Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2022) on… Angels With Dirty Faces (1938)

Like Doris Day with our look at Lullaby Of Broadway (1951) earlier this month, we’ve been a little overdue for another James Cagney film. And what better way to come back to him than with one of his more famous gangster films, Angels With Dirty Faces (1938), also starring Pat O’Brien!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Teacher’s Beau (1935)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 5 (1935-1936) from ClassicFlix)

(Length: 19 minutes, 3 seconds)

The Gang’s teacher, Miss Jones (Arletta Duncan) announces that she will get married, and that they will have a new teacher for their next year, Mrs. Wilson. Not wanting a new teacher, the Gang try to find ways to break up the engagement. This was yet another hilarious short. Most of the fun stems from the ways that Spanky (George McFarland) tries to interfere, only for his plans to backfire. In particular, him and Alfalfa (Carl Switzer) trying to dress up as a “rival” (who doesn’t fool the fiancé for one minute) really left a strong impression on me. To a large degree, this one feels fairly similar to the earlier talkie School’s Out (1930), but it still feels fresh enough (and funny enough) that I would gladly watch it again!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Out Where The Stars Begin (1938)

(Available as an extra on the Angels With Dirty Faces Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 19 minutes, 15 seconds)

A Broadway dancer (Evelyn Thawl) has come out to Hollywood to get into the movies. With the help of a makeup man (Jeffrey Lynn) and the director’s assistant (Charley Foy), she becomes the movie’s prima ballerina. This was a fun little musical short. The music itself is fun (although not exactly memorable), with a dance sequence that takes up the majority of the short. Mostly, it’s entertaining seeing some of the various stars and movie sets of big 1938 films in 3-strip Technicolor. I know I enjoyed it enough to see it here and there!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Porky And Daffy (1938)

(Available as an extra on the Angels With Dirty Faces Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 7 minutes, 32 seconds)

Daffy Duck is a boxer being managed by Porky Pig. When Porky sees an ad offering money to somebody who can beat the champion rooster, Porky immediately gets Daffy in the ring! This rather fun short was from the era when Daffy was still relatively new, and very, very zany. In this short, most of the humor is derived from the wacky ways that Daffy tries to fight with the rooster. That’s not a problem for me, as I always enjoyed Daffy, regardless of how screwy he could be (and here, he IS screwy), so I don’t mind coming back around to this one as well!

And Now For The Main Feature…

Two young kids, William “Rocky” Sullivan and Jerry Connolly, try to steal some fountain pens from a train car, but Rocky is caught when they try to evade the police. Jerry wants to come forward to help Rocky out, but Rocky insists that Jerry should clam up. Fast forward nearly fifteen years, and Rocky has been through reform school and spent several years behind bars. Upon being released from prison, Rocky (James Cagney) returns to his old neighborhood, where his friend Jerry (Pat O’Brien) is now a priest and trying to keep the local kids out of trouble. At Jerry’s insistence, Rocky finds a place to stay in a boarding house, where he runs into another old friend, Laury Martin (Ann Sheridan), whom he takes an interest in. Rocky’s next order of business is to see his lawyer, Jim Frazier (Humphrey Bogart) (who had insisted that Rocky take the fall for a robbery the two of them were involved with while promising Rocky that he would get his share of the money when he got out of prison). Jim, now working for gangster Mac Keefer (George Bancroft), doesn’t have the money readily available, and offers to get it together within the week. After leaving Frazier’s office, Rocky runs into some local boys, who pick his pockets. However, he follows them to their hideout (which also used to be HIS hideout when he was younger), where they learn just who he is. He quickly gains their confidence, and helps Jerry to get the kids to behave (although Jerry wonders whether Rocky will end up being a bad influence for the kids). On his way home, some thugs sent by Frazier attempt to kill Rocky, but he turns the tables on them. Afterwards, Rocky kidnaps Frazier and, in the process, also gets his hands on some information that Mac and Frazier were using to blackmail the city officials. With Frazier in his hands, Rocky demands a ransom from Mac of nearly $100,000. After giving him the money, Mac then tries to have Rocky arrested, but finds out from a newly freed Frazier that Rocky has the blackmail information. As a result, they drop the charges, essentially making Rocky another partner. Rocky tries to give some of the money to Jerry to help build a gym, but Jerry wants nothing to do with the tainted money. In fact, he warns Rocky that he’s going to go after all the gangsters in town, including Rocky himself. Jerry’s efforts start to gain traction, leaving Mac and Frazier trying to figure out how to get rid of both him and Rocky. Rocky manages to put an end to their plan (and to them as well), but is caught by the police. Will Rocky continue to be a hero to the end for the boys (as a gangster), or will Jerry be able to show them that Rocky’s way is wrong?

In the mid-1930s, James Cagney had a big contract dispute with Warner Brothers when he sued them for pushing him to do more films in a year than he was willing to do. While the court case went on, he made some movies for Grand National Pictures. Writer and director Rowland Brown came up with the story for Angels With Dirty Faces and, after pitching it at some of the various studios, was able to sell it to Grand National Pictures, who wanted Cagney to do it. However, Cagney had tried to avoid becoming typecast in tough guy roles and took on Something To Sing About for the smaller studio (with the film underperforming at the box office). With the lawsuit getting resolved and Cagney coming back to work for Warners, he brought the story with him (which the studio decided to buy). For the role of Rocky Sullivan, James Cagney (who had grown up on the Lower East Side of New York) was inspired by a drug-addicted pimp he had known (who particularly inspired some of Rocky’s mannerisms and the phrase “Whaddya hear? Whaddya say?”) as well as his childhood friend Peter “Bootah” Hessling (who was convicted of murder and executed in the 1920s). It all worked out well for Cagney, as the picture itself was a big hit, and his performance resulted in his first Oscar nomination.

It’s taken me a long time to finally get around to seeing Angels With Dirty Faces. I’ve known of the film for a long time (especially having grown up with the first two Home Alone films and their title spoofs of the “movies” Angels With Filthy Souls and Angels With Even Filthier Souls that Macaulay Culkin’s Kevin McCallister watched), and the combined star power of James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart made the film an attractive one. However, apart from a clip used in the TCM Scene It? DVD game, I’ve never had the chance to see the movie until this last year. Quite simply stated, it lived up to (and beyond!) my expectations. James Cagney alone carries the movie as a tough gangster who still has a soft spot for his old friend Jerry Connolly (played by Cagney’s offscreen friend Pat O’Brien) and the church. From start to finish, I was mesmerized by him! The ending for his character is ambiguous, and, although it was likely demanded by the Hays Office as part of the Production Code in force at the time, it still feels genuine to me. And, although it’s still early in his career, Humphrey Bogart also leaves a strong impression as a lawyer who thinks he can outwit Cagney’s Rocky (yet is caught every time). The movie kept me on the edge of my seat frequently, especially when the thugs came after Rocky and again when the police were hunting him down. This film is considered a major classic, and I definitely think it deserves that status! I personally might go so far as to call it my favorite gangster film, so I have no hesitation in giving it some of my highest recommendations! Seriously, go see it as soon as possible!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2021) with… Angels With Dirty Faces (1938)

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection. The transfer comes from a 4K scan of the original nitrate camera negative. It’s a typical Warner Archive release. In short, beautiful picture quality with the level of detail being shown off perfectly, and all the dust, dirt and debris has been removed. It’s a perfect release for a (in my opinion) perfect movie, and it’s highly recommended!

Film Length: 1 hour, 37 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Footlight Parade (1933)James CagneyEach Dawn I Die (1939)

Stand-In (1937)Humphrey BogartThe Maltese Falcon (1941)

Ann Sheridan – Dodge City (1939)

As an Amazon Affiliate, this site gets a small percentage for every purchase made upon using one of the Amazon links, even if it’s not the movie I linked to (and it’s at no extra cost to you). If you like what I’m doing with the blog, please consider using them so that I can continue to do more!

