James Cagney


James Francis Cagney Jr. (July 17, 1899 – March 30, 1986) was an American actor and dancer. On stage and in film, he was known for his consistently energetic performances, distinctive vocal style, and deadpan comic timing. He won acclaim and major awards for a wide variety of performances. He made his film debut in John G. Adolfi’s Sinners’ Holiday (1930), with Grant Withers, Evalyn Knapp, Lucille La Verne, and Joan Blondell; followed by Archie Mayo’s The Doorway to Hell (1930), with Lew Ayres and Leon Janney.

Cagney is best is remembered for playing multifaceted tough guys in films such as William A. Wellman’s The Public Enemy (1931), with Jean Harlow, Edward Woods, Donald Cook, Blondell, Beryl Mercer, Murray Kinnell, and Mae Clarke; Roy Del Ruth’s Taxi! (1932), with Loretta Young; Michael Curtiz’s Angels with Dirty Faces (1938), with Pat O’Brien, The Dead End Kids, Humphrey Bogart, Ann Sheridan, and George Bancroft – earning his first Academy Award nomination for Best Actor; Raoul Walsh’s The Roaring Twenties (1939), with Priscilla Lane, Bogart, and Gladys George; Anatole Litvak’s City for Conquest (1940), with Ann Sheridan, Arthur Kennedy, Anthony Quinn, Elia Kazan, Donald Crisp, Frank McHugh, Frank Craven, and Lee Patrick; and White Heat (1949), with Virginia Mayo, Edmond O’Brien, Margaret Wycherly, and Steve Cochran.

These roles found him typecast or limited by this reputation earlier in his career. He was able to negotiate dancing opportunities in his films and ended up winning the Academy Award for Vest Actor for his role in the musical Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942), with Joan Leslie, Walter Huston, Richard Whorf, Irene Manning, George Tobias, Rosemary DeCamp, Jeanne Cagney, and Vera Lewis.

Other notable films in the early 1930s include Other Men’s Women (1931), with Grant Withers, Regis Toomey, Mary Astor, and Blondell; The Millionaire (1931), with George Arliss; Alfred E. Green’s Smart Money (1931), with Edward G. Robinson, Evalyn Knapp, and Noel Francis; Blonde Crazy (1931), with Blondell, Francis, Louis Calhern, Ray Milland, and Guy Kibbee; Winner Take All (1932), with Marian Nixon; Lloyd Bacon’s The Picture Snatcher (1933), with Ralph Bellamy, Patricia Ellis, and Alice White; Footlight Parade (1933), with Blondell, Ruby Keeler, and Dick Powell; Lady Killer (1933), with Mae Clarke and Margaret Lindsay; Jimmy the Gent (1934), with Bette Davis and Allen Jenkins; Here Comes the Navy (1934), with O’Brien, Gloria Stuart, and Frank McHugh; and Ray Enright’s The St. Louis Kid (1934), with Patricia Ellis.

Films in the mid to late 1930s include William Keighley’s G Men (1935), with Ann Dvorak, Margaret Lindsay, and Lloyd Nolan; A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1935), with Mickey Rooney, Olivia de Havilland, Jean Muir, Joe E. Brown, Dick Powell, Ross Alexander, Anita Louise, Victor Jory, and Ian Hunter; Frisco Kid (1935), with Lindsay, Ricardo Cortez, Lili Damita, and Barton MacLane; Howard Hawks’s Ceiling Zero (1936), with O’Brien; Victor Schertzinger’s Something to Sing About (1937), with Evelyn Daw, William Frawley, Gene Lockhart, and Mona Barrie; Boy Meets Girl (1938), with O’Brien, Marie Wilson, Bellamy, McHugh, Dick Foran, and Ronald Reagan; The Oklahoma Kid (1939), with Bogart, Rosemary Lane, Donald Crisp, and Ward Bond; and Each Dawn I Die (1939), with George Raft.

