle - Lobby Cards
Here are several Lobby Cards from Hard to Handle (1933). Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.
Angels with Dirty Faces - Movie Posters
Here is a group of American movie posters from Angels with Dirty Faces (1938).
James Cagney - State Express Cigarette Card
This is a small cigarette card of actor James Cagney. These cards were included in Cigarette packs in the 1930s and were collectible items. Customers could even purchase books to organize and collect these cards. State Express was an active Cigarette Card producer, creating a wide range of cards featuring famous people of which film stars were an often popular draw.

Videos

Movie Clip

Boy Meets Girl (1938) - What Is Our Story? Actor Larry (Dick Foran) and his agent (Frank McHugh) discover the elaborate diversion by screenwriters Benson & Law (Pat O'Brien, James Cagney), who are up to other studio mischief, in Warner Bros.' back-lot comedy Boy Meets Girl, 1938.
Here Comes The Navy (1934) - He Don't Mean Liquor! Now shooting at the Naval Training Station in San Diego, James Cagney and Frank McHugh as recruits Chesty (who signed up just to settle a score with an officer) and Droopy tangle with some real officers recruited as actors, in Warner Bros.’ Here Comes The Navy, 1934.
Here Comes The Navy (1934) - Let's Have A Hot One! Their first-ever scene, in the first of nine features they made together, Pat O’Brien as Navy officer Biff (escorting Ida Darling et al) meets James Cagney as iron worker Chesty, with background shots from the Navy Yard at Bremerton, WA, Lloyd Bacon directing, opening Warner Bros.’ Here Comes The Navy, 1934.
Here Comes The Navy (1934) - Looks Too Much Like A Casket James Cagney, introduced as grimy Navy yard worker Chesty, becomes a dance-hall dandy in the next scene, personally financing the trophy he intends to win with spikey girlfriend Gladys (Dorothy Tree), Lloyd Bacon directing from a crafty original screenplay by Warner Bros. stalwarts Earl Baldwin and Ben Markson, in Here Comes The Navy, 1934.
Here Comes The Navy (1934) - Look At The Trim Lines! Now shooting on board the U.S.S Arizona, before it became the famous memorial at Pearl Harbor, swabbies Droopy (Frank McHugh) and Chesty (James Cagney), who joined the Navy to get even with officer Biff (Pat O’Brien), who stole a previous girlfriend, get their heads turned by Gloria Stuart, not yet knowing she’s Pat’s sister, in Here Comes The Navy, 1934.
Love Me Or Leave Me (1955) - Everybody Loves My Baby Doris Day as Chicago torch-singer Ruth Etting performs Everybody Loves My Baby and Mean To Me, (Spencer Williams/Jack Palmer, Fred E. Alhert/Roy Turk), both of which became signature songs, her jealous sponsor Marty Snyder (James Cagney) watching, in the acclaimed bio-pic Love Me or Leave Me, 1955.
Strawberry Blonde, The (1941) - We Have A Lady Present Biff (James Cagney) is ready to abandon buddy Hugo (Jack Carson) when he finds out the friend Virginia (Rita Hayworth) has brought to their clandestine date is a nurse, the headstrong Amy (Olivia de Havilland), early in Raoul Walsh's The Strawberry Blonde, 1941.
Public Enemy, The (1931) - Such A Muscle! The tailor, though he makes a rather emphatic statement, is quite un-credited by Warner Bros., needling Tom (James Cagney, title character) and Matt (Donald Woods), on a spending spree after they’ve pulled off a big job, in William A. Wellman’s The Public Enemy, 1931.
Crowd Roars, The (1932) - You're Under Contract Joining director Howard Hawks’ action, exteriors shot apparently at Ventura Speedway near Los Angeles, famous pro driver Joe (James Cagney) toying with ambitious younger brother Eddie (Eric Linden), their first run on a track together, in Warner Bros.’ The Crowd Roars, 1932.
Crowd Roars, The (1932) - You Don't Always Get Killed Champion race driver Joe (James Cagney) with sidekick Spud (Frank McHugh) back at the hometown auto shop for the first time in years with dad (Guy Kibbee) and kid brother (Eric Linden) who, it transpires, has ambitions to become a top driver himself, in Warner Bros.’ The Crowd Roars, 1932.
Crowd Roars, The (1932) - Roaring For Blood Warner Bros. pace opening the James Cagney car-racing drama, the star with his sidekick Spud (Frank McHugh) on a train, headed to his hometown after winning the Indianapolis 500, pausing for girlfriend Lee (Ann Dvorak) to tell us the moral score, in Howard Hawks’ The Crowd Roars, 1932.
Hard To Handle (1933) - It Ain't Humanely Possible Joining director Mervyn LeRoy’s breakneck opening, Allen Jenkins the MC at an outrageous Hollywood dance marathon, the last two couples standing are (second-billed) Mary Brian with Matt McHugh and Sterling Holloway with Mary Doran, before we meet the promoter, above-the-title billed James Cagney as Lefty, in Warner Bros.’ Hard To Handle, 1933.