“Star Of The Month (July 2021)” Featuring James Cagney in… Never Steal Anything Small (1959)

We’ve got one more James Cagney movie to finish out his run as the Star Of The Month, and that would be his 1959 musical Never Steal Anything Small (which was based on an unproduced play called The Devil’s Hornpipe by Maxwell Anderson and Rouben Mamoulian), which also stars Shirley Jones!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Pink Posies (1967)

(available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of The Pink Panther Cartoon Collection: Volume 2 (1966-1968) from Kino Lorber)

(Length: 6 minutes, 11 seconds)

The Little Man tries to plant some yellow posies, but the Pink Panther keeps replacing them with pink posies. This one is a fun cartoon, with the Little Man questioning his eyesight (at least, until he actually sees the Pink Panther). Sure, it’s certainly derivative of the first Pink Panther cartoon The Pink Phink, even using a gag of them going around something (in this case, a tree), as they keep switching from the Little Man’s color to pink. But, similar or not, it’s still hilarious, and the Pink Panther’s antics don’t grow old here (making it easy to watch this one over and over again)!

And Now For The Main Feature…

Jake MacIllaney (James Cagney) is running for the position of president for his local longshoresmen’s union, but he is running short of money for a rally. He turns to “Sleep-Out” Charlie Barnes (Jack Albertson) and extorts nearly $10,000 from him. At the rally, he is arrested for extortion, but Jake is able to spin it as being an attempt by his opponent to get him out of the way. He is assigned Dan Cabot (Roger Smith) as his lawyer. They don’t get along at first, but Jake likes Dan enough to retain him as the lawyer. Meanwhile, Jake enlists the help of Sleep-Out’s girlfriend Ginger (Virginia Vincent) to get Sleep-Out out of the way for the trial. Jake holds another party on the eve of the election, which he uses to get his opponent O. K. Merritt (Horace McMahon) and some of his men out of the way. The election obviously goes Jake’s way, but, upon going to his new office, he finds out that Dan Cabot has resigned as his lawyer. Still needing Dan to take care of the trial before Sleep-Out could return, Jake goes to Dan’s apartment, where he meets Dan’s wife, Linda (Shirley Jones). He quickly finds out that she pushed her husband not to represent Jake, which cost Dan his job at the firm. However, Dan arrives home, and Jake offers him $1,000 to be a lawyer for the union (which he accepts, despite Linda’s protests). Interested in Linda himself, Jake sets about getting an office set up for Dan, and pushes his friend Winnipeg Simmons (Cara Williams) to be Dan’s secretary. She is reluctant to do so, as she can sense that Jake is trying to break up their marriage, but decides to go along when Jake grudgingly offers her a Ferrari to do it. Meanwhile, Jake starts going after a new contract for his union members, but finds resistance from the president of the union, Pinelli (Nehemiah Persoff). Unable to do anything about a new contract, which he needed to help keep some promises he made to the members of his union, Jake decides to steal some watches and sell them on the black market. As far as Dan and Linda are concerned, Jake is able (with Winnipeg’s help) to break them up (mainly by Linda catching Dan kissing Winnipeg), and so Jake starts trying to go out with Linda himself. She is hesitant, but finds out that he is not as much of a hoodlum as she thought he was. Jake’s popularity with the union members prompts them to push for him to run against Pinelli for the presidency of the union, but Pinelli has an ace up his sleeve. With all this going on, can Jake win the election and Linda’s affections, or will he end up in trouble?

Ah, James Cagney’s last film musical. He is essentially playing yet another gangster-type character here. He plays it rough as his character tries to rise in position in his union. He’s a mostly unlikeable guy, although he does manage to give us some elements of redemption, in the ways he tries to take care of the workers in his union, while taking on some corrupt leaders. Of course, those are somewhat offset by his actions as he tries to break up the marriage of his lawyer (although he comes around at least a little on that, too).

I will readily admit, this being another Cagney musical made it seem appealing to me. Compared to some of the earlier ones that I’ve seen, though, like Footlight Parade, Yankee Doodle Dandy and Love Me Or Leave Me, this one isn’t quite as good. Supposedly, Allie Wrubel and Maxwell Anderson wrote thirteen songs for this movie, but only five were actually retained. And of those five, I have mostly mixed feelings, with only the title song really coming off as memorable. I will admit, “I’m Sorry, I Want A Ferrari” is a bit more fun to watch (and, realistically, the closest that Cagney comes to doing any dancing in this movie). Shirley Jones is fun here, too, with two songs that she gets to sing (although “It Takes Love To Make A Home” is the better of the two admittedly weak songs). I’ve certainly seen far better musicals, but, I’ve seen worse, and I find this one enjoyable enough that I would recommend it if given the chance (maybe rent it/ stream it if you can).

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2020) with… Never Steal Anything Small (1959)

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Kino Lorber Studio Classics. I would say that the transfer leaves something to be desired. There are some issues here and there with the colors, and it seems to have come from less-than-stellar film elements, but I think that it is still very watchable. Quite frankly, this is likely the best we are to get anytime soon. From what I’ve heard, there have been issues with the film elements that kept this one from getting released on DVD in the first place (through Universal themselves), so I think Kino did the best they could on this one, making it available for audiences to still be able to see it.

And with that ends all my new reviews for the month of July (particularly this month’s Star, James Cagney). Originally, I had planned to end the month with a review of Ziegfeld Follies on Wednesday, but writer’s block has slowed me down on that one, and I will instead be adding new comments to my old review of Take Me Out To The Ball Game on Wednesday. Otherwise, stay tuned for next Sunday, when we shift gears to August’s star, Barbara Stanwyck!

Film Length: 1 hour, 34 minutes

My Rating: 7/10

As an Amazon Affiliate, this site gets a small percentage for every purchase made upon using one of the Amazon links, even if it’s not the movie I linked to (and it’s at no extra cost to you). If you like what I’m doing with the blog, please consider using them so that I can continue to do more!

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Man Of A Thousand Faces (1957)James Cagney

Shirley Jones – The Music Man (1962)

“Star Of The Month (July 2021)” Featuring James Cagney in… Man Of A Thousand Faces (1957)

As we continue on with our Star Of The Month celebration for James Cagney, we’ve got his 1957 film Man Of A Thousand Faces!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Pink Panic (1967)

(available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of The Pink Panther Cartoon Collection: Volume 2 (1966-1968) from Kino Lorber)

(Length: 6 minutes, 1 second)

Coming out of a storm, the Pink Panther tries to spend the night at a haunted hotel in a ghost town. This one is a fun Halloween-type cartoon, as the Panther tries to deal with a ghostly sheet and a skeleton. The fun at first stems from the Panther not realizing the sheet is a ghost (and the various things he does to it in the process), before the ghostly shenanigans come through. I know I enjoy it all the way through, and it’s definitely a fun one to revisit here and there!

