Tag Archives: Hollywood

Edmond O’Brien

Edmond O’Brien (September 10, 1915 – May 9, 1985) was an American actor who appeared in more than 100 films from the 1940s to the 1970s, often playing character parts. He received the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor and the corresponding Golden Globe for his supporting role in The Barefoot Contessa (1954), as well as a second Golden Globe and another Academy Award nomination for Seven Days in May (1964). His other notable films include The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939), The Killers (1946), White Heat (1949), D.O.A. (1950), Julius Caesar (1953), 1984 (1956), The Girl Can’t Help It (1956), The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1961), and The Wild Bunch (1969).

 

Early years

O’Brien was born Eamon Joseph O’Brien in Brooklyn, New York, of English and Irish stock, the seventh and last child of Agnes and James O’Brien. When he was four years old, O’Brien’s father died.

He put on magic shows for children in his neighborhood with coaching from a neighbor, Harry Houdini. He performed under the title, “Neirbo the Great” (“neirbo” being “O’Brien” spelled backwards). An aunt who taught high school English and speech took him to the theatre from an early age and he developed an interest in acting. O’Brien began acting in plays at school.

After attending Fordham University for six months, he went to Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre on a scholarship. He studied for two years under such teachers as Sanford Meisner; his classmates included Betty Garrett.

“It was simply the best training in the world for a young actor, singer or dancer,” said O’Brien. “What these teachers encouraged above all was getting your tools ready – your body, your voice, your speech.”

In addition to studying at the Playhouse, O’Brien took classes with the Columbia Laboratory Players group, which emphasized training in Shakespeare.

 

Theatre

O’Brien began working in summer stock in Yonkers. He made his first Broadway appearance at age 21 in Daughters of Atreus.

He played a grave digger in Hamlet, went on tour with Parnell, then appeared in Maxwell Anderson’s The Star Wagon, starring Lillian Gish and Burgess Meredith.

 

Film Actor

O’Brien’s theatre work attracted the attention of Pandro Berman at RKO, who offered him a role as the romantic lead in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939).

He returned to Broadway to play Mercutio opposite Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh in Romeo and Juliet.

RKO offered O’Brien a long term contract. His roles included A Girl, a Guy, and a Gob (1941) and Parachute Battalion (1941). The latter starred Nancy Kelly who O’Brien would later marry, although the union lasted less than a year.

O’Brien made Obliging Young Lady with Eve Arden, and Powder Town. He was loaned to Universal to appear opposite Deanna Durbin in The Amazing Mrs. Holliday (1943), after which he joined the armed services.

 

World War II

During World War II, O’Brien served in the U.S. Army Air Force and appeared in the Air Forces’ Broadway play Winged Victory by Moss Hart. He appeared alongside Red Buttons, Karl Malden, Kevin McCarthy, Gary Merrill, Barry Nelson and Martin Ritt. When the play was filmed in 1944, O’Brien reprised his stage performance, co-starring with Judy Holliday. He toured in the production for two years, appearing alongside a young Mario Lanza.

 

Warner Bros

In 1948, O’Brien signed a long term contract with Warner Bros, who cast him in the screen version of Lillian Hellman‘s Another Part of the Forest. This starred Fredric March who also appeared with O’Brien in An Act of Murder (1948).

He was then cast as the undercover cop in White Heat (1949) opposite James Cagney.

“He [Cagney] said he had only one rule,” O’Brien noted. “He would tap his heart and he would say, “Play it from here, kid.” He always did and I believe it’s the best rule for any performer. He could play a scene 90 ways and never repeat himself. He did this to keep himself fresh. I try to do this whenever possible.”

In 1949, 3,147 members of the Young Women’s League of America, a national charitable organization of spinsters, voted that O’Brien had more “male magnetism” than any other man in America today. “All women adore ruggedness,” said organization president Shirley Connolly. “Edmund O’Brien’s magnetic appearance and personality most fully stir women’s imaginative impulses. We’re all agreed that he has more male magnetism than any of the 60,000,000 men in the United States today. (Runners up were Ezio Pinza, William O’Dwyer and Doak Walker.)

Following an appearance in Backfire (1950) his contract with Warner Bros terminated.

 

Freelance

O’Brien then made one of his most famous movies, D.O.A. (1950 film), where he plays a man investigating his own murder. He followed this with 711 Ocean Drive (1950). However, his career then hit a slump. According to TCM, “In the early ’50s, O’Brien started struggling with his weight, which could change significantly between films. He had no problems if that relegated him to character roles, but for a few years, it was hard to come by anything really first rate.”

“The funny thing about Hollywood is that they are interested in having you do one thing and do it well and do it ever after,” said O’Brien. “That’s the sad thing about being a leading man – while the rewards may be great in fame and finances, it becomes monotonous for an actor. I think that’s why some of the people who are continually playing themselves are not happy.”

He made some notable movies including two for Ida Lupino, The Hitch-Hiker and The Bigamist. He also played Casca in Joseph L. Mankiewicz‘s film of Julius Caesar (1953).

O’Brien worked heavily in television on such shows as Pulitzer Prize Playhouse, Lux Video Theatre and Schlitz Playhouse of Stars. He announced plans to direct his own films.

In 1951 he was in a well publicized brawl with Serge Rubinstein at a cafe.

From 1950 to 1952, O’Brien starred in the radio drama Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar, playing the title role. His other work in radio included Philip Morris Playhouse on Broadway.

O’Brien was cast as press agent Oscar Muldoon in The Barefoot Contessa. He won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for that role.

 

O’Brien followed this with a number of important roles, including Pete Kelly’s Blues, 1984, A Cry in the Night (1956), and The Girl Can’t Help It.

