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James Cagney on the Marquee Poster

Surely you have a favorite Cagney film. I know I do and while I’ll admit to loving his Oscar winning turn in Yankee Doodle Dandy, I’ll have to go with White Heat. Cagney as Cody Jarrett rocks the screen playing one of cinema’s most vicious gangsters. It didn’t hurt to have Virginia Mayo along on this sadistic ride to the top of the world either. While I can’t be sure I think my earliest Cagney film was catching The Roaring Twenties on late night TV. From there it was Each Dawn I Die and the rest of the titles Cagney blessed us with.

I’m old enough to recall the excitement surrounding his return to the movies in 1981’s Ragtime after a 20 year hiatus. By this time I was already on my way to becoming a film student. When our local newspaper had a ten question quiz on Cagney for free passes to the new movie, I filled it in and had Mom mail it to the KW Record. A short while later my name and some other lucky winners received our tickets and off to the show I went with Dad. Not exactly a great film for a Father to take his son to but hey, it’s Cagney and I was quite proud of my knowledge and accomplishment.

“Made it, Ma! Top of the world! “

“I told you to keep away from that radio. If that battery is dead it’ll have company. “

“I didn’t ask you for any lip. I asked you if you had a drink. “

Teaming with frequent co-star Pat O’Brien and in her film debut, Miss Olivia.

“If I don’t get that dough in three minutes, Frazier’s gonna be splashed all over the best hideout in town. “

No wonder I love classic posters. Like the films, they just don’t make ’em like they used to. “I’ll get out if I hafta kill every screw in the joint! “

Teaming with the toughest girl on the lot at Warner’s. Unless we count Bette.

“If he isn’t sold and should in any way suspect that you’re on a double mission, if he does make his break and tries to follow you, you’re going to shoot him. “

“Tell ’em you seen me in the pokey and I looked great! Tell ’em I like it! Makes me feel like a kid again! “

Cagney plays Chaney. “The kind of fellows I play, pretty girls don’t write to. “

While I don’t have any 27 by 41 original posters here in the vault at Mike’s Take, I did recently purchase an original insert of the 1956 Cagney flick, Tribute to a Bad Man making it my first  piece of Jimmy Cagney memorabilia from yesteryear. Every home should have one.

“It’s FEAR that keeps men honest. And with that hangin’ today, I laid fear like a fence ten feet high, around my property! “

Here’s the foreign version……

13 Comments »

  1. I always felt a minority in preferring Cagney to Bogart. Of course, it’s a both /and as opposed to either/or. Still… “White Heat” remains a reference for its genre.

    • I admit to preferring Bogie but everytime I catch Cagney I realize just how good he was. Kind of too bad he never made a movie with Bogie when they were on equal footing in the 40’s. Kind of like Heat with Al and Robert.

  2. ‘White Heat’ is indeed superb, and Virginia Mayo deserved an Oscar for her performance in it. I should like to recommend a film with Cagney in a different kind of role – to wit, MacNamara, in: ‘One, Two, Three!’. (1961). Irresistibly funny. Note too, the young Pamela Tiffin as Scarlett Hazeltine.

    • It’s the musical score that always sticks out for me because the Buffalo Sabres hickey club used it in their advertising when I was a kid so when I actually saw the film growing up, I thought they stole the score from the hockey team!

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