And Now For The Main Feature…

As a kid, young Lon Chaney constantly gets into fights with other kids when they make fun of his deaf parents. As a grown adult, Lon (James Cagney) is successful as a clown on the vaudeville stage. However, his wife, Cleva Creighton Chaney (Dorothy Malone), struggles as a singer alongside him. When she is fired at one theatre, Lon decides to leave, too. She convinces him to accept another offer (without her) after she tells him she is pregnant. On the way to his new job, she pushes to meet his family. However, she is shocked to find out about his parents being deaf, and, worried that their future child might also be deaf, declares she doesn’t want this baby (but decides to have it anyway). They continue on to San Francisco, where Lon gets work at the theatre, but his relationship with Cleva is increasingly strained, as she resents being stuck in a home far from the city. When their son Creighton is born, they worry about whether he can hear or not. After a while, they see proof that Creighton can hear, and they are relieved (but their relationship doesn’t improve). After several years, Creighton spends a lot of time with Lon at the theatre, and dancer Hazel Bennett (Jane Greer) helps watch him for Lon. With Creighton spending so much time at the theatre, Cleva decides to go back to work as a singer. Lon is reluctant to let her do so, but he goes along with it. That is, until Creighton gets a little sick at the theatre, and, angry at her not being there to mother their son, he gets her fired. In revenge, she comes to the theatre and drinks poison on stage. She survives, although with a more limited ability to speak, but her actions have effectively blacklisted Lon now, too. When she disappears from the hospital, that is enough for Lon to decide to keep her out of both his and Creighton’s lives. He gets a divorce, but, in the process, the judge deems him an unfit father, and makes Creighton a ward of the court (at least, until Lon can provide a better home). At the suggestion of press agent Clarence Locan (Jim Backus), Lon decides to go to Hollywood. There, he gets a lot of work as an extra, due to his talents with makeup. After a while, his performances gain some attention, and he is given a chance at better parts. Lon is reluctant to share his personal life with the press, and Clarence is able to use that to spin him off as a “man of mystery.” However, his newfound success is still not quite enough for the courts to let him have his son back. Seeing Lon’s frustration, Clarence convinces Hazel to come see him. Given that they both have feelings for each other, they decide to get married, which is enough for the courts to believe that Creighton can come home to be with his father. But trouble is brewing as time goes on, as Lon told Creighton that his mother had died. When he is older, Cleva starts coming back around to see him (although she doesn’t reveal who she is to him). Lon tries to tell her to go away, but she refuses. Eventually, Creighton finds out from Hazel that his mother is still alive, and, after he and his father fight, he goes to stay with her. Can the two reconcile, or will they be forever separated because of Lon’s lies?

Writer Ralph Wheelright had put together an idea for a movie based on the life of actor Lon Chaney. When his friend James Cagney learned of it, he hoped to do the film, as he himself had been a fan of Lon Chaney when he was younger. The film was made at Universal-International, the studio where Chaney had made some of his best-known films like the 1923 The Hunchback Of Notre Dame and the 1925 The Phantom Of The Opera. To fill the part of Universal’s production manager for the time period, Irving Thalberg (and obtain the rights to use his name), they turned to Thalberg’s widow, Norma Shearer, for help. She suggested Robert Evans, whom she thought resembled her late husband (and, ironically enough, Robert Evans would later go on to be the production chief at Paramount Studios in the 1970s). The film proved to be a hit for Universal, with several of the performances (Cagney’s in particular) being praised highly.

Now, I will readily admit that I have no experience with any of Lon Chaney’s films (just a few with his son, like some of the Abbott and Costellos and a few appearances as the Wolfman). My main reason for wanting to see this film was James Cagney himself, and he did not disappoint! I really liked his performance, as a man who grew up fighting for his family, when others looked down on them. We can see that as well (at first) with his wife Cleva, as he tries to stick by her when nobody wants to hire her. Which makes her betrayal when she meets his family all the more heartbreaking, as he finds himself fighting her, too, even after their son is born able to hear and speak. But, everything he does is for his close family (he doesn’t always do the right thing, but he tries). To me, James Cagney does a great job with all this, and makes the movie an easy watch!

Obviously, being a biopic, this movie is certainly not without its fictionalized moments. Considering this is a film about Lon Chaney, one of the worst is the fact that the real Lon used makeup and other things to work with his own face, while Cagney is, at times, very obviously wearing a mask (like for the Hunchback Of Notre Dame and Phantom Of The Opera stuff). And maybe the stuff with his first wife was played up a bit (in a very melodramatic fashion) to make her into more of a villain. Still, I found this film fascinating (and, of course, we get James Cagney’s real-life sister, Jeanne Cagney, playing his onscreen sister, just as she did in the classic Yankee Doodle Dandy). We even get to see James Cagney do a little dancing (which I hadn’t expect going into this movie)! Overall, this movie was well-acted by everyone, and it was a very unexpected pleasure to see this one! I certainly would recommend it without hesitation!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2019) with… Man Of A Thousand Faces (1957)

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Arrow Films, featuring a 2K scan from the 35mm camera negative. This transfer looks quite good, with pretty good clarity. The picture has been cleaned up of all dirt and debris. There is a commentary by film scholar Tim Lucas, and a twenty minute featurette on Lon Chaney. Overall, this movie has been given a good release here, and it comes recommended as the best way to see this film!

Film Length: 2 hours, 2 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

As an Amazon Affiliate, this site gets a small percentage for every purchase made upon using one of the Amazon links, even if it’s not the movie I linked to (and it’s at no extra cost to you). If you like what I’m doing with the blog, please consider using them so that I can continue to do more!

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Mister Roberts (1955)James CagneyNever Steal Anything Small (1959)

“Star Of The Month (July 2021)” Featuring James Cagney in… White Heat (1949)

It’s time again for another James Cagney movie as we continue to celebrate him as the Star Of The Month! This time, it’s his 1949 classic White Heat, also starring Virginia Mayo!

Coming Up Shorts! with… So You Think You’re Not Guilty (1950)

(available as an extra on the White Heat Blu-ray from Warner Home Video)

(Length: 10 minutes, 31 seconds)

Joe McDoakes is fined for going through a (malfunctioning) traffic signal, but, in his stubbornness to admit to his guilt, that small fine quickly turns into a stretch in prison! This was a fun one, with the increasing ridiculousness as everything snowballs! Of course, being directed by Richard Bare (who later directed the TV series Green Acres), I’m not surprised about that! This one may not be realistic on a number of levels, but it’s certainly a funny short!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Homeless Hare (1950)

(available as an extra on the White Heat Blu-ray from Warner Home Video)

(Length: 7 minutes, 6 seconds)

When a construction worker destroys Bugs’ home, he vows revenge. Another type of Bugs cartoon in which he is wronged, and decides to fight back. You just know that construction worker won’t know what hit him. Of course, I was surprised to see him get one good shot in on Bugs partway through, but at least that allows for some variety. Still worth a few good laughs! (Compared to the previously reviewed version included as an extra on Young Man With A Horn, this one is not restored in any way).

And Now For The Main Feature…

Cody Jarrett (James Cagney) and his gang rob a train of nearly $300,000. The engineers are killed when they accidentally learn Cody’s name, but, when one of them is shot, they accidentally release a steam valve, scalding one of Cody’s men. Cody and his crew go to a mountain hideout, where his mother (Margaret Wycherly) and his wife Verna (Virginia Mayo) are hiding out. One of his men, Big Ed Somers (Steve Cochran), wants to take over the gang and have Verna to himself, but he is just afraid enough of Cody to avoid doing anything. When a big storm comes, they make their move and leave behind the scalded man. Later, some members of the Treasury Department discover the (now dead) scalded man, and are able to learn about Cody and his associates. They almost catch up to Cody, but his mother warns him in time, and Cody, along with his mother and wife, manage to get away. They split up, and Cody decides to turn himself in for another, lesser robbery committed at the same time they robbed the train. Unable to trap him for the train robbery, the feds decide to send in an undercover man, Hank Fallon (Edmund O’Brien), under the alias Vic Pardo, to find out more. Outside the prison, Ma runs the gang, with Big Ed going along with her. In prison, Hank tries to get in Cody’s good graces, but has no luck. That is, until a friend of Big Ed’s tries to bump off Cody, and Hank manages to save him. Cody’s mother comes in to see him right after, and, realizing Big Ed had tried to off her son, she tells Cody that she will deal with him personally. Less than thrilled with this development, Cody turns to Hank for help in breaking out of prison. Hank makes plans with another agent acting as his wife on visiting day, but, before they can follow through on their plans, Cody learns from a new inmate that his mother is dead. He suffers a breakdown, and is taken to the doctor. Another inmate smuggles a gun in to him, and they, along with Hank and a few others, successfully escape from the prison. Meanwhile, Verna is getting nervous about Cody coming after her and Big Ed (since she had killed Cody’s mother), but when she tries to escape Big Ed, Cody catches her. Thinking quickly, she accuses Big Ed of shooting Cody’s mother in the back, and helps him past Big Ed’s defenses, so that he can shoot Big Ed. Under the advice of his fence, Daniel “The Trader” Winston (Fred Clark), Cody and his crew decide to rob a payroll. Hank tries to get word out to the police, who tip the feds. At the place they are robbing, Hank is recognized by another con brought in to help them (whom he had arrested years earlier), but they are quickly surrounded by the feds. Will Cody finally be brought to justice, or will he evade the authorities again?

