Wednesday, January 2, 2008

TCM Star of the Month For January: James Cagney

Mae Clarke gets a grapefruit facial from Cagney in a scene from Public Enemy

Starting tonight and continuing every Wednesday night for the remainder of January, TCM will air films featuring the star of the month... James Cagney. He ranks near the top of my list of all-time favorite performers. When most people think of Cagney, they see the snarling gangster. However, he showed his range in films like "Torrid Zone", "A Lion Is In the Streets", "The Strawberry Blonde", "Man of A Thousand Faces", and "Yankee Doodle Dandy" (his only Oscar-winning performance) just to name a few.

Below are my top 5 Cagney films. If you ask me to pick my top 5 a week from now, the list would be liable to change... that's the strength of his body of work.

1. White Heat (1949)- As outlaw Arthur "Cody" Jarrett, Cagney played the most multi-dimensional gangster role of his career. Although Cody Jarrett was a cold-blooded killer, his devotion to his mother made him oddly likable. Also, "White Heat" has one of the best movie endings ever!

2. Come Fill the Cup (1951)- He plays a reformed alcoholic newspaperman who helps a fellow boozer kick the habit. It's a shame that this one doesn't show up on TV much these days.

3. Yankee Doodle Dandy (1941)- Seeing this for the first time back in the mid 80s was a revelation. I have never been accused of being a flag waver, nor will I probably ever be. However, even I can't help but get caught up in Cagney's exuberant performance as patriotic song and dance man George M. Cohan.

4. Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye (1950)- If you think he was nasty as Cody Jarrett, Cagney is even more so as ruthless prison escapee/criminal Ralph Cotter.

5. Mister Roberts (1955)- As the cruel ambitious Capt. Morton, his confrontations with nemesis Mister Doug Roberts (Henry Fonda) are priceless.

The month-long salute to James Cagney starts tonight at 8 pm EST with his screen debut, the 1930 film "Sinner's Holiday". This will be followed by a movie of his that I have never seen, the 1931 gangster drama "Public Enemy". For the list of Cagney films that TCM will be showing throughout the month, click here. For information such as airdates and background details on the film, you can click on the movie's title.


pjazzypar said...

You got to love Jimmy Cagney. He didn't care about being politically correct (the grapefruit in the face of Mae Clark). When I was small he was my favorite criminal. I was amazed when I first saw him dance in "Yankee Doodle". Multi-talented, he could do it all. I will definitely be tuning in the catch some of the classics.

Malcolm said...

I'll be recording many of the Cagney films that they show this month. I wish that "Come Fill the Cup" was one of the movies they were showing.

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