James Cagney . (1899 - 1986)

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James Cagney
1899 - 1986
Manhattan County, New York
March 1986
Other Names
James Francis Cagney Jr.
James Cagney of Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California was born in 1899 in Manhattan County, New York, and died at age 86 years old in March 1986.
Updated: January 27, 2020
Biography ID: 88386488

James Cagney's biography

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About James


James Cagney
Born July 17, 1899 in New York City, New York, USA
Died March 30, 1986 in Stanfordville, New York, USA (heart attack following illness from diabetes)
Birth Name James Francis Cagney
Nicknames The Professional Againster
Height 5' 6½" (1.69 m)
Mini Bio (1)
One of Hollywood's preeminent male stars of all time, James Cagney was also an accomplished dancer and easily played light comedy. James Francis Cagney was born on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in New York City, to Carolyn (Nelson) and James Francis Cagney, Sr., who was a bartender and amateur boxer. Cagney was of Norwegian (from his maternal grandfather) and Irish descent. Ending three decades on the screen, he retired to his farm in Stanfordville, New York (some 77 miles/124 km. north of his New York City birthplace), after starring in Billy Wilder's One, Two, Three (1961). He emerged from retirement to star in the 1981 screen adaptation of E.L. Doctorow's novel "Ragtime" (Ragtime (1981)), in which he was reunited with his frequent co-star of the 1930s, Pat O'Brien, and which was his last theatrical film and O'Brien's as well). Cagney's final performance came in the title role of the made-for-TV movie Terrible Joe Moran (1984), in which he played opposite Art Carney.
- IMDb Mini Biography By: Bill Takacs
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James Cagney .
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James Cagney
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James Francis Cagney Jr.
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Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California 90060
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Manhattan County, New York
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In World War II, Mr. Cagney was chairman of the actors' group of the National Victory Committee, appearing in many benefits to sell War Bonds and in long tours to entertain the Armed Forces in this country and overseas. At the time, he was also president of the Screen Actors Guild.
March 1986
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James Cagney Is Dead at 86; Master of Pugnacious Grace By PETER B. FLINT James Cagney, the cocky and pugnacious film star who set the standard for gangster roles in ''The Public Enemy'' and won an Academy Award for his portrayal of George M. Cohan in ''Yankee Doodle Dandy,'' died yesterday at his Dutchess County farm in upstate New York. He was 86 years old.Mr. Cagney had been hospitalized earlier this month at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan. But his wife of 64 years, known as Willie, took him back to the familiar surroundings of his home just over a week ago. Mr. Cagney had an explosive energy and a two-fisted vitality that made him one of the great film personalities of Hollywood's golden age. An actor who could evoke pathos or humor, he invested scores of roles with a hungry intensity, punctuated by breathless slang, curling lips and spontaneous humor. A former vaudevillian and, in his youth, a formidable street fighter, the 5-foot-8 1/2-inch, chunky, red-haired actor intuitively choreographed his motions with a body language that projected the image of an eager, bouncy terrier. His walk was jaunty and his manner defiant. But along with his belligerence he displayed a comic zest in inventive, sometimes outrageous actions. He could play a hoofer as adeptly as a gangster, and whether brutish or impish, he molded a character that personified an urban Irish-American of irrepressible spirit. Mr. Cagney's streetwise mannerisms were a favored subject for caricature by stand-up comedians. But the actor's self-image was essentially that of a song-and-dance man. His favorite role was in ''Yankee Doodle Dandy'' (1942), a patriotic wartime tribute to George M. Cohan, the showman, actor and songwriter. The performance won Mr. Cagney an Academy Award. Four years earlier, the New York Film Critics Circle voted him best actor for his portrayal of an eventually repentant killer in ''Angels With Dirty Faces.'' Reviewing ''Yankee Doodle Dandy,'' Bosley Crowther of The New York Times wrote: ''Mr. Cagney excels, both in characterization and jubilant song and dance'' with a ''buoyant'' performance ''that glows with energy.'' Will Rogers remarked of Mr. Cagney, ''Every time I see him work, it looks to me like a bunch of firecrackers going off all at once.'' The actor's ''irresistible charm'' was cited by the author Kenneth Tynan, who wrote in 1952 that ''Cagney, even with a submachine gun hot in hand and corpses piling at his ankles, can still persuade many people that it was not his fault.'' Lauding the ''idiosyncratic verve that marks almost any Cagney film,'' Vincent Canby of The New York Times wrote in 1973 that Mr. Cagney was ''one of the most intelligent and graceful actors ever to be disguised as a Hollywood star.'' President Reagan paid tribute to Mr. Cagney yesterday, saying: ''Nancy and I have lost a dear friend of many years today and America has lost one of her finest artists.'' Exhibitors voted the actor one of the top 10 box-office money makers in the late 1930's and early 40's. After a series of disputes with Warner Brothers in which he charged he was overworked and underpaid, he