After Yankee Doodle Dandy, James Cagney had once again ended his contract at Warner Brothers. With his brother William, he had formed his own production company. However, they only made a handful of films, and they weren’t very successful. So, Cagney once again returned to Warner Brother, although this time with a little more freedom, since he still retained his production company. He returned to the gangster genre (which he had tried to leave behind, with his last one being the 1939 film The Roaring Twenties) with the film White Heat. At first, he wasn’t thrilled with the script, and made some suggestions to the writers about making Jarrett and his mother more like the outlaws Ma Barker and her family (and making Jarrett himself psychotic). His suggestions worked, as the film turned out to be a hit with audiences and the critics, and it is considered one of Cagney’s best roles.

To say that Cagney is good in this role is an understatement! As Cody Jarrett, he takes things even further than he had as Tom Powers in The Public Enemy. Once again, he only cares for his mother (but, this time, she knows about his life of crime and very actively encourages him in it). While Cody is a married man, he doesn’t really trust his wife that much and can be cruel to her (but certainly doesn’t want anybody else to have her, either). He suffers from headaches that really lay him low, but, with his mother’s help, he recovers from them and maintains his image as a tough guy. And we can see from Cagney’s performance that it is when he suffers a headache in prison and Edmund O’Brien’s Hank Fallon helps him out like his mother (with similar encouragement) that he finds himself trusting Hank more. But he is indeed a very tough guy! At one point, we see his wife worrying that he will just keep coming even if he is shot, which we see she is right to be afraid about (although when in the story is for you to see for yourself)!

I’m coming off my first time seeing this movie, and I would definitely go so far as to say that I liked it! James Cagney was the main appeal of The Public Enemy, and he was again here (although, compared to that film, he was supported much better by the other actors and actresses here). Virginia Mayo as his wife Verna is also good as a woman who wants riches and is constantly playing angles to survive and get what she wants from whomever she is dealing with (although with mixed success). As Cody’s mother, Margaret Wycherly is almost as tough as her son, and served by a sixth sense that is able to help keep them out of trouble (but, as we find out, even she can’t predict everything). But, again, Cagney is what makes this movie, as a psychotic man who seemingly can’t be killed by anybody else, and is therefore a big threat to everybody. I was fascinated by the whole movie, and I have no problem whatsoever in giving this movie a very high recommendation!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Warner Home Video, either individually or as part of the four film Ultimate Gangsters Collection: Classics.

Film Length: 1 hour, 53 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

As an Amazon Affiliate, this site gets a small percentage for every purchase made upon using one of the Amazon links, even if it’s not the movie I linked to (and it’s at no extra cost to you). If you like what I’m doing with the blog, please consider using them so that I can continue to do more!

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)James CagneyLove Me Or Leave Me (1955)

Out Of The Blue (1947) – Virginia Mayo – Great Day In The Morning (1956)

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2021) with… Each Dawn I Die (1939)

We’re pulling double-duty yet again, as we look into another recent Blu-ray release! This time, we’re looking into the 1939 film Each Dawn I Die, featuring this month’s Star, James Cagney, as well as George Raft!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Railroadin’ (1929)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 1 (1929-1930) from ClassicFlix)

(Length: 18 minutes, 53 seconds)

The kids are all hanging out at the train yard where Joe’s (Joe Cobb) father works, when a bum starts the train and the kids find themselves unable to stop it. This short (which is also the first of 22 appearances of Norman “Chubby” Chaney in the gang) is something of an improvement over Small Talk, with the acting a bit more natural (still needs some work, but it’s improved). The humor also needs a bit of work, with the main joke being the kids’ inability to stop the train completely (and only being able to switch directions), which goes on a little too long. The funniest moment within that whole section is when the train keeps running over Farina (Allen Hoskins), who has his foot caught in the track and keeps lying down (although it’s obvious that model work is used when actually showing it). Maybe not the series at its best (from what I have heard), but enjoyable enough that I want to keep watching, just the same!

Coming Up Shorts! with… A Day At Santa Anita (1937)

(available as an extra on the Each Dawn I Die Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 18 minutes,)

A little girl named Peaches inherits a racehorse when her father dies. She and the horse become so close, her presence is needed to help the horse stay calm and win. It’s a decent short, with a few cameos from movie stars like Al Jolson, Ruby Keeler, Hugh Herbert, Frank McHugh and Edward G. Robinson at the racetrack. It’s nothing original, with other gamblers trying to cheat to get their horse to win, and the little girl helping the horse. It’s interesting, but that’s about the only thing to be said about this one (besides the fact that it’s an early Technicolor short).

Coming Up Shorts! with… Detouring America (1939)

(available as an extra on the Each Dawn I Die Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 7 minutes, 57 seconds)

A narrator takes us on a tour of the U.S. This short is one of Tex Avery’s efforts while at Warner Brothers. There are some fun gags here, with one recurring bit about Mr. Butterfingers, “The Human Fly,” trying to climb the outside of the Empire State building. There are some dated moments, particularly with one black character who resembles the blackface look of the time (never mind a few other stereotypes). It’s fun, but it’s not as good as some of Tex Avery’s other directorial efforts.

Coming Up Shorts! with… Each Dawn I Crow (1949)

(available as an extra on the Each Dawn I Die Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 8 minutes)

John Rooster, egged on by the Narrator, is afraid he will become Farmer Fudd’s Sunday dinner. This is another type of cartoon with a narrator making an easy-going character paranoid about what’s going to happen to him (but that’s the fun right there). Elmer Fudd as the farmer is admittedly a minor character, but that works quite well. The rooster’s attempts to delay his execution are what drives this cartoon, and are certainly hilarious as everything backfires on him. Certainly one I enjoy coming back to now and again!

And Now For The Main Feature…

A corrupt district attorney, Jesse Hanley (Thurston Hall), is running for governor of the state, but when a newspaper calls him out on his corruption, he and his associate, Grayce (Victory Jory), decide to burn their books. Newspaper reporter Frank Ross (James Cagney) observes them doing it, and writes up a big story, with the support of his editor. However, the D.A. doesn’t like that, and decides to play dirty. He sends some thugs after Frank, who knock him out, stick him in a car, make him look like a drunk driver, and send the car off. Before crashing, he ends up killing three people, and, despite his protesting that he is innocent, he is sent to prison. On his way there, he meets convict “Hood” Stacey (George Raft). The two don’t really hit it off, but, once in the prison, Frank saves Stacey from being killed by another inmate with a grudge (and who is a bit of a stool pigeon for the guards), Limpy Julien (Joe Downing). Eventually, Limpy Julien is killed when the prisoners are watching a movie. Frank suspects Stacey of doing it, but he doesn’t say anything about it to anybody. Stacey comes to him and admits that he wasn’t the one who killed Limpy Julien, but, since Frank kept quiet, Stacey asks Frank to turn him in. Figuring he would get a trial at the courthouse and could escape from there, Stacey promises to help Frank find the men that framed him. Frank is initially resistant, but, after seeing his mother break down when she comes to visit him, he decides to make the deal with Stacey, and turns him in. Frank sneaks a message to his former colleagues from the newspaper that something will go down at the courthouse, which spooks Stacey when he makes his (successful) escape. The prison guards try to force Frank to tell them what he knew about the escape, but he clams up about it, resulting in him being stuck in solitary confinement. While the guards keep trying to get him to talk, he proves to be a very troublesome prisoner. Meanwhile, Frank’s girlfriend, Joyce Conover (Jane Bryan), worries about Frank since the newspaper is having no luck in trying to get Frank out legally, so she tries to reach out to Stacey through his lawyer. When she sees Stacey, she tries to convince him how loyal Frank has been, and is awaiting word. She gets through to Stacey, who sends some of his men to find out what they can. Meanwhile, Joyce talks to the prison warden, John Armstrong (George Bancroft), and persuades him to give Frank a chance. Frank tries to behave himself, but, when he comes up for parole, he finds the head of the board is Hanley’s man, Grayce, and is turned down. When Stacey finds out that the man who framed Frank is Polecat Carlisle (Alan Baxter) and he is in the same prison as Frank (and one of the stool pigeon prisoners, no less), Stacey turns himself in at the prison. But, with the other prisoners planning a prison break, can Stacey and Frank get the proof they need?

