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Five Of The Best James Cagney Movies

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James Cagney made his name at the start of the sound era playing gangsters under contract to Warner Bros making classics such as Public Enemy and Angels With Dirty Faces. Playing these types of roles was second nature to him. After all he was born on New York’s tough Lower East Side but it was in vaudeville as a song and dance man that he first made his mark. It was in Yankee Doodle Dandy that he was able to show off his singing and dancing skills.

By the late 1950’s Cagney’s career was slowing down and he decided to retire from the movies after making One, Two, Three for Billy Wilder in 1962. There was one last surprise movie though when he was persuaded to return to the big screen for 1981 movie Ragtime. He died in 1986. Here is our pick of five his best movies.

James Cagney The Public Enemy

The infamous Grapefruit in the girlfriends face scene in Public Enemy.

The Public Enemy (1931)
This is Wellman’s brutal pre-Code depiction of young Chicago hoodlums in the ’20s. His last-minute casting of Cagney as the lead mobster launched his career as the movies’ gangster king and typecast him for years. Two Irish boys (Cagney and Woods) grow up hard on the South Side, taking part in small-time heists until they kill a cop. With Prohibition comes the opportunity for more money and they become bootleggers, splurging on booze and women, including floozies Blondell, Clarke, and Harlow. When Cagney tires of Clarke, their argument leads to the infamous grapefruit scene in which a surprised Clarke gets half a grapefruit in the kisser. The hoodlums come to a bad end, of course, but not before a truly shocking amount of gunplay. This and “Little Caesar” (1930) are the twin pillars of the gangster genre. Academy Award Nominations: Best Writing (Original Story).
Director: William A. Wellman
Cast: Joan Blondell, James Cagney, Donald Cook, Leslie Fenton, Beryl Mercer

James Cagney Angels With Dirty Faces

Angels With Dirty Faces (1938)
Cagney, Bogart, and O’Brien in one of the greatest of gangster melodramas. Two boyhood pals, now a parish priest and a hardened criminal, find themselves at odds when the thug returns to his old neighborhood. O’Brien already has his hands full keeping the Dead End Kids out of trouble and now that they idolize Cagney his good works may come to nothing. Unforgettable scene of Cagney on his way to the chair. Academy Award Nominations: Best Actor: James Cagney; Best Director; Best Original Story.
Director: Michael Curtiz
Cast: Humphrey Bogart, James Cagney, Dead End Kids, Pat O’Brien, George Bancroft, Edward Pawley, Ann Sheridan

James Cagney Yankee Doodle Dandy

Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)
This grand musical features Cagney’s personal favorite performance. The life of George M. Cohan, one of the great entertainers of the first half of the century, is a textbook on the development of American pop culture. As played by Cagney, it’s great fun, too. Cohan, who produced 40 Broadway shows and wrote more than 1,000 songs, sprang from his family’s vaudeville act, and eventually makes his way to Tin Pan Alley’s song factory. Once he’s a hit, he performs in and writes his own spectacular productions. An endless list of songs, and endless energy from Cagney. Selected as a National Film Registry Outstanding Film. Academy Award Nominations: 8, including Best Picture; Best Director; Best Original Story.
Director: Michael Curtiz
Cast: James Cagney, Walter Huston, Irene Manning, George Tobias

James Cagney White Heat

Cagney’s last great gangster movie White Heat.

White Heat (1949)
“Made it, Ma. Top of the world!” The last explosion of the Warner Bros. gangster movies, a decade after their ’30s heyday, was one of the best, with Cagney unleashing a merciless portrayal of the warped personality that becomes a ruthless killer. Based on the mother-son gang led by “Ma” Barker, the story opens with Cagney’s gang holding up a train and then hiding out in a freezing cabin with an injured member and his wife (Mayo) and mother (Wycherly). Dissension in the gang and an attraction between Mayo and a rebellious gangster (Cochran) lead to a police tail in Southern California, a stint in prison for Cagney, and a blazing final showdown. The climactic shoot-out in the oil refinery has become a movie icon and it remains one of Cagney’s and director Walsh’s greatest moments. Academy Award Nomination for Best Motion Picture Story.
Director: Raoul Walsh
Cast: James Cagney, John Archer, Fred Clark, Virginia Mayo, Edmond O’Brien, Ford Rainey

