His pre-movies early years on stage!
James Cagney is without a doubt one of the screen's greatest actors of all time. Known most notably for portraying gangsters and tough guys, films like "Angels with Dirty Faces," "White Heat" and "The Public Enemy" are classics. Prior to his film career, Cagney was a song-and-dance man who did a lot of stage work. Here we take a look at Cagney's early career! - THE PHANTOM
"Every Sailor" was Cagney's first showbiz break, in 1919. He got the gig because what little dancing he could do, he did flawlessly, and he would soon expand his dance repertoire. In this famous photo, Cagney is third from the left.
Here are a few of Cagney's earliest mentions in a news blurb, from 1921 and 1922 respectively. The two play ads are from 1922, by then Cagney's stage career has really begun to take off.
Cagney did "The Gown Shop" in 1924, and a nice mention from a "Snapshots" play review from 1923, along with a few ads for the play. Also, some news on Cagney from the Brooklyn Daily Times in 1926.
The New York Daily News using what would be Cagney's main publicity headshot photo for a news bit in 1925. Also, a bunch of news pieces from 1926. By now Cagney, even if not a "big star" on the stage, was long into what was a semi-successful stage career. There were some ups and downs but Cagney held on for better things to come.
You can't go wrong when you're the one who ends up getting your picture in the NY Daily News in their 1927 review for "Women Go On Forever." Also some other news from the same year. Cagney was flying pretty high with steady work, and even opened a dance school.
As the end of the twenties was approaching, Cagney was still finding steady stage work. In "Maggie the Magnificent" he worked with Joan Blondell, who would later be one of Cagney's top future co-stars in films, appearing with him in many, including the classic "The Public Enemy." A few more news bits, and maybe the earliest mention of Cagney being an artist from 1929, complete with self-portrait.
In 1930, Cagney and Joan Blondell worked together again in the play "Penny Arcade," which didn't even last a month, but none other than Al Jolson bought the movie rights to the play. Warner Brothers purchased the rights from Jolson, who insisted he'd sell only if Warners had Cagney and Blondell reprise their roles in the film, which became the Coney Island-based "Sinner's Holiday." It was Blondell's second film, and Cagney's first.
"Sinner's Holiday" was released in late 1930 and Cagney was on his way. Great line from the LA Times review..."Whoever James Cagney is, the talkies are richer for having discovered him." You don't say!
Well good friends, hope you enjoyed our look at Cagney's early stage career! We'll be doing more classic actors and their early careers soon, like Humphrey Bogart, George Raft, the gorgeous dames and other greats. We'll also take a look at Cagney in the '30s. Of course, we'll always be showing rare newspaper stories, movie ads and news, because the best reading is reading as it happened! - THE PHANTOM
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James Cagney in his very first movie shot and scene in "Sinner's Holiday" (1930).