Each Dawn I Die was based on the 1938 novel of the same name by Jerome Odlum. When Warner Brothers bought the film rights, it was intended as a vehicle for James Cagney (although he was originally to play the part of the gangster “Hood” Stacey). However, the original plan was to have him star opposite Edward G. Robinson. That didn’t happen, and John Garfield was next slated to co-star (with Michael Curtiz directing). Once again, things changed, and William Keighley was given the director’s job. George Raft, an old friend of Cagney’s (and who had made a quick appearance in the 1931 James Cagney film Taxi), was coming off his contract at Paramount. When they cast him in the film (as the reporter), he suggested that he and Cagney should switch roles, and thus, we got the movie as it is. It proved to be popular (in an already crowded year, considering this was a 1939 release), which led to George Raft being signed to Warner Brothers.

I can’t deny that James Cagney’s performance in this movie is indeed what makes it worthwhile! We see him in action as a reporter on a crusade to deal with a corrupt district attorney running for governor of the state. Cagney’s Frank Ross is against crime and corruption, and yet, prison time makes him as much of a con with a grudge against the world as those that actually belonged there! Even worse, he can see how he has changed, like when he breaks down and cries at his parole hearing after he threatens the members of the parole board. Honestly, it’s hard not to feel for him, when everything he and his friends try to do honestly manages to fail.

I’m coming off my first time seeing this movie. Plain and simple, James Cagney’s presence in this movie is the main reason I saw it, and he doesn’t disappoint (not to mention the fact that this movie came from Hollywood’s golden year, 1939)! I really appreciate his performance here, as I’ve indicated. I’m no fan of George Raft, but, from the handful of films that I’ve seen with him in them, I would put this as one of his better performances, as a mobster who essentially came from a similar background to Cagney’s reporter (with their life choices being the main difference between them). The movie certainly doesn’t mince words when it comes to showing how poor prison life can be for inmates, with all the guards essentially trying to break the inmates (and making some of them worse), instead of trying to reform them. There will be those that take issues with some of the various plot devices used to move the story along, but I find it to be a wonderful prison/gangster movie. I certainly have no qualms in recommending this one highly!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Warner Archive Collection. The Blu-ray transfer comes from a new 4K scan of the best surviving nitrate preservation elements (in this case, a nitrate fine grain master). While I’ve never seen the movie before this, I can say that the transfer on the Blu-ray is, as usual for Warner Archive, FANTASTIC! The clarity is there, and shows off all the detail. The dust and dirt and other debris is gone. Seriously, you can’t get much better than this!

Film Length: 1 hour, 32 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Angels With Dirty Faces (1938)James CagneyYankee Doodle Dandy (1942)

Spawn Of The North (1938) – George Raft – Black Widow (1954)

As an Amazon Affiliate, this site gets a small percentage for every purchase made upon using one of the Amazon links, even if it’s not the movie I linked to (and it’s at no extra cost to you). If you like what I’m doing with the blog, please consider using them so that I can continue to do more!

“Star Of The Month (July 2021)” Featuring James Cagney in… Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)

Well, it’s July 4, and we’ve come around to the film that is the reason I decided to feature James Cagney as the Star Of The Month for July! That, of course, would be the classic 1942 musical biopic Yankee Doodle Dandy, co-starring Joan Leslie, Walter Huston and Richard Whorf!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Beyond The Line Of Duty (1942)

(available as an extra on the Yankee Doodle Dandy Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 22 minutes, 1 second)

This short is a dramatization of the life and training of war hero Hewett T. Wheless. Ronald Reagan narrates, while Wheless acts as himself. It’s an interesting short, no doubt intended as a morale booster back during the war. Wheless certainly doesn’t strike me as being much of an actor, but he does well enough for what this short was intended to do. Probably not one that I will feel the urge to revisit much.

Coming Up Shorts! with… Bugs Bunny Gets The Boid (1942)

(available as an extra on the Yankee Doodle Dandy Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 7 minutes, 25 seconds)

When Mama Buzzard sends her kids after some food for dinner, Beaky winds up chasing down Bugs Bunny. An old classic Bugs Bunny cartoon that I’ve seen many a time. The gags are always funny, with Bugs taking advantage of Beaky’s intelligence (or lack thereof). It’s easy to tell who will win out in this cartoon, but I find enough humor in it that I always love to come back to this one!

Coming Up Shorts! with… You, John Jones (1943)

(available as an extra on the Yankee Doodle Dandy Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 10 minutes, 26 seconds)

John Jones (James Cagney) reflects on how lucky he and his family are to live in America. It’s another propaganda short, with Margaret O’Brien playing his daughter and reciting the Gettysburg Address, which makes him think. Obviously, it’s very pro-U.S., from a time when the country was not being bombed (but were certainly taking the precautions on the chance that it could be). Not the best short, but the talent involved makes it better than it should be, and gets its message across.

Coming Up Shorts! with… Yankee Doodle Daffy (1943)

(available as an extra on the Yankee Doodle Dandy Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 6 minutes, 44 seconds)

Daffy is an agent for Sleepy Lagoon, and tries to get the attention of talent scout Porky. A fun cartoon I’ve seen many times. Most of what makes this one a blast is Daffy’s antics as he tries to demonstrate what his “client” can do (while Porky tries to make a run for it). It’s still very early Daffy, when he could be a bit screwy (just a little), and that works just fine for me!

And Now For The Main Feature…

Actor George M. Cohan (James Cagney) is summoned to the White House to meet with the President (Captain Jack Young). At first, he is worried it is about his portrayal of the President in the show he is appearing in on Broadway, but the President quickly assures him that there is no problem there. Then, essentially prompted by the President, George launches into the story of his life, starting with his birth on July 4 many years before to his parents, stage performers Jerry (Walter Huston) and Nellie Cohan (Rosemary DeCamp). A few years later, they were joined by his younger sister, Josie. The four of them worked on stage together, doing different acts as they traveled throughout the U.S. George developed a bit of arrogance and self-importance with regard to his own abilities, although that was tempered a little as he grew older. Eventually, they do a show in Buffalo, where he meets the stage-struck Mary (Joan Leslie). George is impressed with her talent (and her), and she joins them on stage with her own act. George writes a song for her, but when she tries to perform it, the theatre manager cuts it short and throws her out. When George tries to argue, he is effectively blacklisted from the stage (which also throws his family out of work, as they refuse to go on without him). George and Mary try to take his music and shows he’s written to various producers, but they are constantly turned down. He pushes his family to take some of the jobs they’ve been offered, by pretending to have sold one of his plays. While he’s been working the rounds, another hopeful, Sam H. Harris (Richard Whorf), has been trying to get his own play produced, without any luck either. One day, George overhears him trying to sell his manuscript to producer Schwab (S. Z. “Cuddles” Sakall), who was turning it down. Since it sounds like his own show might be up Mr. Schwab’s alley, George decides on the spur of the moment to make Sam his partner on the show, and the two of them convince Mr. Schwab to do it. The show, Little Johnny Jones, becomes a big hit, and George brings back his family to join him. George and Sam produce a number of plays that become hits. After a while, George’s parents decide to retire on a farm while his sister Josie (Jeanne Cagney) retires to get married. George tries to do something different to appease the critics, but fails to do so. He decides to keep his reputation by trying to tell the public his new play is lousy, but war is declared against Germany after the Lusitania is sunk. George tries to join the army, but he is told he is too old and needed at home. Inspired, he writes the song “Over There,” which becomes the Army’s anthem as they go over to fight in Europe. After the war is over, George continues on for a while, producing more big hits. After the rest of his family passes away, he decides to end his partnership with Sam and retire. However, after a while, he gets restless, and decides to get into another show for his friend Sam.