became the studio's highest-paid star in 1938, earning $234,000. The next year he was listed as one of the 10 biggest-salaried Americans, with, the Treasury Department said, an income of $368,333.Cagney the screen hoodlum contrasted sharply with Cagney the man. Off screen, he was amiable, self-effacing and reflective, a confirmed family man who enjoyed a close circle of friends and avoided the Hollywood party and nightclub circuit. He did not smoke and rarely drank liquor. He was much admired by colleagues, from directors to stagehands. In 1974, he became the first actor to receive the Life Achievement Award of the American Film Institute for major contributions to films and for timeless artistry. Among his other honors were a citation for career achievement awarded by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington in 1980 and the Medal of Freedom, the Government's highest civilian award, in 1984. Looked With Disdain On Method Acting. The actor was self-taught and a keen observer who varied his roles with mannerisms and eccentricities of men he had known. He did all his own, sometimes brutal, fight scenes, learned judo and occasionally used Yiddish humor he had learned in his youth. He was not impressed by adulation, believing, ''One shouldn't aspire to stardom -one should aspire to doing the job well.'' He dismissed Method acting with disdain. ''You don't psych yourself up for these things, you do them,'' he said. ''I'm acting for the audience, not for myself, and I do it as directly as I can.'' He made these observations in his 1976 autobiography, ''Cagney by Cagney.'' He said he wrote it because of errors in unauthorized biographies. His early characterizations included a dynamic vaudeville director speeding his cast from theater to theater and singing and tap-dancing with Ruby Keeler as Shanghai Lil in ''Footlight Parade'' (1933), the comic Bottom in Shakespeare's ''Midsummer Night's Dream'' (1935), a wharf-rat turned gang leader in ''Frisco Kid'' (1935), a scenarist in a Hollywood spoof, ''Boy Meets Girl'' (1938), a blinded boxer in ''City for Conquest'' (1940) and a naive dentist in ''The Strawberry Blonde'' (1941). Other roles included a newsman turned counterspy in ''Blood on the Sun'' (1945), a master espionage agent in ''13 Rue Madeleine'' (1947), a barroom philosopher in William Saroyan's ''Time of Your Life'' (1948), a psychopathic murderer with a mother fixation in ''White Heat'' (1949) and a political demagogue in ''A Lion Is in the Streets'' (1953). He also played the hoodlum husband of the singer Ruth Etting, played by Doris Day, in ''Love Me or Leave Me'' (1955); a quirky Navy captain in ''Mister Roberts'' (1955); Lon Chaney, the long-suffering silent-film star, in ''Man of a Thousand Faces'' (1957); an Irish rebel obsessed with violence in ''Shake Hands With the Devil'' (1959) and the celebrated Adm. William F. Halsey in ''The Gallant Hours'' (1960). In 1961, Mr. Cagney starred in Billy Wilder's ''One, Two, Three,'' a razor-sharp satire of East-West relations. Then, though at the top of his talent, he announced his retirement from the screen. The actor was born and raised in Manhattan, but he was smitten with country living while on a childhood visit to the then pastoral Flatbush section of Brooklyn. Accordingly, he retired with his wife to their farm near Millbrook in Dutchess County, New York, and raised Morgan horses. In 1936 he had also bought a farm in Martha's Vineyard, Mass., where the Cagneys spent as much time as possible between films. For two decades, the actor received many offers to return to the movies, including many from major directors, but he steadfastly refused them. However, in 1981 Mr. Cagney ended his retirement. He had been increasingly troubled by several ailments, and his doctors advised him to be more active. Out of Retirement In Forman's 'Ragtime' The director Milos Forman persuaded him to play a cameo role in the movie ''Ragtime,'' based on the best-selling novel by E. L. Doctorow. The actor played a combative turn-of-the-century New York City police chief, prompting Vincent Canby of The Times to write that the Cagney ''manner and the humor are undiminished.'' The actor, the critic said, ''does a lot with very little.'' In his early 80's Mr. Cagney suffered from diabetes and the effects of several strokes, and he mostly used a wheelchair. Nonetheless, he made his first made-for-television movie in 1984, playing the protagonist, a crotchety but generous former boxing champion, in ''Terrible Joe Moran.'' Through the 1920's, often out of work and money, he attended every cast call he could, occasionally being dismissed, he recalled, ''because I had exaggerated my abilities.'' But in 1930 he played a cowardly killer in a melodrama, ''Penny Arcade,'' with Joan Blondell gamely offering comedy relief as his girlfriend. Warner Brothers took the two to Hollywood to film the play as ''Sinners' Holiday.'' They both won contracts and co-starred together in half a dozen movies over the next several years. But the young performers, led by Mr. Cagney, varied the formula scripts with clever improvisations and made the lean melodramas effective and entertaining. The actor did not generally speak out on public issues, except one, ecology. In 1958 he made radio appeals for preserving the nation's resources. ''Outside of my family,'' he said, ''the prime concern of my life has been nature and its order, and how we have been savagely altering that order.'' In retirement, Mr. Cagney read widely, wrote verse, painted, played classical guitar, satisfied his longtime zest for sailing and farming and limbered up by dancing a chorus or two to ragtime music. ''Absorption in things other than self,'' he observed, ''is the secret of a happy life.''