Trailer

White Heat - (Original Trailer) A government agent infiltrates a gang run by a mother-fixated psychotic in White Heat (1949) starring James Cagney and Edmond O'Brien.
Yankee Doodle Dandy - (Original Trailer) James Cagney gives an Oscar® winning performance as song-and-dance legend, George M. Cohan, in the musical biography, Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942).
Irish in Us, The -- (Original Trailer) An' begorrah, why would we be runnin' a James Cagney-Pat O'Brien comedy, now? Blame it on The Irish in Us (1935).
Frisco Kid, The (1935) - (Original Trailer) A shanghaied sailor (James Cagney) turns himself into the king of San Francisco's rough-and-tumble Barbary Coast in The Frisco Kid (1935).
Boy Meets Girl - (Original Trailer) Two wacky Hollywood writers drive their boss crazy while trying to help a pregnant waitress in Boy Meets Girl (1938) with James Cagney and Pat O'Brien.
Hard To Handle - (Original Trailer) A hustling public relations man (James Cagney) promotes a series of fads in Hard To Handle (1933).
Other Men's Women (1931) - (Original Trailer) A railroad engineer (Grant Withers) falls for a co-worker's wife (Mary Astor) in Other Men's Women (1931).
Love Me or Leave Me -- (Original Trailer) Doris Day stars in the true story of torch singer Ruth Etting and her attempts to escape the gangster (James Cagney) who made her a star in Love Me or Leave Me (1955), directed by Charles Vidor.
Devil Dogs of the Air - (Original Trailer) James Cagney joins the Marine Flying Corps. Think he'll settle in without causing trouble? Think again in Devil Dogs of the Air (1935).
Crowd Roars, The (1932) - (Original Trailer) James Cagney tries to keep floozy Joan Blondell away from his kid brother in Howard Hawks' racing drama The Crowd Roars (1932).
St. Louis Kid, The - (Original Trailer) A hot-headed truck driver gets mixed up in a labor dispute in The St. Louis Kid (1934), starring James Cagney.
Torrid Zone - (Original Trailer) A Central American plantation manager and his boss battle over a traveling showgirl in Torrid Zone starring James Cagney.

Promo

Family

Carolyn Nelson Cagney
Mother
Irish-Norwegian.
Harry Cagney
Brother
Doctor. Eldest of five children.
Edward Cagney
Brother
Doctor.
William Cagney
Brother
Producer.
Jeanne Cagney
Sister
Actor.
James Cagney Jr
Son
Adopted; born on November 25, 1939; died in January 1984 of a heart attack.
Cathleen Cagney
Daughter
Adopted.

Companions

Frances Willard Vernon
Wife
Married from 1922 until his death; died on October 10, 1994 at the age of 95.

Bibliography

"Cagney"
John McCabe, Alfred A. Knopf (1997)