The real George M. Cohan had been shopping around for one of the studios to do his life story on the big screen for a little while. Originally, there was to be a deal with MGM for a movie that would have focused on the Four Cohans, but it fell apart when Cohan was refused the approval on the film’s final cut. He tried producer Samuel Goldwyn, who wanted Fred Astaire for the role. When Fred turned it down, Warner Brothers took up the option for the story, and cast James Cagney. That worked out well for everyone, as the film turned out to be a box office success, and Cagney’s one and only Best Actor Oscar win.

Originally, James Cagney was opposed to doing a biopic on George M. Cohan, as he had ill will towards Cohan after Cohan had sided with the producers back in the Actors’ Equity Strike back in 1919. However, Cagney himself had recently been accused of being a communist sympathizer as a result of his own union involvement. So, Cagney determined to prove his own patriotism, and Yankee Doodle Dandy was just the film to do it. Indeed, his performance is what makes this movie. A song-and-dance man himself, Cagney had gotten typecast in gangster roles after The Public Enemy in 1931. For this movie, he made a very conscious effort to dance very much like the real George M. Cohan. To do so, he worked with Johnny Boyle, who was a choreographer for George M. Cohan, and faced injury as he tried to imitate Cohan’s style. It all worked out for him, though, and nearly a decade later, Cagney reprised his role as George M. Cohan for the 1955 movie The Seven Little Foys, and did a dance routine with that film’s star, Bob Hope.

As I’ve already admitted, this was the first James Cagney film I saw, and it’s one that I’ve enjoyed seeing many a time over the years. Now, obviously, this is a very Hollywood-ized version of the life of George M. Cohan, since, for example, he was actually married twice, and neither of his wives’ names was Mary (his second wife’s middle name was Mary, but she usually went by her first name). Still, it’s a film that has helped keep George M. Cohan from falling completely into obscurity as time has gone on (like one would expect to happen with most actors mainly known for their stage work). Like many others, though, I love watching Cagney sing and dance to songs like “Yankee Doodle Boy,” “Give My Regards To Broadway,” “You’re A Grand Old Flag” and “Over There.” Honestly, if I have any complaints about this movie, it’s that James Cagney doesn’t do enough dancing! But seriously, whether it’s July 4 or any other time of the year, this film is a well-regarded classic by many for a reason, and I would certainly continue to add how much I think it deserves to be seen! So, give it a chance if you haven’t seen it (or, if you have, you know it’s time to give it another whirl)!!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Warner Archive Collection.

Film Length: 2 hours, 6 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

*ranked #2 in Top 10 Movies Watched In 2021

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Each Dawn I Die (1939)James CagneyWhite Heat (1949)

Sergeant York (1941) – Joan Leslie – The Sky’s The Limit (1943)

Walter Huston – The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre (1948)

Sergeant York (1941) – George Tobias – Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943)

All-American Co-Ed (1941) – Frances Langford – Melody Time (1948)

S. Z. “Cuddles” Sakall – Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943)

Eddie Foy, Jr. – The Pajama Game (1957)

As an Amazon Affiliate, this site gets a small percentage for every purchase made upon using one of the Amazon links, even if it’s not the movie I linked to (and it’s at no extra cost to you). If you like what I’m doing with the blog, please consider using them so that I can continue to do more!

“Star Of The Month (July 2021)” Featuring James Cagney in… The Public Enemy (1931)

“I ain’t so tough.” – Tom Powers (James Cagney), The Public Enemy

Now that James Cagney is this month’s featured Star, we’ll start off with the film that established him in Hollywood, the 1931 gangster film The Public Enemy, co-starring Jean Harlow, Edward Woods and Joan Blondell!

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Eyes Have It (1931)

(available as an extra on the Blu-ray for The Public Enemy from Warner Home Video)

(Length: 9 minutes, 57 seconds)

Young Charlie McCarthy has been missing school because of his eyesight, and is sent to an eye doctor. This was an early showcase for ventriloquist Edgar Bergen, along with his most popular character, Charlie McCarthy (minus his monocle, for sake of the story). Not really a lot of plot to it, and Charlie’s comments towards the female nurse don’t age the best. Probably not the best spot to start in with Bergen and McCarthy, in my opinion.

Coming Up Shorts! with… Smile, Darn Ya, Smile! (1931)

(available as an extra on the Blu-ray for The Public Enemy from Warner Home Video)

(Length: 7 minutes)

Streetcar driver Foxy is singing the song “Smile, Darn Ya, Smile” as he makes his rounds. This short is mostly a showcase for the tune (which would later be used in Who Framed Roger Rabbit). Both Foxy and the lady fox are very obviously derivative of Disney’s Mickey and Minnie Mouse, just with fox tails and different shaped ears. Given the almost complete lack of plot, and the fact that similar shorts have been done elsewhere (and better), it’s a short that I will likely not feel the need to revisit anytime soon.

And Now For The Main Feature…

As kids, young Tom Powers and his buddy Matt Doyle are prone to getting into mischief. Tom’s older brother, Mike tries to get him to stay on the straight and narrow, to no avail. As they get older, Tom (James Cagney) and Matt (Edward Woods) start working for the local fence, Putty Nose (Murray Kinnell). Putty Nose lets them in on a robbery, promising to help them if they get in trouble. However, the robbery doesn’t go as planned, with one of their friends killed, and they end up killing a cop (and, of course, Putty Nose deserts them when they need him). When the U.S. joins the war (World War I), Mike (Donald Cook) enlists, but hopes Tom will try to take care of their mother (Beryl Mercer). With the arrival of Prohibition, Tom and Matt find themselves working for Paddy Ryan (Robert O’Connor), who helps them get into the (now illegal) brewery business. With the aid of mobster “Nails” Nathan (Leslie Fenton), they start forcing local speakeasies to take their beer or else (a problem with rival gang’s competing with them). One night at a speakeasy, Tom and Matt run into a pair of ladies, Kitty (Mae Clark), whom Tom is interested in, and Mamie (Joan Blondell), who catches Matt’s eye. The two couples end up staying together at a hotel when a newly-returned Mike throws Tom out of his mother’s house. Tom quickly grows tired of Kitty, and starts going with Gwen Allen (Jean Harlow) instead. One night when they go out as a group to celebrate Matt and Mamie’s engagement, Tom spots Putty Nose. Deciding to get even with him for abandoning them before, Tom and Matt follow him to his apartment, where they kill him. Soon, “Nails” Nathan dies when a horse he was riding knocks him off and kicks him in the head. In retaliation, Tom and Matt buy the horse and shoot it. With “Nails” out of the way, the city erupts in a gang war, resulting in Paddy’s bar being blown up. While he tries to get some men together to fight back, Paddy forces everybody to hide out. That doesn’t work very well, as the rival gang spots Paddy leaving the hideout, and a couple of men are stationed out front to get anybody that leaves. When Tom gets too stir crazy, he decides to leave. Matt goes with him, but they are shot at when they leave. Tom gets away safely, but Matt isn’t so lucky. Filled with a desire for revenge, Tom is determined to go after the rival gang. But will he succeed (and live to tell the tale)?