James Cagney Mister Roberts

Mister Roberts (1955)
One of the great WWII comedies, this tale of day-to-day life on the cargo ship “Reluctant” satirizes the boredom, pettiness, cruelty and illogic of the military. Fonda re-creates his acclaimed Broadway role of the decent Lieutenant Roberts who, while enduring a crew of half-wits and a nasty captain with an inferiority complex (Cagney), fears the Pacific naval war will be over before he ever sees anything more explosive than a fire extinguisher of home-brewed “jungle juice.” Director Ford includes a number of his stock company, such as Curtis and Bond. Followed by “Ensign Pulver” in 1964. Academy Award Nominations: 2, including Best Picture.
Directors: John Ford, Mervyn LeRoy
Cast: Ward Bond, James Cagney, Henry Fonda, Jack Lemmon, Betsy Palmer, William Powell

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Classic Movie Quotes: Star Wars – May the Force be with you

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Star Wars May The Force Be With You

The Line: “May the Force be with you.”

Who Said It: Alec Guinness as Ben Kenobi–among others–in 1977’s Star Wars.

The Setup: George Lucas’ Star Wars franchise became a cinematic entity that made Hollywood history with with prequels, sequels and billions of dollars in licensed merchandise, ranging from miniature spaceships to vinyl wallpaper.

The Payoff: In 1978, a paper presented at the eighth annual convention of the Popular Culture Association reported 46 percent of Americans were baffled by the concept of “the Force,” a confusion widely shared by the organization’s 2,000 members. Some academics saw it as simple Manichaean dualism, others as Orthodox Christianity or Hollywood Zen. Fraser Snowden of Louisiana’s Northwestern State University argued with some passion that the Force derives from “the impersonal bipolar absolute of Chinese Taoism and the all encompassing ki energy field of the Japanese art of aikido.” He offered to teach how to experience the Force. Most conventioneers decided they had other engagements.

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Classic TV Revisited: Breakfast Time and TV-am

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In another of our Classic TV Revisited moments we take a look at the early days of breakfast TV in the UK with Breakfast Time and TV-am.

Channel: ITV, February 1983 and BBC1, January 17, 1983
Starring: Frank Bough, Selina Scott, David Frost, Angela Rippon, Michael Parkinson, Anna Ford, Robert Kee.

Age?
A long forgotten 30 odd years each.

Appearance?
Very, very dated morning news programmes.

Pedigree?
The first breakfast TV shows in British history.

Why were they so good?
To be frank, they weren’t.

Why?
To say both had teething problems would be to underestimate the financial and personal wars that ensued.

They must have sounded like good ideas at the time?
Yes, they were top-class homages to American networked morning shows.

Soothing, a bit shallow and generally cheesy, then?
Exactly.

Who were the stars?
Selina Scott joined nice “uncle” Frank Bough on BBC1’s Breakfast Time from January 17, 1983.

And on ITV?
The Famous Five – Rippon, Parkinson, Frost, Kee and Ford.

So what happened?
The BBC kicked off with a mix of news, sport and funnies, introduced by Bough and Scott.

Brough Scott?
No, Bough. Scott was a smooth-as-silk Princess Diana clone who wore rather funny nanny-style dresses.

Wasn’t there a funny lady who looked like an enthusiastic cucumber?
I think you’re referring to Diana Moran, aka the Green Goddess. She became the real star even though Nick Ross was on hand to add gravitas.

Tell me more about the Goddess.
Diana Moran was our answer to Jane Fonda.

Except cheaper.
Of course. But we still felt those burns.

