James Cagney is one of the first Hollywood stars I remember really gaining an appreciation for the sheer scope of their work. I mean, from Public Enemy to Footlight Parade, and Yankee Doodle Dandy to One, Two, Three, few actors were quite as versatile as Cagney. He could play a viscous, psychopathic hoodlum and in his next role play an adorable song and dance man.
Yet, even at his most evil, there’s still something likeable about him. Cagney was charismatic, likable and it showed in his work. He’s a titan of classic Hollywood, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
A Career in Review:
If You Can Only Watch One:
There’s a stellar smattering of Cagney work hitting television screens today… so this is a hard choice. And truthfully, my favorite Cagney works’ aren’t even playing!
Looking over the schedule, my heart is made immediately happy at the sight of Footlight Parade. The 1933 film is my favorite of the Busby Berkeley movies. Cagney is functioning at the peak of his powers as Chester Kent a producer of musical ‘prologues’ struggling to put on a new show in the face of potential corporate espionage.
The movie features the equally amazing Joan Blondell, Ruby Keeler and Dick Powell in a musical of the which should be seen. Even the… historically challenging… ‘Shanghai Lil’ is a bit of a toe-tapper.
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