It’s hard not to think of The Public Enemy without discussing James Cagney himself. The movie was his fourth film. He was starting to rise through the ranks, and Warner Brothers was starting to become known for their gangster films, with the recent success of Little Caesar. For The Public Enemy, Cagney was actually originally cast as Matt Doyle, with Edward Woods getting the role of Tom Powers. However, director William Wellman thought he was miscast, having seen Cagney’s performance in Doorway To Hell, and so the roles were switched up. In the process, James Cagney forever became associated with the gangster genre, giving us a performance of an increasingly tough and ruthless man, with only a soft spot for his own family, whom he tries to take care of.

I’ve only recently had the opportunity to finally see this movie, and the main thing I can say is that the movie is worth seeing for Cagney’s performance alone, he’s that good. I can easily understand why the scene with the grapefruit is one that he’s well-remembered for (although, considering it’s a scene of domestic abuse, I feel sorry for Cagney, who was constantly being reminded of it by his fans who used to send him grapefruit). And the scene with him standing in the rain, as he’s about to go after the rival gang members is also pretty powerful. Outside of that grapefruit scene, most of the violence occurs offscreen, but it’s done quite well and leaves an impact. I will admit, though, that some of the rest of the cast isn’t always up to Cagney’s level here, acting-wise. Jean Harlow is a bit wooden in her performance, much to my surprise, which makes her scenes a little harder to sit through. Donald Cook as the older brother Mike is also a little too awkward, particularly in his final scene (and I think he drags down Robert O’Connor as Paddy in what scenes they do share). Still, even with some less-than-stellar performances, Cagney alone makes this film worth it. Indeed, it is a classic performance that stands the test of time, as he proves how good (or maybe I should say “bad”) a gangster he could be onscreen. Definitely would recommend this one!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Warner Home Video, either individually or as part of the four film Ultimate Gangsters Collection: Classics.

Film Length: 1 hour, 24 minutes

My Rating: 7/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

James CagneyFootlight Parade (1933)

Jean Harlow – Dinner At Eight (1933)

Joan Blondell – Gold Diggers Of 1933 (1933)

As an Amazon Affiliate, this site gets a small percentage for every purchase made upon using one of the Amazon links, even if it’s not the movie I linked to (and it’s at no extra cost to you). If you like what I’m doing with the blog, please consider using them so that I can continue to do more!

TFTMM Presents “Star Of The Month (July 2021)” Featuring James Cagney

July has arrived! With that, we usher in our new Star Of The Month, James Cagney!

Table Of Contents

Quick Film Career Bio

Birth: July 17, 1899

Death: March 30, 1986

After years of being in vaudeville and onstage, James Francis Cagney Jr. starred in the play Penny Arcade alongside actress Joan Blondell. After Al Jolson bought the film rights and sold them to Warner Brothers (with the stipulation that both Cagney and Blondell were to be cast in the film), the film was made as Sinners’ Holiday (1930). His audience appeal started to rise, but it wasn’t until his star turn in The Public Enemy that he hit it big as ruthless gangster Tom Powers. Of course, to his regret, this resulted in him being typecast in various gangster type roles over the years. With the rise of the Code, the studio tried casting him in different roles (including a small return to his song-and-dance roots in Footlight Parade). Behind the scenes, he caused a lot of trouble for Warner Brothers, refusing to do everything they asked him to do, and demanding better pay and fewer films per year. After being forced to do more films in 1935 than he had wanted, he sued the studio over the matter. While that court battle was going on, he did a few films independently for Grand National Pictures, although they weren’t as successful as his films at Warners.

When he won his court battle with Warner (a rarity up to that point, as the studios usually won against their actors), he returned to a much better contract. With that contract allowing for a little more variety in the types of roles he could do, he did a comedy, Boy Meets Girl, to mixed results. His other big film of 1938 was Angels With Dirty Faces, once again putting him into a tough guy role. That film turned out to be a big success, resulting in his first Best Actor nomination. He followed that up with The Roaring Twenties, which would be his last gangster role for nearly a decade. In 1942, he starred in the musical biopic Yankee Doodle Dandy, once again returning to his song-and-dance roots. The movie proved to be a big hit and a morale booster for wartime audiences, as well as his only Best Actor win at the Oscars.

Now, with greater pull, he went independent again, forming his own production company with his brother William. However, over the next few years, they were only able to pull off a handful of films, with them increasingly faring poorly at the box office. So, in 1949, Cagney returned once again to Warner Brothers, bringing his production company with him. Right out of the gate, he scored another big hit, returning to the gangster genre with White Heat. He had a few up-and-down years, with notable roles including Love Me Or Leave Me for MGM (his last Best Actor nomination) and Mister Roberts before leaving Warner Brothers again. Over the next few years, he worked for the various studios, with one television appearance, one film he directed himself (Short Cut To Hell) and one last musical (Never Steal Anything Small) among them. His experience making the comedy One, Two, Three for director Billy Wilder proved to be too much for him, and he decided to retire from the movies afterwards. Eventually, when his health took a turn for the worse after a stroke, he was coaxed out of retirement to appear in the 1981 film Ragtime. After that, he did one TV movie, Terrible Joe Moran. His health took another turn for the worse, and he died in 1986.


This is a list of all the films that I personally have reviewed from his filmography so far. Obviously, I will be adding to it throughout the month of July, and it is my plan to add to it as I review more and more of his films even beyond this month’s celebration.

The Public Enemy (1931)

Footlight Parade (1933)

Angels With Dirty Faces (1938)

Each Dawn I Die (1939)

Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)

White Heat (1949)

Love Me Or Leave Me (1955)

Mister Roberts (1955)

Man Of A Thousand Faces (1957)

Never Steal Anything Small (1959)

Entries For This Month

Thoughts From The Music(al) Man –

The Public Enemy (1931)

Each Dawn I Die (1939)

Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)

White Heat (1949)

Man Of A Thousand Faces (1957)

Never Steal Anything Small (1959)


Since this blogathon lasts a month, I’ll keep the rules here in case anybody is still interested in joining in:

  1. At this point, I am not putting any restrictions on topics related to the various stars, whether it be any of their films, or biographies, lists of favorites, etc.
  2. These celebrations are intended as tributes to these stars, so I would ask that any participating posts be respectful of the stars themselves. Obviously, if you don’t care for that specific star, that would probably not be a good month to join in.
  3. I’m requesting that all posts would be new material, and not any previously published ones.
  4. As previously indicated, these celebrations of the stars and genres will last a whole month each, so you will have that whole month to work with. I myself will be publishing about four or five posts per month (depending on the number of Sundays and whether there are any recent disc releases that would fit the bill), so you can decide how many you want to do (within reason).
  5. If you are interested in joining, I would certainly suggest you either comment on this post, email me at, or, for the Facebook savvy, contact me at my FB page. And feel free to use the banners I have put together (I’m still unsure of how much space I will have to work with over time on pictures, so for now I am doing one each).

Announcing the James Cagney “Star Of The Month (July 2021)” Blogathon

Moving right along, I’m here to remind everybody that the Star Of The Month for July will be James Cagney! So, if you’re interested in being a part of July’s blogathon, be sure to sign up on this post!

Table Of Contents

My Own Feelings On James Cagney

Given my fondness for musicals, I doubt it’ll surprise much of anybody that my introduction to actor James Cagney was his 1942 classic Yankee Doodle Dandy (which is also the reason I chose him as the Star for the month of July, since I’ve been wanting to review that film for a while now). I’ve seen (and enjoyed) a couple of his other musicals, and I’ve ventured into some of his non-musical films as well. Obviously, he’s known for playing tough guys and gangsters, and, from the handful I’ve been able to see, he’s done a good job of that! But, I will also readily admit that I’ve still seen only a small fraction of his filmography, and that is something I’m looking forward to changing! My own plans are (with one obvious exception) to look into some of his movies that I’ve never seen before. I certainly hope that maybe they might appeal to others, and I hope that I’ll be joined in this endeavor, so that we all can discover more of his movies!