Average Age & Life Expectancy

James Cagney . lived 14 years longer than the average Cagney family member when he died at the age of 87.
The average age of a Cagney family member is 73.

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1899 - 1986 World Events

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In 1899, in the year that James Cagney . was born, on February 4th, the Philippine–American War began. The Philippines objected to the Treaty of Paris, signed in 1898, that transferred possession of the Philippines from Spain to the U.S. Filipinos began a fight for independence and fighting between U.S. forces and those of the Philippine Republic broke out. On June 2nd, the Philippines officially declared war on the United States.

In 1926, by the time he was 27 years old, on October 31st, Harry Houdini died in Michigan. Houdini was the most famed magician of his time and perhaps of all time, especially for his acts involving escapes - from handcuffs, straitjackets, chains, ropes slung from skyscrapers, and more. He was president of the Society of American Magicians and stringently upheld professional ethics. He died of complications from a ruptured appendix. Although he had received a blow to the area a couple of days previously, the connection between the blow and his appendicitis is disputed.

In 1932, he was 33 years old when five years to the day after Lindbergh crossed the Atlantic, Amelia Earhart flew solo from Newfoundland to Ireland, the first woman to cross the Atlantic solo and the first to replicate Lindbergh's feat. She flew over 2,000 miles in just under 15 hours.

In 1959, when he was 60 years old, on August 8th, Hawaii became the 50th state of the United States. The US flag was changed to show 50 stars.

In 1986, in the year of James Cagney .'s passing, on September 8th, the Oprah Winfrey Show went into national syndication. A popular talk show, it was number 1 in the ratings since its debut. The last show aired on May 25, 2011.

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