TV

O’Brien appeared extensively in television, including the 1957 live 90-minute broadcast on Playhouse 90 of The Comedian, a drama written by Rod Serling and directed by John Frankenheimer in which Mickey Rooney portrayed a television comedian while O’Brien played a writer driven to the brink of insanity.

In 1958 he directed and starred in a TV drama written by his brother, “The Town That Slept With the Lights On,” about two Lancaster murders that so frightened the community that residents began sleeping with their lights on.

From 1959–60 O’Brien portrayed the title role in the syndicated crime drama Johnny Midnight, the story of a New York City actor-turned-private detective. The producers refused to cast him unless he shed at least 50 pounds, so he went on a crash vegetarian diet and quit drinking.

“I seldom get very far away from crime,” he recalled. I’ve found it pays . . . I tried non-crime films like Another Part of the Forest . . . good picture, good cast, but no good at the box office . . . But you just put a gun in your hands and run through the streets during cops and robbers and you’re all set.”

O’Brien also had his own production company, O’Brien-Frazen.

O’Brien had roles on many television series, including an appearance on Target: The Corruptors!, The Eleventh Hour, Breaking Point and Mission: Impossible.

O’Brien walked off the set of The Last Voyage in protest at safety issues during the shoot. He later came back and found out he had been written out of the film. He was cast as a reporter in Lawrence of Arabia (1962) but had a heart attack during filming and was replaced by Arthur Kennedy.

O’Brien recovered to direct his first feature, Man Trap (1961).

He continued to receive good roles: The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) and The Birdman of Alcatraz (1962).

In the mid-’60s O’Brien co-starred with Roger Mobley and Harvey Korman in the “Gallegher” episodes of NBC‘s Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color. From 1963–65 he co-starred in the NBC legal drama Sam Benedict.

O’Brien had a choice role in Seven Days in May (1964) which saw him receive a second Oscar nomination.

“I’ve never made any kind of personality success,” he admitted in a 1963 interview. “People never say ‘that’s an Eddie O’Brien part.’ They say, ‘That’s a part Eddie O’Brien can play.’

“I’d like to be able to say something important,” he added. “To say something to people about their relationship with each other. If it touches just one guy, helps illustrate some points of view about living, then you’ve accomplished something.”

He had a role in another TV series, The Long Hot Summer but left after 12 episodes due to creative differences. He was replaced by Dan O’Herlihy.

 

Later career

O’Brien worked steadily throughout the late 1960s and early 1970s. However, his memory problems were beginning to take their toll. A heart attack meant he had to drop out of The Glass Bottom Boat.

“It would be awfully hard to do a series again,” he said in a 1971 interview. “I wouldn’t go for an hour show again. They don’t have much of a chance against the movies.”

In 1971 he was hospitalized with a “slight pulmonary condition.”

His last film would be 99 and 44/100% Dead.

 

Recording

In 1957 O’Brien recorded a spoken-word album of The Red Badge of Courage (Caedmon TC 1040). Billboard said, “Edmond O’Brien brings intensity in the narrative portions and successfully impersonates the varied characters in dialog.”

 

Personal life

O’Brien was divorced from actresses Nancy Kelly 1941–1942 and Olga San Juan. San Juan was the mother of his three children, including television producer Bridget O’Brien and actors Maria O’Brien and Brendan O’Brien.

 

Final Years and Death

O’Brien fell ill with Alzheimer’s Disease. In a 1983 interview, his daughter Maria remembers seeing her father in a straitjacket at a Veterans’ Hospital.

“He was screaming. He was violent. I remember noticing how thin he’d gotten. We didn’t know, because for years he’d been sleeping with all his clothes on. We saw him a little later and he was walking around like all the other lost souls there.”

He died May 9, 1985, at St. Erne’s Sanitorium in Inglewood, California, of Alzheimer’s disease. He was survived by his wife and three children.

Walk of Fame

For his contribution to the motion picture industry, Edmond O’Brien has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1725 Vine Street, and a second star at 6523 Hollywood Blvd. for his contribution to the television industry. Both were dedicated on February 8, 1960.

 

 

Gary Busey

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William Gary Busey (born June 29, 1944) is an American actor. A prolific character actor, Busey has appeared in over 150 films, including Lethal Weapon (1987), Predator 2 (1990), Point Break (1991), Under Siege (1992), The Firm (1993), Carried Away (1996), Black Sheep (1996), Lost Highway (1997), Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998), The Gingerdead Man (2005) and Piranha 3DD (2012). Busey has also made guest appearances on television shows such as Gunsmoke, Walker, Texas Ranger, Law & Order, Scrubs, and Entourage.

For portraying Buddy Holly in The Buddy Holly Story (1978), Busey was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor and won the National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Actor. In 2014, he lampooned his public image through a series of advertisements for Amazon Fire TV.

 

Early life

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Busey was born in Goose Creek, Texas, the son of Sadie Virginia (née Arnett), a homemaker, and Delmer Lloyd Busey, a construction design manager. He graduated from Nathan Hale High School in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1962. While attending Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg, Kansas, on a football scholarship, he became interested in acting. He then transferred to Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, Oklahoma, where he quit school just one class short of graduation.

 

Career

Early career

Busey began his show business career as a drummer in The Rubber Band. He appears on several Leon Russell recordings, credited as playing drums under the names “Teddy Jack Eddy” and “Sprunk,” a character he created when he was a cast member of a local television comedy show in Tulsa, Oklahoma, called The Uncanny Film Festival and Camp Meeting on station KTUL (which starred fellow Tulsan Gailard Sartain as “Dr. Mazeppa Pompazoidi”). For his skits on Uncanny Film Festival, Busey drew on his American Hero, belligerent, know-it-all character. When he told Gailard Sartain his character needed a name, Sartain replied, “Take three: Teddy, Jack ,and Eddy.”

