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One of the most brilliant actors who ever stepped in front of a camera, to paraphrase Orson Welles.
"Spielberg claims that on his first viewing he didn't like of Jack Nicholson's hyper-real performance in The Shining. Kubrick asked Spielberg to pick his top five actors of all time, which included Spencer Tracy and Henry Fonda. "Ah, but you didn't pick James Cagney!" Kubrick rebutted, using that example as a more pronounced, vivid acting style that goes beyond humdrum naturalism. The anecdote, in microcosm, illustrates the specific nature of Kubrick's taste." [link].
I've seen most, perhaps all of his films. As an adult,I could never believe that Cagney was playing a real person - he seemed more entertainer than actor. Compare and contrast Cagney's Cody Jarrett in "White Heat" with Pachino's Tony Montana in "Scarface' - both were powerful performances, but I thought Tony Montana was more "real", more authentic. I've heard that he captured the essence of George M. Cohan in "Yankee Doodle Dandy".
What's up with those punches where he sort of just pushes with the front of his wrist?spice
Compare and contrast Cagney's Cody Jarrett in "White Heat" with Pachino's Tony Montana in "Scarface".Acting was stiff in Cagney's day, but there's something to be said for those iconic characters.Immigration Officer #2: Where'd you learn to speak the English, Tony? Tony Montana: Uh, in a school. And my father, he was, uh, from the United States. Just like you, ya know? He was a Yankee. Uh, he used to take me a lot to the movies. I learn. I watch the guys like Humphrey Bogart, James Cagney. They, they teach me to talk. I like those guys. I always know one day I'm comin' here, United States.
Cagney's acting became more convincing to me as he grew older. Compare the scene in "Public Enemy". the killing of "Putty Nose", with WHITE HEAT Cody Jarrett: [while eating a chicken leg, Jarrett speaks to Parker in the trunk of the sedan] How ya doin', Parker? Roy Parker: It's stuffy in here, I need some air. Cody Jarrett: Oh, stuffy, huh? I'll give ya a litte air. [pulls a gun from his pants and shoots four times into the trunk] Compare that to MORE from SCARFACEFrank Lopez: Tony, don't kill me, please! Tony Montana: I ain't gonna kill you. Frank Lopez: Oh Christ, thank you! Thank you! [Tony looks at Manny] Tony Montana: Manolo, shoot that piece of shit! Or "WHITE HEAT" - "Made it, Ma! Top of the world!" with "SCARFACE" "Come say hello to my little friend."(Watching good movies beats the HELL out of listening to odes to OBAMA)
Jackie Martling Laughs at Those Less Fortunate.
Cagney got people and their ways. And also the people and its ways.
Cagney was one of the greatest film actors of all time. I think he got better as he got older. Or maybe the scripts got better.In "Oklahoma Kid", he and Bogart look like two Dead End Kids wearing Cowboys hats. By the 50s Cagney was a convincing Westerner. Or compare "Public Enemy" to "White Heat".As for Pacino vs. Cagney. The likability and "bigger than Life" charisma of Cagney meant he was less believable in dark, realistic roles than Pacino. Al can be great in the right role but those kind of roles are rare.
Great post, Ann. This lead me through a bunch of dance posts on You Tube. If you can (I don't know how to link them in comments) check out the one with Cagney and Bob Hope dancing. Fantastic. That somehow got me to Cab Calloway and the Nichols Brothers. Best tap dancing you will ever see.
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