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James Cagney - JPop.com
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James Cagney

James Cagney

James Cagney


James Francis Cagney, Jr. (July 17, 1899 – March 30, 1986) was an American film actor most remembered for playing gangsters in crime films and who won the Oscar for Best Actor in 1942 for his role in Yankee Doodle Dandy. Like James Stewart, Cagney became so familiar to audiences that they usually referred to him as "Jimmy" Cagney — a billing never found on any of his films. In 1999, the American Film Institute ranked Cagney eighth among the Greatest Male Stars of All Time. Read more on Last.fm
James Francis Cagney, Jr. (July 17, 1899 – March 30, 1986) was an American film actor most remembered for playing gangsters in crime films and who won the Oscar for Best Actor in 1942 for his role in Yankee Doodle Dandy. Like James Stewart, Cagney became so familiar to audiences that they usually referred to him as "Jimmy" Cagney — a billing never found on any of his films. In 1999, the American Film Institute ranked Cagney eighth among the Greatest Male Stars of All Time. Cagney was born in New York City to James Cagney Sr., an Irish American bartender and amateur boxer, and Carolyn Nelson; his maternal grandfather was a Norwegian ship captain[1] while his maternal grandmother was an Irish American.[2] The red-haired, blue-eyed Cagney graduated from Stuyvesant High School in New York City in 1918 and attended Columbia University. On September 28, 1922, he married dancer Frances Willard (aka: “Billie”) Vernon (1899 – 1994) with whom he remained for the rest of his life.[citation needed] They adopted a son, James Cagney Jr, and a daughter, Cathleen “Basey” Cagney. Both his brother William, who was also a producer, and sister Jeanne were actors. Cagney began his acting career in vaudeville and on Broadway. When Warner Brothers bought the film rights to the play Penny Arcade, they took Cagney and co-star Joan Blondell from the stage to the screen in the retitled Sinner's Holiday (1930), starring Grant Withers. Cagney went on to star in numerous films, making his name as a 'tough guy' in a series of crime films beginning with The Public Enemy (1931), which made him an immediate sensation. His career continued with Smart Money (1931), his only film with Edward G.

Robinson (which was actually shot before The Public Enemy, but released later), Blonde Crazy (1931), and Hard to Handle (1933). He played one Shakespearean character on film - Nick Bottom in the 1935 screen version of A Midsummer Night's Dream. Cagney later starred opposite Humphrey Bogart in Angels with Dirty Faces (1938) and The Roaring Twenties (1939). Although he said he was never further to the political left than "a strong FDR Democrat," Cagney lost the role of Notre Dame football coach Knute Rockne in Knute Rockne, All American to his friend Pat O'Brien because Cagney had signed a petition in support of the anti-clerical Spanish Republican government in the then-ongoing Spanish Civil War. The Notre Dame administration, which controlled all aspects of the filming, denied Cagney the role.

This was a major career disappointment for Cagney, who had hoped that playing the football legend would help break him out of gangster roles. He won an Oscar playing George M. Cohan in Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942). He returned to his gangster roots in Raoul Walsh's film White Heat (1949) and played a tyrannical ship captain opposite Jack Lemmon and Henry Fonda in Mister Roberts (1955). Cagney's health deteriorated substantially after 1979. Cagney's final appearance in a feature film was in Ragtime in 1981, capping a career that covered over 70 films, although his last film prior to Ragtime had been 20 years earlier in 1961 with Billy Wilder's One, Two, Three.

During this hiatus, Cagney rebuffed all film offers, including a substantial one in My Fair Lady as well as a blank check from Charles Bluhdorn at Gulf & Western to play Vito Corleone in The Godfather, to devote time to learning how to paint (at which he became very accomplished), and tending to his beloved farm in Stanford, New York. His roles in Ragtime and Terrible Joe Moran, a 1984 made-for-television movie, were designed to aid in his convalescence. He was one of the founders of the Screen Actors Guild and its president from 1942 to 1944. In 1974, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award of the American Film Institute. He received the Kennedy Center Honors in 1980, and in 1984 his friend Ronald Reagan awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom. James Cagney died at his Dutchess County farm in Clinton Corners, New York, aged 86, of a heart attack while ill with diabetes. He is interred in the Cemetery of the Gate of Heaven in Hawthorne, New York.

His pallbearers included boxer Floyd Patterson, Mikhail Baryshnikov (who'd hoped to play Cagney on Broadway), actor Ralph Bellamy, and director Miloš Forman. Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply..
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