He played in a band called Carp, which released one album on Epic Records in 1969. Busey continued to play several small roles in both film and television during the 1970s. In 1975, as the character “Harvey Daley,” he was the last person killed on the series Gunsmoke (in the third-to-last episode, No. 633 – “The Busters”).

 

Rise to prominence

In 1974, Busey made his major film debut with a supporting role in Michael Cimino‘s buddy action caper Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, starring Clint Eastwood and Jeff Bridges.

In 1976, he was hired by Barbra Streisand and her producer-boyfriend Jon Peters to play Bobby Ritchie, road manager to Kris Kristofferson‘s character in the remake film A Star is Born. On the DVD commentary of the film, Streisand says Busey was great and that she had seen him on a TV series and thought he had the right qualities to play the role.

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In 1978, he starred as rock legend Buddy Holly in The Buddy Holly Story with Sartain as The Big Bopper. For his performance, Busey received the greatest critical acclaim of his career and the movie earned Busey an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor and the National Society of Film CriticsBest Actor award.

screenshot-2017-03-03-12-03-51In the same year he also starred in the small yet acclaimed drama Straight Time and the surfing movie Big Wednesday, which is now a minor cult classic.

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screenshot-2017-03-03-12-06-10In the 1980s, Busey’s roles included the critically acclaimed western Barbarosa, the comedies D.C. Cab and Insignificance, and the Stephen King adaptation Silver Bullet. He played one of the primary antagonists opposite Mel Gibson and Danny Glover in the action comedy Lethal Weapon.

In the 1990s, he had prominent supporting roles in successful action films such as Predator 2, Point Break and Under Siege. He also appeared in Rookie of the Year, The Firm, Black Sheep, Lost Highway, and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

Busey sang the song “Stay All Night” on Saturday Night Live in March 1979 (season 4, episode 14), and on the Late Show with David Letterman in the 1990s.

 

2000s–present

screenshot-2017-03-03-12-04-44In 2003, Busey starred in a Comedy Central reality show, I’m with Busey. In 2005, he also voiced himself in an episode of The Simpsons and appeared in the popular miniseries Into the West. Busey controversially appeared in the 2006 Turkish nationalist film Valley of the Wolves: Iraq, (Kurtlar Vadisi: Irak, in Turkish), which was accused of fascism, anti-Americanism, and anti-Semitism.

In 2007, he appeared as himself in a prominent recurring role on HBO‘s Entourage, in which he parodied his eccentric image, ultimately appearing on three episodes of the show.

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In 2008, he joined the second season of the reality show Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew. Busey returned to reality television in Celebrity Apprentice 4, which premiered in March 2011, and appeared again in Celebrity Apprentice 6. There, he briefly reprised his role as Buddy Holly by performing “Not Fade Away”.

In a series of 2010 YouTube advertisements for Vitamin Water, Busey appeared as Norman Tugwater, a lawyer who defends professional athletes’ entitlements to a cut from Fantasy Football team owners.

In 2014, he became a celebrity spokesperson for Amazon Fire TV. That August, he appeared in, and became the first American winner of the fourteenth series of the UK version of Celebrity Big Brother.

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On September 1, 2015, it was announced that he would be competing on the 21st season of Dancing with the Stars. He was paired with professional dancer Anna Trebunskaya. Busey and Trebunskaya made it to Week 4 of competition but were then eliminated and finished in 10th place.

 

Personal life

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In 1971, Busey’s wife Judy Helkenberg gave birth to their son, William Jacob “Jake” Busey. Busey and Helkenberg divorced when Jake was 19 years old. Busey has a daughter named Alectra from a previous relationship. In February 2010, Busey’s fiancee Steffanie Sampson gave birth to their son, Luke Sampson Busey.

On December 4, 1988, Busey was severely injured in a motorcycle accident in which he was not wearing a helmet. His skull was fractured, and doctors feared he suffered permanent brain damage. During the filming of the second season of Celebrity Rehab in 2008, Busey was referred to psychiatrist Dr. Charles Sophy. Sophy suspected that Busey’s brain injury has had a greater effect on him than realized. He described it as essentially weakening his mental “filters” and causing him to speak and act impulsively. Sophy recommended Busey take valproic acid (Depakote), with which Busey agreed.

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In 1996, Busey publicly announced that he was a Christian, saying: “I am proud to tell Hollywood I am a Christian. For the first time I am now free to be myself.” This return to Christianity occurred as a result of his motorcycle accident, as well as a 1995 cocaine overdose.

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In 2011, Busey supported Donald Trump‘s 2012 presidential bid saying, “For the American people, vote for Donald Trump come election night.” In 2015, he again endorsed Trump for president.

Buddy Hackett

Buddy Hackett (born Leonard Hacker; August 31, 1924 – June 30, 2003) was an American comedian and actor. His best remembered roles include Marcellus Washburn in The Music Man (1962), Benjy Benjamin in It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963), Tennessee Steinmetz in The Love Bug (1968), and Scuttle in The Little Mermaid (1989).

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Early life

Hackett was born in Brooklyn, New York to Anna (née Geller) and Philip Hacker, an upholsterer and part-time inventor. He grew up on 54th and 14th Ave in Borough Park, Brooklyn, across from Public School 103 (now a yeshiva). He graduated from New Utrecht High School in 1942.

While still a student, he began performing in nightclubs in the Catskills Borscht Belt resorts as “Butch Hacker.” He appeared first at the Golden Hotel in Hurleyville, New York, and he claimed he did not get a single laugh. He enlisted in the United States Army during World War II, and served for three years in an anti-aircraft battery.

