Tag Archives: James Cagney

Classic Hollywood #51

James Cagney & Boris Karloff – 1940

James Cagney Boris Karloff 1940Movie Stars Twinkle At Own Party
Hollywood, Calif. – It was a dead heat when Boris Karloff (right) and James Cagney, screen menaces, exchanged leers on meeting at the first annual gambol of the Screen Actor’s Guild held here March 14. Credit line – Acme 3/16/40

Useful / Useless tidbits

The French Society of Mental Sciences in 1937 asked Boris Karloff to fill out an extensive 58 page questionnaire about his own mental health. The psychiatrists who put together the questionnaire were trying to determine how all the horror versus sympathetic roles Karloff had played on screen had affected his real life. Continue reading

Classic Hollywood #33

James Stewart & Orson Welles Visit James Cagney On The Set Of His New Movie – 1957

James Stewart James Cagney Orson Welles August 20 1957

STEWART AND WELLES HELP CAGNEY “GET THE SHOW ON THE ROAD”

Jimmy Stewart, left, and Orson Welles, right, paid a surprise visit to the famed Phantom Stage at Universal-International Studio to extend best wishes to Jimmy Cagney at the start of production on “Man Of A Thousand Faces,” the life story of Lon Chaney, Hollywood’s famed man of mystery. Stewart was filming “Night Passage” on an adjoining stage at the studio and Welles was on the lot starring with Jeff Chandler and Colleen Miller in “Pay The Devil.” “Man Of A Thousand Faces,” also starring Dorothy Malone, “Oscar” winner for her portrayal in “Written On The Wind,” and Jane Greer. Joseph Pevney directed for Producer Robert Arthur. (credit: Universal-International Photos August 20, 1957)

Lon Chaney and his makeup kitMan Of A Thousand Faces was not one of Jimmy Cagney’s better films. As good as Cagney was, he was miscast as Lon Chaney who he did not even remotely resemble. Here is a rare photograph of Lon Chaney with his famed make-up kit.

Lon Chaney was considered one of the greatest actors of the 1920’s making hit film after hit film such as The Phantom of the Opera and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Chaney died of bronchial cancer in 1930 at the age of 47. Chaney is mostly forgotten by modern film audiences because he made only one sound film, The Unholy Three.

Had Chaney lived, that might not have been the case. He was director Tod Browning’s first choice for the lead in Dracula (1931). Instead, the starring role led to eternal fame for Bela Lugosi who had earlier played Count Dracula in the 1927-28 Broadway production.

The Greatest TV Game Show Ever

What’s My Line 1950 – 1967

Whats-My-Line-Cast-Dorothy-Kilgallen-death-November-8-1965 cr

A few years ago my Tivo was tuned into the Game Show Network weeknights at 3:00 a.m., taping every episode of the greatest TV game show ever made, What’s My Line.

Let me state it was not just a great game show, but one of the best television shows ever.

Unfortunately the series is not being broadcast now, but many segments of the show are available on Youtube.

To describe the brilliance of the show better than I ever could, we will refer to The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network TV Shows 1948 – Present by Tim Brooks and Earle Marsh (Ballantine 1988), an indispensable television reference book.

What’s My Line was the longest-running game show in the history of prime-time network television. It ran for 18 seasons, on alternate weeks from February to September 1950, then every Sunday at 10:30 p.m. for the next 17 years. The format was exceedingly simple. Contestants were asked simple yes-or-no questions by the panel members, who tried to determine what interesting or unusual occupation the contestant had. Each time the contestant could answer no to a question, he got $5, and a total of 10 no’s ended the game. The panel was forced to don blindfolds for the “mystery guest,” a celebrity who tried to avoid identification by disguising his voice.

That little game, by itself, hardly warranted an 18-year run, when other panel shows of the early 1950’s came and went every month. But What’s My Line was something special, both for the witty and engaging panel, and for a certain élan which few other shows ever captured. There were no flashy celebrities-of-the-moment or empty-headed pretty faces on this panel; they were obviously very intelligent people all, out to have some genteel fun with an amusing parlor game. Like (moderator) John Daly with his bow tie and perfect manners, it reeked of urbanity [“that’s three down and seven to go, Mr. Cerf?”]

The panelists who created this special atmosphere were an elite group. Continue reading

Classic Hollywood #18

James Cagney Grabs Lunch At Grand Central

In the days before air travel became popular, almost everyone took the train to get around the United States.  On February 6, 1945 before boarding the Twentieth Century Limited for Chicago, James Cagney stopped in at a restaurant at Grand Central Terminal for a bite to eat. It appears he was enjoying a cup of coffee and a danish. Then he glanced up to see a photographer snapping this picture.

The difference between the “old days” and today is that movie stars of the golden years were not hounded by what has come to be known as the paparazzi – ruthless parasites, who violate every modicum of human decency. Yes, the old newspapers and magazines would send their  photographers out to capture celebrities and news events. But there was a mutual quid pro quo back then, even if the celebrities dd not enjoy the attention, they knew the press generally helped their careers and would accommodate them. The press also kept somewhat of a respectful distance. Those days are long gone.

Classic Hollywood #9

The Cagney’s Arrive At The Academy Awards Ceremony March 12, 1938

From left to right are: William Cagney, producer and manager, Boots Mallory (William’s wife),  Frances (“Bill”) Cagney (James’ wife) and James Cagney, actor extraodinaire.

In 1938 the Cagney family had no nominations for any awards, and that is an unlikely reason for the dour looks on everyone’s faces. Maybe they had a fight on the way over to the ceremony.  We’ll never know, but they certainly don’t look happy.

The following year James Cagney would be nominated for a best actor award for Angels With Dirty Faces. He lost to Spencer Tracy in Boys Town.

James Cagney would win a best actor Oscar in 1942 for his portrayal of George M. Cohan in Yankee Doodle Dandy.

Below, a great speech by James Cagney accepting the lifetime achievement award from the American Film Institute in 1974.

The “B” Girl

The “B” Girl.  A Saying You Won’t Hear Today

I had vaguely heard the term B-girl mentioned in the past. Whether it was from some early film noir cinema or pulp fiction I cannot recall.  The 1940 Pulitzer Prize winning William Saroyan play The Time of Your Life was made into a film in 1948 and was recently shown on Turner Classic Movies and I watched it for the odd turn of tough guy Jimmy Cagney playing a philosophical bar patron. It is an uneven movie, but what was interesting was Jeanne Cagney’s  (yes – Jimmy’s sister) portrayal of Kitty Duval and the referral of her character as possibly being a B-girl.

So what exactly is a B-Girl?

1948 Production Still

First thought – Hays code vernacular for a bar prostitute.

Looking the term up in Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary it is slang for a ‘bar girl’ –  a woman who entertains bar patrons and encourages them to spend freely. Online other meanings emerged – it could also mean a prostitute that hangs around in bars. Either way it was not a compliment.