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
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List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections
Man Of A Thousand Faces (1957) – James Cagney
Shirley Jones – The Music Man (1962)