 

Career

 Early career

Hackett’s first job after the war was at the Pink Elephant, a Brooklyn club. It was here he changed his name from Leonard Hacker to Buddy Hackett. He made appearances in Los Angeles and Las Vegas, and continued to perform in the Catskills. He acted on Broadway, in Lunatics and Lovers, where Max Liebman saw him and put him in two television specials.

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Hackett’s movie career began in 1950 with a 10-minute “World of Sports” reel for Columbia Pictures called King of the Pins. The film demonstrated championship bowling techniques, with expert Joe Wilman demonstrating the right way and Hackett (in pantomime) exemplifying the wrong way. Hackett would not return to movies until 1953, after one of his nightclub routines attracted attention. With a rubber band around his head to slant his eyes, Hackett’s “The Chinese Waiter” lampooned the heavy dialect, frustration, and communication problems encountered by a busy waiter in a Chinese restaurant: “No, we no have sprit-pea soup … We gotta wonton, we got eh-roll … No orda for her, juss orda for you!” The routine was such a hit, Hackett made a recording of it, and was hired to reprise it in the Universal-International musical Walking My Baby Back Home (1953), in which he was third-billed under Donald O’Connor and Janet Leigh.

Hackett was an emergency replacement for the similarly built Lou Costello in 1954. Abbott and Costello were set to make a feature-length comedy Fireman, Save My Child, featuring Spike Jones and His City Slickers. Several scenes had been shot with stunt doubles when Lou Costello was forced to withdraw due to illness. Universal-International salvaged the project by hiring Hugh O’Brian and Hackett to take over the Abbott and Costello roles, using already shot footage of the comedy duo in some long shots; Jones and his band became the main attraction.

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Hackett became known to a wider audience when he appeared on television in the 1950s and ’60s as a frequent guest on variety talk shows hosted by Jack Paar and Arthur Godfrey, telling brash, often off-color jokes, and mugging at the camera. Hackett was a frequent guest on both the Jack Paar and the Johnny Carson versions of The Tonight Show. According to the board game Trivial Pursuit, Hackett has the distinction of making the most guest appearances in the history of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.

screenshot-2017-01-15-15-50-04During this time, he also appeared as a panelist and mystery guest on CBS-TV’s What’s My Line? and filled in as emcee for the game show Treasure Hunt. He made fifteen guest appearances on NBC-TV’s The Perry Como Show between 1955 and 1961.

Stanley

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Hackett starred as the title character on NBC-TV’s Stanley, a 1956-57 situation comedy which ran for 19 weeks on Monday evenings at 8:30 pm EST. The half hour series also featured a young Carol Burnett and the voice of Paul Lynde. The Max Liebman produced program aired live before a studio audience and was one of the last sitcoms from New York to do so. Stanley revolved around the adventures of the titular character (Hackett) as the operator of a newsstand in a posh New York City hotel. On September 30, 1960, he appeared as himself in an episode of NBC’s short-lived crime drama Dan Raven, starring Skip Homeier, set on the Sunset Strip of West Hollywood.

screenshot-2017-01-15-15-53-29After starring on Broadway in I Had a Ball, Hackett appeared opposite Robert Preston in the film adaptation of The Music Man (1962). In It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963), Hackett was paired with Mickey Rooney, with whom he had also recently made Everything’s Ducky (1961), in which they played two sailors who smuggle a talking duck aboard a Navy ship. Children became familiar with him as lovable hippie auto mechanic Tennessee Steinmetz in Disney‘s The Love Bug (1969).

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He appeared many times on the game show Hollywood Squares in the late 1960s. In one episode, Hackett was asked which was the country with the highest ratio of doctors to populace; he answered Israel, or in his words, “The country with the most Jews.” Despite the audience roaring with laughter (and Hackett’s own belief that the actual answer was Sweden), the answer turned out to be correct. Hackett’s regular guest shots on Jack Paar’s Tonight Show in the early 1960s were rewarded with a coveted appearance on his final program on March 29, 1962.

Later career

Hackett continued to appear on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show until Carson left the series in 1992.

screenshot-2017-01-15-16-07-25In 1978, Hackett surprised many with his dramatic performance as Lou Costello in the television movie Bud and Lou opposite Harvey Korman as Bud Abbott. The film told the story of Abbott and Costello, and Hackett’s portrayal was widely praised. He and Korman did a memorable rendition of the team’s famous “Who’s on First?” routine. In 1979, Hackett was the voice of the groundhog “Pardon Me Pete,”,and the narrator of the Rankin/Bass Christmas special Jack Frost (1979). He starred in the 1980 film Hey Babe!. That same year, he hosted a syndicated revival of the 1950-61 Groucho Marx quiz show You Bet Your Life which lasted for one year. Throughout the 1970s Hackett appeared regularly in TV ads for Tuscan Dairy popsicles and yogurt. But his most famous television campaign was for Lay’s potato chips (“Nobody can eat just one!”) which ran from 1968–71; Hackett had succeeded Bert Lahr as Lay’s spokesman. He guest-starred in the Space Rangers episode, “To Be Or Not To Be,” as has-been comedian Lenny Hacker, a parody of his stage persona. The character’s name was Hackett’s own real name.

 

Other

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For his contribution to the motion picture industry, Hackett was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 2000, a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs, California, Walk of Stars was dedicated to him.

In April 1998, Hackett guest starred in an episode of LateLine called “Buddy Hackett.” The episode focused on a news broadcast paying tribute to Hackett following his death, only to discover that the report of his death was a mistake. Robert Reich and Dick Gephardt also appeared in the episode, paying tribute to Hackett.