She wasn’t famous, then?
Not really. BBC bosses saw her working on HTV in her green gear and snapped her up.

TV-AM Original 5

The original big 5 heavyweight line for TV-Am showed they were taking a serious approach to early morning viewing. Peter Jay, David Frost, Michael Parkinson, Anna Ford and Angela Rippon.

What about TV-am?
Its first broadcast was in February 1983. David Frost promised viewers a bowl full of news and showbizz. Fellow TV-am man Peter Jay said he had a “mission to explain”.

But it all turned sour?
And bitter. The ratings went soggy.

What happened?
Peter Jay quit after only six weeks. By April, Anna Ford and Angela Rippon were sacked. Robert Kee and Michael Parkinson stuck around.

But didn’t TV-am survive?
Yes it did. A then little-known TV exec called Greg Dyke decided to introduce Roland Rat.

TV-AM Roland Rat

Roland, the rat that saved a sinking ship…

Don’t tell me it worked.
He was the rat’s whiskers. Anne Diamond arrived with that very pleasant chap Nick Owen.

Hey presto.
They had Selina and Frank trapped. When Roland and his pal Kevin the gerbil appeared in the school holidays in April 1983 ratings rose by a whopping 52%. Anne and Nick owe an awful lot to those puppets.

Didn’t Frank have a spot of bother in 1987?
Indeed he did, but you’ll have to do your own research on that.

Don’t say:
Want some coke with that rum, Frank? Mr Bough can’t talk to you now, he’s a bit tied up.

Do say:
That’s the first time a rat has joined a sinking ship.

Not to be confused with:
Breakfast with Frost, Today, Farming Today, The Rat Catchers.

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Movie Tens: James Dean

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Movie Tens James Dean

Even sixty years plus after his death actor James Dean continues to fascinate, here are ten facts you may not know about the iconic star.

James Dean was nominated for two posthumous Best Actor Oscars: In 1956, for East of Eden (he lost to Ernest Borgnine in Marty), and in 1957 for Giant (he lost to Yul Brynner in The King and I).

Jimmy was not speeding when he was killed on California’s Highway 466. (He was struck head-on by a Ford station wagon, driven by Donald Turnupseed, 23. ) Although Dean had received a speeding ticket an hour earlier, it has since been proven he was actually driving 60 to 65 mph when the accident occurred.

Movie Tens James Dean 1

Jimmy was set to star in two films at the time of his death: The Left-Handed Gun: Billy the Kid’s Story and Somebody Up There Likes Me, about the life of boxer Rocky Graziano. Both roles were filled by Dean competitor Paul Newman.

Jimmy often referred to himself as “the little bastard,” a name he had painted on the back of his Porsche Spyder days before his death.

In November 1951, struggling actor Dean worked as an offscreen stunt tester on the N.Y.-based TV game show Beat the Clock.

Before his three starring film roles, Jimmy had bit parts in Fixed Bayonets, Sailor Beware and Has Anybody Seen My Gal?

Rumors have always run rampant that Jimmy had homosexual relationships. When asked about it, he answered enigmatically, “Well, I’m certainly not going to go through life with one hand tied behind my back.”

Movie Tens James Dean

Jimmy’s famous red jacket from Rebel was purchased from Mattson’s department store on Hollywood Boulevard. Following his death, the store hiked the price on the jackets to a then exorbitant $22.95. Warner Bros. actually bought two of them for filming. Afterward, Jimmy gave one to his friend, composer Leonard Rosenman, who wore it until it fell apart. Nobody knows what happened to the other.

A week before his death, Jimmy ran into one of his favorite actors, Alec Guinness, at Hollywood’s Villa Capri. When an excited Dean showed Guinness his new Porsche Spyder, the British star begged him to get rid of it, saying Dean wouldn’t live long if he kept the car.

When Jimmy finally met his idol, Marlon Brando, at a party, he acted so strangely Brando told Leonard Rosenman that Jimmy needed to see a psychiatrist. Jimmy was already in therapy at the time.

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