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Jimmy Cagney

The Shocking Truth

ByD. Day

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James "Jimmy" Francis Cagney Jr., born on July 17th, 1899, Manhattan, New York City, U.S., was an actor and dancer, both on stage and in movies. Known for his energetic performances, distinctive vocal style, and deadpan comic timing, Cagney received critical acclaim, winning major awards for a wide variety of performances, being best remembered for playing multifaceted tough guys in films including The Public Enemy (1931), Taxi! (1932), Angels with Dirty Faces (1938), and White Heat (1949), becoming typecast, being limited by this reputation earlier in his career. The American Film Institute ranked Jimmy 8th among its list of greatest male stars of the Golden Age of Hollywood during 1999. Orson Welles said of Cagney, that he was "maybe the greatest actor who ever appeared in front of a camera". In his first professional acting performance, Jimmy danced dressed as a woman in the chorus line of the revue Every Sailor, in 1919. He spent several years in vaudeville as a dancer and comedian, before getting his first major acting role during 1925. Cagney got several other parts, attracting good reviews, before being cast in the lead in the play Penny Arcade (1929). After rave notices, Warner Bros. signed Jimmy for an initial $500-/-week, 3-week contract to reprise his role, which was soon extended to a 7-year contract. Cagney's 7th movie, The Public Enemy, became one of the most influential gangster movies of the time, with a famous scene in which he pushed a grapefruit against Mae Clarke's face. The film thrust him into the spotlight, Jimmy becoming one of Hollywood's leading stars, with one of Warner Bros.' biggest contracts. He received his first Academy Award for Best Actor nomination in 1938, for his subtle portrayal of the tough guy/man-child Rocky Sullivan in Angels with Dirty Faces. Cagney then won the Oscar for his energetic portrayal of George M. Cohan in Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942), being nominated a third time for Love Me or Leave Me (1955). Jimmy retired from acting and dancing during 1961 to spend time on his farm with his family, coming out of retirement 20 years later for a part in the movie Ragtime (1981), mainly to help his recovery from a stroke. Cagney walked out on Warner Bros. several times over the course during his career, each time returning on much improved personal and artistic terms. He sued Warner for breach of contract, having won in 1935, one of the first times that an actor prevailed over a studio on a contract issue.


Publication Date
Jan 6, 2023
Biographies & Memoirs
All Rights Reserved - Standard Copyright License
By (author): D. Day


Interior Color
Black & White
US Trade (6 x 9 in / 152 x 229 mm)

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