Films in the early 1940s include The Fighting 69th (1940), with O’Brien, George Brent, Dennis Morgan, and Alan Hale Sr.; The Strawberry Blonde (1941), with de Havilland, Rita Hayworth, Hale, Jack Carson, and George Tobias; William K. Howard’s Johnny Come Lately (1943), with Grace George, Marjorie Main, and Hattie McDaniel; Frank Lloyd’s Blood on the Sun (1945), with Sylvia Sidney; Henry Hathaway’s 13 Rue Madeleine (1947), with Annabella, Richard Conte, and Frank Latimore; and The Time of Your Life (1948), with William Bendix and Wayne Morris.

Films in the early 1950s include Gordon Douglas’s Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye (1950), with Barbara Payton and Helena Carter; The West Point Story (1950), with Mayo, Doris Day, Gordon MacRae, Gene Nelson, and Alan Hale Jr.; Come Fill the Cup (1951), with Phyllis Thaxter, Gig Young, Raymond Massey, and James Gleason; John Ford’s What Price Glory (1952), with Corinne Calvet, Dan Dailey, William Demarest, Craig Hill, and Robert Wagner; A Lion Is in the Streets (1953), with Barbara Hale, Anne Francis, Warner Anderson, and Lon Chaney Jr.; Nicolas Ray’s Run for Cover (1955), with Viveca Lindfors, John Derek, and Jean Hersholt; and Charles Vidor’s Love Me or Leave Me (1955), with Day and Cameron Mitchell – for which he earned his third Academy Award nomination for Best Actor.

Films in the mid to late 1950s include Melville Shavelson’s The Seven Little Foys (1955), with Bob Hope, Milly Vitale, and George Tobias; Mister Roberts (1955), with Henry Fonda, William Powell, and Jack Lemmon; Robert Wise’s Tribute to a Bad Man (1956), Don Dubbins, Stephen McNally, Irene Papas, and Vic Morrow; Roy Rowland’s These Wilder Years (1956), with Barbara Stanwyck and Walter Pidgeon; Joseph Pevney’s Man of a Thousand Faces (1957), with Dorothy Malone, Jane Greer and Jim Backus; Never Steal Anything Small (1959), with Shirley Jones and Roger Smith; and Michael Anderson’s Shake Hands with the Devil (1959), with Don Murray, Dana Wynter, Glynis Johns, Sybil Thorndike, and Michael Redgrave.

Cagney’s last films were Robert Montgomery’s The Gallant Hours (1960), with Dennis Weaver, Ward Costello, Vaughn Taylor, Richard Jaeckel, and Les Tremayne; and Billy Wilder’s One, Two, Three (1961), with Horst Buchholz, Liselotte Pulver, Pamela Tiffin, Arlene Francis, and Leon Askin, Howard St. John; Miloš Forman’s Ragtime (1981), with James Olson, Mary Steenburgen, Howard Rollins, Brad Dourif, Elizabeth McGovern, Jeff Daniels, Fran Drescher, Samuel L. Jackson, Ethan Phillips, and John Ratzenberger; and the TV movie Terrible Joe Moran (1984), with Art Carney, Ellen Barkin, Peter Gallagher, and Lawrence Tierney.

Each review will be linked linked to the title below.

(*seen originally in theaters)

(**seen rereleased in theaters)

