Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Stix Nix Hix Pix

The other day I did something that I've wanted to do for quite some time: I revisited Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942). Which, incidentally, is #9 in my count-up:

It's odd revisiting a film that you haven't seen since childhood - there are scenes you vividly remember and whole sections that you completely forget about.

There are two scenes in particular that I remembered from the film: the one where George brings Mary flowers and chocolates because he's given her song to Fay Templeton and the scene where Josie tells George that she's getting married. For some strange reason, those two scenes stuck out to me and when I watched the film the other day, they were just as I remembered them - except I understood them better. I'm not sure why, but the second, the scene between Josie and George, moves me in some indescribable way. I can't quite put my finger on it. I've rewatched the scene a couple of times after having finished the movie, trying to figure out why I love it so much. I think it's the tenderness in the scene - the way George gently guides Josie to the bench, the way he puts his hand on her cheek, his smile when he looks at her (I also think that I saw the scene a bit differently when I realized that Josie is played by Jeanne Cagney, James Cagney's sister). In any case, there is something in this scene that moves me somehow. I remembered it from when I was a kid and after I finished the movie, I replayed the scene in my mind.

I love watching films as an adult that I watched as a kid because I can appreciate the emotion that goes into a scene more now. And I appreciate the performers a great deal more too. You see, I have a confession to make: I've seen very few James Cagney movies. I prefer light and fluffy movies. Films that have dark and heavy plots really bother me and I rarely revisit them. I may appreciate them, I may admire the artistry, but I rarely enjoy dark films. Thus, I've avoided Cagney films because I imagine them to be filled with violence, angst, and unpleasant tension. The trouble is, I watch something like Yankee Doodle Dandy (which I realize is not exactly fluffy) and I yearn to see more of Cagney's powerful acting.

So, my question to my readers is: what is the solution to my problem? What are your favorite Cagney films? I know there are Cagney fans out there - which movies would you recommend? Or am I going on a wild goose chase, looking for a semi-light Cagney flick?

Any suggestions?


  1. "Here Comes The Navy", from 1934 co-starring Gloria Stuart. I think you will love this movie. Cagney's character joins the Navy just to impress Gloria, then ends up becoming a hero. You can watch the trailer here on You Tube.

    And Yankee Doodle Dandy---I love the Stix Nix Hix Pix scene, especially when the kids start singing "Jeepers Creepers". So funny!

  2. Mister Roberts is a little light, isn't it? Sure I always remember Jack and Henry first, but Cagney is one of the main ones. I don't know why it isn't loved more.

  3. My favorite light Cagney film is The Bride Came COD, with Bette Davis. Have you seen that one? It's really funny!!

  4. That movie always seems so sad to me- perhaps because the scene that sticks in my mind is where he is with his father on his father's deathbed. But some of these other films sound great - Kate's sounds hilarious!


  5. Cagney was wonderful at comedy. I recommend:

    * "Hard To Handle" (1933), delightful pre-Code Warners co-starring Mary Brian and Ruth Donnelly. Cagney plays a promoter here; there's rapid-fire dialogue and plenty of in-jokes (especially concerning grapefruit, citrus associated with Cagney).

    * "One, Two, Three" (1961), funny Cold War comedy directed by Billy Wilder. Pamela Tiffin, one of the more underrated '60s starlets, co-stars.

  6. I just recently discovered how much I like Cagney myself and now I can't get enough of him! I would suggest Footlight Parade if you like seeing him sing and dance. Torrid Zone and The Oklahoma Kid are good for wisecracks and Cagney wearing big hats.

  7. I just remembered that James Cagney has a brief appearance in the movie "The Seven Little Foys", where he reprises his role of George M. Cohan, and he does a song and dance routine with Bob Hope, who plays Eddie Foy, Sr. (Eddie's real-life son portrays the elder Foy in "Yankee Doodle")

  8. Good choices (especially "Footlight Parade" and "One, Two Three"), but I would defintiely add "The Strawberry Blonde", directed by Raoul Walsh

  9. I have to admit I haven't seen to many Cagney movies but I always did enjoy "'G' men". Perhaps because it's a gangster type movie with Cagney playing the hero instead of the villain. If you don't mind a bit of action a la gangster vs. FBI agent shoot outs then I would definitely recommend it as a good Cagney movie.


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