In his final years, Hackett had a recurring spot called “Tuesdays with Buddy” on The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn in which he shared stories of his career and delivered some of his comedic routines.

 

Personal life

screenshot-2017-01-15-16-05-36On June 12, 1955, Hackett married Sherry Cohen. They lived in Leonia, New Jersey in the late 1950s. In August 1958, they bought the house previously owned by deceased crime boss Albert Anastasia in Fort Lee, New Jersey. After renovations, they moved in and lived there through most of the 1960s. In 2003, Hackett and his wife established the Singita Animal Sanctuary in California’s San Fernando Valley.

He was an avid firearms collector and owned a large collection that he sold off in his later years due to declining health.

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Death

Hackett died on June 30, 2003 at his beach house in Malibu, California at the age of 78. His son, comedian Sandy Hackett, said his father had been suffering from diabetes for several years and suffered a stroke nearly a week before his death which may have contributed to his demise. Two days later, on July 2, 2003, he was cremated and his ashes were given to family and friends.

 

 

 

The Naked Spur

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I thought it might be fun to switch the focus of these monthly blogposts, from actors to films — the sorts of movies the main character in my Mike Montego series of novels might have watched as a kid or young man. They quite literally “don’t make ’em like this” anymore!

We’ll start with The Naked Spur, a 1953 Technicolor  Western film directed by Anthony Mann, starring James Stewart, Janet Leigh, and Robert Ryan. Written by Sam Rolfe and Harold Jack Bloom, the film is about a bounty hunter who tries to bring a murderer to justice, and is forced to accept the help of two strangers who are less than trustworthy. The original music score was composed by Bronislau Kaper and the cinematography was by William C. Mellor. The Naked Spur was filmed on location in Durango and the San Juan Mountains in Colorado, and Lone Pine, California. The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay—a rare honor for a Western. This was the third Western film collaboration between Anthony Mann and James Stewart.

 

Plot

In March 1868, Howard Kemp (James Stewart) is tracking Ben Vandergroat (Robert Ryan), who is wanted for the murder of the marshal in Abilene, Kansas.

On the western slopes of the Rocky Mountains in Southwestern Colorado, Kemp meets a grizzled old prospector, Jesse Tate (Millard Mitchell), and offers him twenty dollars to help out. Tate assumes that Kemp is a sheriff and Kemp does nothing to disillusion him.

They trap someone on top of a rocky hill who Kemp is convinced must be his wanted man. Rockslides force a retreat. Looking for a way around the hill, Kemp and Tate meet up with a Union soldier, Lieutenant Roy Anderson (Ralph Meeker). He has been discharged from the 6th Cavalry at Fort Ellis in Bozeman and is heading east. Tate questions why Anderson isn’t on the Bozeman Trail. Anderson’s story is that there are some “bad tempered Indians” whose chief’s daughter fell in with a handsome young army lieutenant. Kemp has a chance to see Anderson’s discharge order in which he is described as “morally unstable,” and given a dishonorable discharge.

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Tate tells Anderson that Kemp is a sheriff. With the aid of Anderson, who scales a sheer cliff face, Vandergroat is caught, along with his companion, Lina Patch (Janet Leigh), the daughter of Vandergroat’s friend, Frank Patch, who was shot dead trying to rob a bank in Abilene.

Vandergroat sets Tate and Anderson straight on two facts: that Kemp is no lawman, and that a reward is offered to bring him in— $5000, dead or alive. Tate and Anderson want their shares, to aid Kemp in getting Vandergroat back to Kansas. Lina is convinced that her father’s friend is innocent.

On the trail to Abilene, Vandergroat attempts to turn his captors against each other, using greed as his weapon. He also encourages Lina to use her beauty to divide Kemp and Anderson. When scouting a way through a mountain pass, Kemp and Tate spot a dozen Blackfeet, a normally friendly tribe, far from their normal hunting grounds. They tell the others and Anderson confesses that the Indians are after him. Kemp tells Anderson to hightail it out of there to avoid being captured by the Blackfeet. Anderson thinks Kemp just wants a bigger share of the reward money. He rides ahead, and from his position hidden behind a fallen tree trunk, with his rifle he elects to pick off a chief of the Blackfeet, at the moment Kemp’s group have confronted the Indians and are about to engage them in talk.

During the ensuing battle, Kemp saves Lina from the Blackfeet and she, in turn, helps him when he is shot in the leg. Later, Kemp passes out on the trail and awakes from a delirious nightmare. He thinks Lina is Mary, his ex-fiancée. Vandergroat tells the others that Mary sold Kemp’s ranch, which he left in her safekeeping, while he was serving in the army during the Civil War, and then went off with another man. Vandergroat further reveals that Kemp is determined to buy his ranch back, and that it can’t happen if he splits the reward money with Anderson and Tate.

Lina’s feelings of loyalty to her father’s friend, combined with an attraction to Kemp, confuses her. She has never seen Vandergroat hurt anyone unless it was in a fair fight, but after he loosens Kemp’s saddle cinch and tries to push him off a high mountain pass, Lina’s sympathies for Kemp grow.

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Taking refuge from a storm in a cave, Vandergroat manipulates Lina into distracting Kemp. She tells the rancher of her dream to go to California, where no one knows her and she can make a fresh start. He tells her of his wish to repurchase his ranch. They kiss and this gives Ben a chance to escape. Kemp catches Vandergroat, and Anderson suggests that since the reward is for a “dead or alive” criminal, they should just kill the troublemaker. Tate stops Anderson but, caught up in the anger of the moment and hurt by what he sees as Lina’s treachery, Kemp challenges Vandergroat to a shoot out. The wanted man declines to take part.

