Mister Roberts (1955)

Starring an all star cast including Henry Fonda, James Cagney, William Powell, and Jack Lemmon, this comedy-drama chronicles the happenings on an unimportant boat during World War II. Mr. Roberts (Fonda) is one of the officers on The Reluctant and he is good to his men but constantly at odds with the difficult captain (Cagney). The ship doctor (Powell) is a kind and sagely old fellow while Ensign Pulver (Lemmon) is spineless, lazy, and still somewhat likable. due to an agreement with the captain, Roberts loses the respect of his men. However, when they realize what he has done for them, they honor him and help him get transferred so he can see some action. Pulver who is happy for Roberts, had tried to impress him earlier. After some bad news Pulver finally does something and it is fearless. I enjoyed this film because of the cast and its good combination of drama and comedy.

4/5 Stars

Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)

Starring James Cagney and an array of others, the film tells the real life story of writer, singer, and dancer George M. Cohan. The story begins with an older Cohan recounting his life story. He began his career with his family in Vaudeville. Slowly he made a name for himself in Broadway and married his love. He and his partner kept making musicals and then the Cohans reunited for one last show. Eventually everyone in the family settled down before they died. The only one left was George who was living with his wife. In his final performance, Cohan gets the country to rally around the flag again as he has done his whole life. This movie has many commendable moments but there is an apparent conflict between biography and musical. Cagney for his part gives a stellar performance as the energetic and ambitious Cohan. The film also doubled as a nice piece of propaganda during World War II.

4.5/5 Stars

A scene from White Heat that pretty much sums up James Cagney’s performance. Keep your eyes open for former world class athlete Jim Thorpe passing along the news at the table. If you have not heard of or seen this film, I would definitely recommend it.

White Heat (1949) – Film-Noir

Starring James Cagney, Edmund O’Brien, and Virginia Mayo, once again Cagney does the gangster role. However, his Cody Jarret is older and more psychotic than ever as he leads his band of thugs. Although he has a beautiful wife, the main woman in Jarret’s life is his mom who watches over him. After an initial robbery, Jarret beats the rap by confessing to a smaller crime. While he is in jail the police plant one of their men (O’Brien). Eventually the pair and a crew of cronies break out and plan their next move. However, the undercover man cleverly tips off his colleagues and they follow in hot pursuit. Pretty soon the only one left is Jarret and he is isolated near high above near a gas storage tank. In a crazy fit, Jarret yells to his ma that he has made it to the top of the world as he goes up in flames. This movie has wonderful suspense in the end and Cagney is chilling yet again.

5/5 Stars

The Public Enemy (1931)

Starring James Cagney, the story follows Tom Powers as he and his friend Matt grow up in Chicago and eventually get involved with the gangsters of the Prohibition era. Tom’s life of crime gives him money and female company. However, it causes a division with his older brother. He sticks with his life and continues acting as  an enforcer for other gangsters. Every barrel of beer he delivers has blood behind it. As always fate catches up with Matt and eventually Tom. His life reveal the problems with Public Enemies. This is Cagney’s breakthrough performance and it makes sense because he literally steals the show. With every slug, slap, grapefruit, and devilish grin he captures the screen.

4.5/5 Stars