Upcoming Schedule For 2021 (Beyond July):

August – star: Barbara Stanwyck

September – genre: Musicals

October – nothing

November – star: Humphrey Bogart

December (1-24) – genre: Christmas films

December (25-31) – nothing

Roster For The James Cagney “Star Of The Month (June 2021)” Blogathon

Since this is obviously for next month’s blogathon on James Cagney, then that’s all you need to worry about signing up for. As always, here are the rules that we are working with.

  1. At this point, I am not putting any restrictions on topics related to the various stars, whether it be any of their films, or biographies, lists of favorites, etc.
  2. These celebrations are intended as tributes to these stars, so I would ask that any participating posts be respectful of the stars themselves. Obviously, if you don’t care for that specific star, that would probably not be a good month to join in.
  3. I’m requesting that all posts would be new material, and not any previously published ones.
  4. As previously indicated, these celebrations of the stars and genres will last a whole month each, so you will have that whole month to work with. I myself will be publishing about four or five posts per month (depending on the number of Sundays and whether there are any recent disc releases that would fit the bill), so you can decide how many you want to do (within reason).
  5. If you are interested in joining, I would certainly suggest you either comment on this post, email me at, or, for the Facebook savvy, contact me at my FB page. And feel free to use the banners I have put together (I’m still unsure of how much space I will have to work with over time on pictures, so for now I am doing one each).

Thoughts From The Music(al) Man

  • The Public Enemy (1931), Each Dawn I Die (1939), Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942), White Heat (1949), Man Of A Thousand Faces (1957) and Never Steal Anything Small (1959)

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2020) with… Mister Roberts (1955)

Today, we’ve got a classic war comedy, in the form of the 1955 film Mister Roberts, starring Henry Fonda, James Cagney, William Powell and Jack Lemmon!  So, let’s enjoy our theatrical short, and then it’s on with the movie itself!

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Flea Circus (1954)

(Available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of Tex Avery Screwball Classics Volume 2 from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 7 minutes, 1 second)

When a stray dog walks in on a circus of fleas, the fleas all leave (except for Francois, the clown), and it’s up to him to bring more back! While it’s not quite as wacky as Tex Avery’s cartoon’s tend to be, this one is still a lot of fun! Bill Thompson, the usual voice actor for fellow Tex Avery cartoon character Droopy, voices Francois, who is not as beloved by the audiences (in the cartoon, but, obviously, we love him). This one might be more conventional, but the gags revolving around the flea acts are fun, and I enjoyed watching the cartoon overall (and will definitely be coming back to it again). Vive la France!

And Now For The Main Feature…

Life is hard for the crew of the Navy supply ship the Reluctant (or the “Bucket,” as they call it).  It’s World War II, but they are far away from all the actual combat.  They’re stationed near a South Pacific Island, but they’ve been kept on board the ship for nearly a year, with nary a liberty granted.  Worse, the ship’s captain (James Cagney) seems to enjoy spoiling the morale of all on board.  His cargo officer, Lieutenant Douglas Roberts (Henry Fonda) tries to do what he can to help the crew out, but he wants very much to be a part of the war.  He keeps trying to request a transfer, but the captain refuses to sign off on the idea.  These fights between the two are pretty much what amounts to entertainment for most of the men.  The men find themselves some new “entertainment” when some nurses arrive for the hospital on the island (and apparently shower within range of what the crew can see with their binoculars).  That ends when their laundry and morale officer, Ensign Frank Thurlowe Pulver (Jack Lemmon), brings a few of the nurses on the board the ship as he tries to spend some time with Lieutenant Ann Girard (Betsy Palmer), and the nurses realize how much the men can see.  Roberts decides to go around the captain to get the men some liberty, and gives a bribe of a bottle of scotch to an official, resulting in the ship being sent to the island of Elysium.  However, even when they arrive at the island, the captain refuses to let the men have liberty, and Roberts goes to his cabin to tell him off.  Instead, the captain makes him an offer: he will let the crew have their liberty, BUT Roberts has to stop writing transfer applications, and he must follow the captain’s orders without question (and nobody else can know about this arrangement).  Having no choice, Roberts acquiesces, and the men go ashore.  With all their pent-up energy, the men get into a lot of trouble, and the ship gets banished from the port.  Angry at this new blot on his record, the captain drags Roberts into punishing the crew, and makes it look like Roberts is “bucking for a promotion.”  With the captain now trying to drive a wedge between Roberts and the crew (and Ensign Pulver scared of the captain), will they still be as fond of Roberts?  And will he be involved in the war, or will it end before he can do anything?

The movie was based on the 1948 play Mister Roberts by Thomas Heggen and Joshua Logan (which was itself based on a novel by Thomas Heggen).  Actor Henry Fonda had left Hollywood after filming Fort Apache in 1948, and was cast in the play.  The play turned out to be a hit, but when Warner Brothers wanted to make a movie, they were hesitant to cast Henry Fonda, citing his age and lack of screen presence for a number of years as reasons.  However, director John Ford wanted him to do it, and that was that.  Still, John Ford and Henry Fonda ended up not getting along, as the director wanted to make a lot of changes, whereas Henry Fonda wanted it more like the play.  John Ford was unable to finish the film when health issues arose, and so Mervyn LeRoy stepped in to finish it (although the director of the Broadway show, Joshua Logan, also did some uncredited directing to help finish it).  While it wasn’t what some had hoped it would be (due to the changes), it still turned out to be a hit with movie audiences as well.

I’ve seen this movie once before, and it’s been a while since that first viewing, but I remembered enjoying it that first time, and it was still just as good (if not better) the second time!  The cast alone is a big enough selling point on this movie.  Even if he might have been a bit too old for the role, Henry Fonda’s performance is good enough to take your mind off that. I enjoyed watching his portrayal of a character who yearns for something better and more “important” than what he is doing, without realizing how much he means to the crew of the ship that he is on.  And James Cagney?  He’s still good, giving us another very unlikable character as the captain.  So much so, that I can’t help but cheer when Roberts goes against him (and jeer when the captain gets the upper hand).  And while it may be William Powell’s last film, his role as the ship’s doctor is still fun, as he is quick to realize when the men are trying to fake illness/injury to get out of work (and, seeing what the captain is like, I can’t blame them for trying).  And he can see Roberts’ importance to the crew.  And Jack Lemmon?  In my book, he earned his Oscar as Ensign Pulver, a man who is scared of the captain (so much so that, after fourteen months of being on the ship, the captain still didn’t know of his existence).  Obviously, his womanizing ways wouldn’t go over well with audiences today (nor should they), but, at the same time, you do want him to follow through on some of his planned pranks against the captain.  Like I say, the cast is so much fun here, and makes this movie well worth seeing!  So I would indeed highly recommend this one!

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection.  This release makes use of a 4K scan of the original camera negative.  This movie was filmed in the WarnerColor process, which made it problematic in terms of restoration (and apparently, the original camera negative was quite faded as well).  So, with that in mind, what we got is indeed a wonder!  For the most part, the transfer looks wonderful, with the color looking like it should, and the detail is much improved!  There are a few shots that don’t look quite as good (whether that’s because that’s how it was filmed, or those shots required the use of inferior elements, or something else, I haven’t heard), but they are so few and far between, that this would still be the best way to see this wonderful movie!

Film Length: 2 hours, 1 minute

My Rating: 10/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

The Lady Eve (1941) – Henry Fonda

Love Me Or Leave Me (1955)James CagneyMan Of A Thousand Faces (1957)

Song Of The Thin Man (1947) – William Powell

Phffft (1954) – Jack Lemmon – My Sister Eileen (1955)

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