Next day, the group comes to a high-running river. They argue about whether to cross or go downstream. Anderson grabs a rope and throws it around Vandergroat’s neck and says he’ll drag him across the river. A fight ensues between Kemp and Anderson, as Vandergroat watches with malicious enjoyment. Kemp finally manages to kick Anderson unconscious. While Kemp and Anderson recover from the fight and Lina searches for firewood, Vandergroat convinces Tate to sneak off with him to find a gold mine, the whereabouts of which Vandergroat has been tempting the old man with. When they depart during the night, he convinces Tate to take Lina along.

Vandergroat and Lina ride double; Tate follows, holding a rifle on them. Ben suddenly yells, “Snake!” and in the confusion grabs Tate’s rifle from him and kills him. He fires two more shots in order to lure Kemp and Anderson to a spot where he intends to kill them. Lina finally sees Vandergroat for what he is.

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Kemp and Anderson discover Tate’s body where Vandergroat has positioned it for an ambush from the high cliff face. Preparing to shoot Kemp, Vandergroat is caught off guard when Lina grabs the rifle barrel, saving Kemp’s life. While Anderson exchanges gunfire with Vandergroat, Kemp removes one of his spurs to aid in climbing up the back of the cliff to outflank Vandergroat. He uses the spur as a combination climbing tool and makeshift piton.

Vandergroat, hearing Kemp, gets the drop on the rancher. However, before he can pull the trigger, Kemp throws his spur into the killer’s left cheek. As Ben reels from the pain of the spur, he is shot by Anderson and his body falls into the nearby river, becoming entangled in the roots of a tree. Anderson lassos a branch on the other side of the river and crosses using the rope. He then wraps it around Ben’s body but is crushed by a large tree stump barrelling down the river.

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Kemp grabs the rope and drags Vandergroat’s body across the river and, in a rage, vows that he will take him back to reclaim his land. Lina pleads with him not to take blood money for bringing Vandergroat in. She says she will go with him, no matter what, marry him, and live with him on the ranch. Kemp realizes what he is doing and his love for Lina makes him stop. He begins digging a grave to bury Vandergroat and they decide to make for California, leaving their pasts behind.

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Cast

 

Production

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The Naked Spur was the third of five Western collaborations between James Stewart and Anthony Mann and also, third of the eight collaborations they did overall. Two previous Westerns included Winchester ’73 (1950) and Bend of the River (1952). The film is notable for having only five actors.

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Robert Ryan, known for his roles as ruthless villains and hard-boiled cops, would work with Mann again in Men in War (1957) and God’s Little Acre (1958). Janet Leigh starred alongside Ryan in the film noir Act of Violence (1948), which was directed by Fred Zinnemann. Ralph Meeker was cast as Roy Anderson, a disgraced Army officer.

Millard Mitchell, who played Jesse Tate, a grizzled old prospector, died at fifty years of age from lung cancer shortly after this picture. This was his next-to-last movie, followed by Here Come the Girls (released October 1953), starring Bob Hope.

The film was filmed on location in Durango and the San Juan Mountains in Colorado, and Lone Pine, California. According to writer and historian Frederic B. Wildfang, during filming, Stewart dedicated a monument in town, marking the area as the “Hollywood of the Rockies.” Production started in late May and ended in June 1952.

 

Reception

The film premiered in the first day of February 1953. That same year, two other films directed by Mann and starring Stewart were also released: Thunder Bay and The Glenn Miller Story.

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According to MGM records the film earned $2,423,000 in the US and Canada and $1,427,000 overseas, resulting in a profit to the studio of $1,081,000. This success ensured three more Stewart-Mann collaborations, including two more westerns. Screenwriters Sam Rolfe and Harold Jack Bloom were nominated for the 1953 Best Screenplay Academy Award. In the years since its release, the film has achieved continued success, gaining more critical acclaim now than upon first release. Leonard Maltin has lauded The Naked Spur as “one of the best westerns ever made.”

In 1997, The Naked Spur was added to the United States National Film Registry, being deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”

Martin Milner

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Martin Sam Milner (December 28, 1931 – September 6, 2015) was an American film, stage, radio and television actor. Milner is best known for his performances in two popular television series: Route 66, which aired on CBS from 1960 to 1964, and Adam-12, which aired on NBC from 1968 to 1975.

 

Early years

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Milner was born on December 28, 1931, to film distributor Sam Gordon Milner and Paramount Theater circuit dancer Mildred (née Martin) in Detroit, Michigan. The family left Detroit when he was a young child and moved frequently before settling in Seattle, Washington, by the time he was nine. There he became involved in acting, first in school, and then in a children’s theater group at the Cornish Playhouse.

When Milner was a teenager, he moved with his family to Los Angeles where his parents hired an acting coach and later an agent for him. Milner had his first screen test and began his film career with his debut in the 1947 film Life with Father in the role of John Day, the second oldest son of Clarence Day played by William Powell. Less than two weeks after filming for that film ended in August 1946, Milner contracted poliomyelitis. He recovered within a year and had bit parts in two more films before graduating from North Hollywood High School in 1949. He immediately landed a minor role in the film Sands of Iwo Jima starring John Wayne. He also had a role in Richard Fleischer‘s Compulsion, featuring Orson Welles.

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He had several more roles, both minor and major, in war films in the 1950s, including another John Wayne picture called Operation Pacific in 1951 and Mister Roberts with Henry Fonda, James Cagney and Jack Lemmon in 1955. On the set of Halls of Montezuma in 1950 he met and befriended actor Jack Webb. Soon thereafter, he began intermittent work on Webb’s radio series, Dragnet.

