- Cagney, James Francis
- (1899-1986)Actor James Cagney was born in New York City. After high school, he briefly attended Columbia University before his father died in 1918, forcing him to find work. Cagney began to appear in vaudeville as a song and dance man and achieved success on Broadway in 1920 in Pitter Patter. He continued a successful stage career with several Broadway hits before he appeared in the film Sinner’s Holiday (1930) for Warner Brothers. He made a great impact as a gangster in Public Enemy in 1931. Often remembered for his gangster or hard-man roles, as in Smart Money (1931) with Edward G. Robinson; Angels with Dirty Faces (1938), for which he was nominated for an Oscar; and White Heat (1949), Cagney had as much success in comedy and musicals, like Footlight Parade (1933), which included tributes to the New Deal and the National Recovery Administration and also starred Jean Blondell. Equally successful were the romantic comedies Here Comes the Navy (1934) and Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942), for which Cagney won an Oscar for his role as songwriter George M. Cohan. In 1940, Cagney was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee to answer allegations about supposed left-wing associations. Cagney was cleared, and he continued to make such well-received films as City of Conquest (1941), Johnny Come Lately (1943), and Blood on the Sun (1945). His film career continued through the postwar years, and his final role before retiring was in One, Two, Three (1961), a comedy that received several Academy nominations. Cagney was given the first Lifetime Achievement Award by the American Film Institute in 1974. He came out of retirement to appear in the well-received Ragtime in 1981 and in a number of television roles. He was awarded the Medal of Freedom in 1984.See also Cinema.
Historical Dictionary of the Roosevelt–Truman Era . Neil A. Wynn . 2015.