James Cagney is more than just a tough-guy as FilmStruck's Star of the Week | Bleader

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

James Cagney is more than just a tough-guy as FilmStruck's Star of the Week

Posted By on 07.03.18 at 06:00 AM

Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe

click to enlarge James Cagney and Olivia de Havilland in The Strawberry Blonde
  • James Cagney and Olivia de Havilland in The Strawberry Blonde
James Cagney was pegged as a wisecracking gangster early in his career, but his range as a performer extended far beyond those limiting roles. The streaming channel FilmStruck currently features Cagney as its star of the week, collecting some of his best gangster films (The Public Enemy, White Heat) but also some, noted below, that showcase his skill as a dancer and comic actor.

Footlight Parade
One of the best of the Warner Brothers showbiz musicals (1933), with James Cagney turning in a dynamite performance as an enterprising producer, and Busby Berkeley contributing some of his most engaging and bizarre production numbers (including his first water ballet, “By a Waterfall”). Joan Blondell, Dick Powell, and Ruby Keeler lend their usual support. 104 min. —Don Druker

The Fighting 69th
Warner Brothers pays tribute to the famous New York infantry regiment, whose World War I veterans included poet Joyce Kilmer, chaplain Francis P. Duffy, and U.S. intelligence pioneer "Wild Bill" Donovan. All three appear as characters here, but the fictional story line centers on James Cagney as a trash-talking punk who turns yellow in the trenches and must redeem himself in battle. William Keighley directed this 1940 drama, and the Warners contingent of Irish-American character actors turns out in full force (Pat O'Brien, Alan Hale, Frank McHugh, Dennis Morgan). 90 min. —J.R. Jones

The Strawberry Blonde
A delicious bit of Americana (1941) by Raoul Walsh, capturing superbly the 1890s ambience of Walsh's own early years. James Cagney is marvelous as a decent young dentist who becomes infatuated with gold digger Rita Hayworth but marries steady, likable Olivia de Havilland, then becomes involved with a shady operator (Jack Carson), and ends up a sadder, wiser ex-convict. Just the right balance of touching nostalgia and understated comedy. Recommended as one of Walsh's (and Cagney's) best efforts. 99 min. —Don Druker

Yankee Doodle Dandy
If you can push past the flag-waving, this Warner Brothers effort from 1942 is a superior entry in a dubious genre, the musical biography. Michael Curtiz's direction is supple and intelligent, but what makes the movie is James Cagney's manic blur of a performance. As George M. Cohan, the Broadway star and songwriter, Cagney is able to exploit both his dramatic and dancing abilities; he makes Cohan into such a dervish of nervous energy that he almost gives off smoke. For once there is some real interest in the dramatic passages, which go so far as to suggest that Cohan wasn't a pleasant man to live with. With Walter Huston, Joan Leslie, Rosemary DeCamp, and Frances Langford; photographed by James Wong Howe. 126 min. —Dave Kehr

Mister Roberts
A lot of what John Ford, the original director, put into the film of Joshua Logan's Broadway smash was cut by the producer, Leyland Hayward, because it wasn't in Logan's original script. So says Ford, who dropped out of the film (which was finally completed by Mervyn LeRoy and earned an Oscar for newcomer Jack Lemmon in 1955). Logan reportedly demanded that much of Ford's original material be put back because it was funnier than the stuff Hayward liked. In any event, the film is still hilarious, though time has dimmed the luster of Lemmon's hamming in favor of James Cagney's superbly psychotic commanding officer. Henry Fonda stars, as brilliant as ever. 123 min. —Don Druker

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Comments (6)

Showing 1-6 of 6

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-6 of 6

Add a comment

More by Patrick Friel

Agenda Teaser

Performing Arts
Alice August LaCapra State Farm
September 29
Music
Kyle, Marc E. Bassy, Tobi Lou Concord Music Hall
October 21

Tabbed Event Search

The Bleader Archive

Popular Stories