 

Career

Milner attended the University of Southern California where he studied theater. He dropped out after a year in the fall of 1950 to concentrate on acting. He made his first television appearance in 1950 as a guest star in episode 28 titled “Pay Dirt” on The Lone Ranger. That same year, he began a recurring role as “Drexel Potter” on the television sitcom The Stu Erwin Show.

In 1952, Milner began a two-year stint in the United States Army. He was assigned to Special Services at Fort Ord on California’s Monterey Bay Peninsula, where he directed training films. He also emceed and performed in skits in a touring unit show to entertain the soldiers. Milner was encouraged by fellow soldier David Janssen to pursue an acting career when his time in the Army ended. He also served at Ft Ord at the same time as future actors Clint Eastwood and Richard Long. While in the Army, Milner continued working for Jack Webb, playing “Officer Bill Lockwood” (briefly the partner of “Sgt. Friday”) and other characters on the Dragnet radio series on weekends. He also appeared on six episodes of Webb’s Dragnet television series between 1952 and 1955.

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After his military service ended, Milner had a recurring role on The Life of Riley from 1953 to 1958. He also made guest appearances on numerous television shows including episodes of The Bigelow Theatre, The Great Gildersleeve, TV Reader’s Digest, Science Fiction Theatre, Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse, NBC Matinee Theater, The West Point Story, The Twilight Zone (episode: Mirror Image) and Rawhide. Milner also acted in films, the most notable of which are The Long Gray Line (1955), Mister Roberts (1955), Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957), as jazz guitarist Steve Dallas in Sweet Smell of Success (1957), Marjorie Morningstar (1958), Compulsion (1959) and 13 Ghosts (1960).

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Route 66

In 1960, Milner won the role of Tod Stiles in the CBS television series, Route 66, from 1960 to 1964. Created by Stirling Silliphant, Route 66 is essentially about two regular, but distinctly different young men in a car touring the United States.

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After the sudden death of his father left him unexpectedly penniless, Tod traveled across the United States in a Chevrolet Corvette, taking a variety of odd jobs along the way and getting involved in other people’s problems. Tod’s traveling partner on his escapades was his friend Buz Murdock, a former employee of his father’s played by George Maharis. During the series’ third season, Milner got a new co-star as Glenn Corbett was brought in to replace Maharis. Tod’s new traveling partner was Lincoln “Linc” Case, an Army veteran who had a dark past, and Corbett remained in the role for the remaining season and a half.

Route 66 was a different sort of television program, as the travels of Tod and his traveling partners were shot on location. Thus, Milner spent nearly four years traveling the country for the series, sometimes taking his wife and children along.

 

Adam-12

 Milner and Webb had a long-established working relationship by the time it came to cast Adam-12. Milner appeared in numerous episodes of both the radio and television versions of the seminal Jack Webb series Dragnet. Milner had also worked with Webb in the 1950 film Halls of Montezuma and the 1955 film Pete Kelly’s Blues. This led to the role for which Milner is best known.

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In 1968, Milner returned to television as seven-year LAPD veteran uniform patrol Officer Peter Joseph “Pete” Malloy in the Jack Webb-produced police drama, Adam-12. Kent McCord played his partner, rookie Officer James A. “Jim” Reed. The popular NBC series ran from 1968 to 1975. Like Webb’s Dragnet, it was based on real Los Angeles Police Department procedures and cases. It was hailed for its realistic, positive portrayal of ordinary police officers.

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Milner was Webb’s hands-down choice for “cop behind the wheel” Pete Malloy, in part because his relative youth and prior acting credits and because of his on-camera driving experience from his days on Route 66.

 

Emergency!

 Milner guest starred in three episodes of Emergency! between 1972 and 1976, during and after Adam-12s run on NBC, the best known and first of which was the pilot episode The Wedsworth-Townsend Act.

 

Later career

After Adam-12 Martin Milner starred as Karl Robinson in a television series version of The Swiss Family Robinson (1975–1976), produced by Irwin Allen. Most of his following work was as a television guest star, most notably in action-adventure series MacGyver (as James MacGyver, MacGyver’s father), Airwolf, Life Goes On , Murder, She Wrote and RoboCop: The Series. In 1983, Milner hosted a morning radio wake-up show on AM 600 KOGO, San Diego.

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Milner also has the distinction of having portrayed the victim in the premiere episode of Columbo titled “Murder by the Book.” In 1990, Milner re-teamed with Kent McCord, his co-star from Adam-12, in the cable TV-movie Nashville Beat (1990), originally shown on the now-defunct The Nashville Network. The story, partly written by Kent McCord, had McCord as an LAPD detective who teams up with his old partner, Milner, in Nashville, Tennessee. In 1992, he guest starred on five episodes of ABC’s Life Goes On. After retiring from acting, Milner co-hosted a radio show about fishing called “Let’s Talk Hook-Up” on San Diego-area sports station XETRA AM 690 (now XEWW).

 

Personal life

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In May 1956, Milner met singer and actress Judith Bess Jones at a Hollywood dinner party. They were married on February 23, 1957, in Waukegan, Illinois. They had four children together: Amy, Molly, Stuart and Andrew.

In February 2003, Milner’s eldest daughter Amy, who appeared in an episode of Adam 12, was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. She died in December 2004.

 

Death

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On September 6, 2015, Milner died of heart failure at his home in Carlsbad, California, at the age of 83. His memorial service was held by Law Enforcement and community members in Oceanside, California six days later.

 

 

Mario Lanza

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Mario Lanza (born Alfred Arnold Cocozza; January 31, 1921 – October 7, 1959) was an American tenor, actor and Hollywood film star of the late 1940s and the 1950s.