  • Sinners’ Holiday (1930) – directed by John G. Adolfi
  • The Doorway to Hell (1930) – directed by Archie Mayo
  • Other Men’s Women (1931) – directed by William A. Wellman
  • The Public Enemy (1931) – directed by William A. Wellman
  • The Millionaire (1931) – directed by John G. Adolfi
  • Smart Money (1931) – directed by Alfred E. Green
  • How I Play Golf by Bobby Jones No. 11: ‘Practice Shots’ (1931) – directed by George Marshall – short
  • Blonde Crazy (1931) – directed by Roy Del Ruth
  • Taxi! (1932) – directed by Roy Del Ruth
  • The Crowd Roars (1932) – directed by Howard Hawks
  • Winner Take All (1932) – directed by Roy Del Ruth
  • Hard to Handle (1933) – directed by Mervyn LeRoy
  • Picture Snatcher (1933) – directed by Lloyd Bacon
  • The Mayor of Hell (1933) – directed by Archie Mayo & Michael Curtiz (uncredited)
  • Footlight Parade (1933) – directed by Lloyd Bacon
  • Lady Killer (1933) – directed by Roy Del Ruth
  • Jimmy the Gent (1934) – directed by Michael Curtiz
  • He Was Her Man (1934) – directed by Lloyd Bacon
  • Here Comes the Navy (1934) – directed by Lloyd Bacon
  • The St. Louis Kid (1934) – directed by Ray Enright
  • Devil Dogs of the Air (1935) – directed by Lloyd Bacon
  • G Men (1935) – directed by William Keighley
  • The Irish in Us (1935) – directed by Lloyd Bacon
  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1935) – directed by Max Reinhardt & William Dieterle
  • Mutiny on the Bounty (1935) – directed by Frank Lloyd – uncredited
  • Frisco Kid (1935) – directed by Lloyd Bacon
  • Ceiling Zero (1936) – directed by Howard Hawks
  • Great Guy (1936) – directed by John G. Blystone
  • Something to Sing About (1937) – directed by Victor Schertzinger
  • Boy Meets Girl (1938) – directed by Lloyd Bacon
  • Angels with Dirty Faces (1938) – directed by Michael Curtiz
  • The Oklahoma Kid (1939) – directed by Lloyd Bacon
  • Each Dawn I Die (1939) – directed by William Keighley
  • The Roaring Twenties (1939) – directed by Raoul Walsh
  • The Fighting 69th (1940) – directed by William Keighley
  • Torrid Zone (1940) – directed by William Keighley
  • City for Conquest (1940) – directed by Anatole Litvak
  • The Strawberry Blonde (1941) – directed by Raoul Walsh
  • The Bride Came C.O.D. (1941) – directed by William Keighley
  • Captains of the Clouds (1942) – directed by Michael Curtiz
  • Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) – directed by Michael Curtiz
  • You, John Jones! (1943) – directed by Mervyn LeRoy – short
  • Johnny Come Lately (1943) – directed by William K. Howard
  • Blood on the Sun (1945) – directed by Frank Lloyd
  • 13 Rue Madeleine (1947) – directed by Henry Hathaway
  • The Time of Your Life (1948) – directed by H.C. Potter
  • White Heat (1949) – directed by Raoul Walsh
  • Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye (1950) – directed by Gordon Douglas
  • The West Point Story (1950) – directed by Roy Del Ruth
  • Come Fill the Cup (1951) – directed by Gordon Douglas
  • Starlift (1951) – directed by Roy Del Ruth – cameo as himself
  • What Price Glory (1952) – directed by John Ford
  • A Lion Is in the Streets (1953) – directed by Raoul Walsh
  • Run for Cover (1955) – directed by Nicholas Ray
  • Love Me or Leave Me (1955) – directed by Charles Vidor
  • The Seven Little Foys (1955) – directed by Melville Shavelson
  • Mister Roberts (1955) – directed by John Ford, Mervyn LeRoy, & Joshua Logan (uncredited)
  • Tribute to a Bad Man (1956) – directed by Robert Wise
  • These Wilder Years (1956) – directed by Roy Rowland
  • Man of a Thousand Faces (1957) – directed by Joseph Pevney
  • Short Cut to Hell (1957) – director only
  • Never Steal Anything Small (1959) – directed by Charles Lederer
  • Shake Hands with the Devil (1959) – directed by Michael Anderson
  • The Gallant Hours (1960) – directed by Robert Montgomery
  • One, Two, Three (1961) – directed by Billy Wilder
  • The Ballad of Smokey the Bear (1966) – directed by Larry Roemer – TV movie
  • Arizona Bushwhackers (1968) – directed by Lesley Selander – uncredited narrator
  • Ragtime (1981) – directed by Miloš Forman
  • Terrible Joe Moran (1984) – directed by Joseph Sargent – TV movie
  • Empire State Building Murders (2008) – directed by William Karel – archive footage