Lanza began studying to be a professional singer at the age of 16. After appearing at the Hollywood Bowl in 1947, Lanza signed a seven-year film contract with Louis B. Mayer, the head of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer who saw his performance and was impressed by his singing. Prior to this, the adult Lanza had sung only two performances of an opera. The following year (1948), however, he would sing the role of Pinkerton in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly in New Orleans.

His film debut was in That Midnight Kiss (1949) with Kathryn Grayson and Ethel Barrymore. The following year, in The Toast of New Orleans, his featured popular song “Be My Love” became his first million-selling hit. In 1951, he played the role of Enrico Caruso (1873–1921), his tenor idol, in the biopic, The Great Caruso, which produced another million-seller with “The Loveliest Night of the Year” (a song which used the melody of Sobre las Olas). The Great Caruso was the top-grossing film that year.

The title song of his next film, Because You’re Mine, was his final million-selling hit song. The song went on to receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song. After recording the soundtrack for his next film, The Student Prince, he embarked upon a protracted battle with Studio Head Dore Schary arising from artistic differences with director Curtis Bernhardt, and was eventually dismissed by MGM.

Lanza was known to be “rebellious, tough, and ambitious,” and during most of his film career, he suffered from addictions to overeating and alcohol that had a serious effect on his health and his relationships with directors, producers and, occasionally, other cast members. Hollywood columnist Hedda Hopper wrote, “his smile, which was as big as his voice, was matched with the habits of a tiger cub, impossible to housebreak.” She adds that he was the “last of the great romantic performers.” He made three more films before dying of an apparent pulmonary embolism at the age of 38. At the time of his death in 1959 he was still “the most famous tenor in the world.” Author Eleonora Kimmel concludes that Lanza “blazed like a meteor whose light lasts a brief moment in time.”

 

Early years

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Born Alfred Arnold Cocozza in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, he was exposed to classical singing at an early age by his Abruzzese-Molisan Italian parents. His mother, Maria Lanza, was from Tocco da Casauria a province of Pescara in the region of Abruzzo. His father, Antonio Cocozza, was from the town of Filignano a province of Isernia in the region of Molise. By age 16, his vocal talent had become apparent. Starting out in local operatic productions in Philadelphia for the YMCA Opera Company while still in his teens, he later came to the attention of longtime (1924–49) principal Boston Symphony conductor Serge Koussevitzky. In 1942, Koussevitzky provided young Cocozza with a full student scholarship to the Berkshire Music Center at Tanglewood, Massachusetts. Reportedly, Koussevitzky would later tell him, “Yours is a voice such as is heard once in a hundred years.”

 

Opera career

His opera debut, as Fenton in Otto Nicolai’s The Merry Wives of Windsor (in English), came at the Berkshire Music Festival in Tanglewood on August 7, 1942, after a period of study with conductors Boris Goldovsky and Leonard Bernstein. This was when Cocozza adopted the stage name Mario Lanza, for its similarity to his mother’s maiden name, Maria Lanza.

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His performances at Tanglewood won him critical acclaim, with Noel Straus of The New York Times hailing the 21-year-old tenor as having “few equals among tenors of the day in terms of quality, warmth and power”. Herbert Graf subsequently wrote in Opera News (October 5, 1942), “A real find of the season was Mario Lanza […] He would have no difficulty one day being asked to join the Metropolitan Opera.” Lanza sang Nicolai’s Fenton twice at Tanglewood, in addition to appearing there in a one-off presentation of Act III of Puccini’s La Bohème with the noted Mexican soprano Irma González, baritone James Pease and mezzo-soprano Laura Castellano. Music critic Jay C. Rosenfeld wrote in The New York Times of August 9, 1942, “Irma González as Mimì and Mario Lanza as Rodolfo were conspicuous by the beauty of their voices and the vividness of their characterizations.” In an interview shortly before her own death in 2008, González recalled that Lanza was “very correct, likeable, with a powerful and beautiful voice.”

 

Lanza as Giuseppe Verdi’s Otello

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His budding operatic career was interrupted by World War II, when he was assigned to Special Services in the U.S. Army Air Corps. He appeared in the wartime shows On the Beam and Winged Victory. He also appeared in the film version of the latter (albeit as an unrecognizable member of the chorus). He resumed his singing career with a concert in Atlantic City with the NBC Symphony Orchestra in September 1945 under Peter Herman Adler, subsequently his mentor. The following month, he replaced tenor Jan Peerce on the live CBS radio program Great Moments in Music on which he made six appearances in four months, singing extracts from various operas and other works.

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He studied with Enrico Rosati for fifteen months, and then embarked on an 86-concert tour of the United States, Canada and Mexico between July 1947 and May 1948 with bass George London and soprano Frances Yeend. Reviewing his second appearance at Chicago’s Grant Park in July 1947 in the Chicago Sunday Tribune, Claudia Cassidy praised Lanza’s “superbly natural tenor” and observed that “though a multitude of fine points evade him, he possesses the things almost impossible to learn. He knows the accent that makes a lyric line reach its audience, and he knows why opera is music drama.”

In April 1948, Lanza sang two performances as Pinkerton in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly for the New Orleans Opera Association conducted by Walter Herbert with stage director Armando Agnini. Reviewing the opening-night performance in the St. Louis News (April 9, 1948), Laurence Oden wrote, “Mario Lanza performed … Lieutenant Pinkerton with considerable verve and dash. Rarely have we seen a more superbly romantic leading tenor. His exceptionally beautiful voice helps immeasurably.” Following the success of these performances, he was invited to return to New Orleans in 1949 as Alfredo in Verdi’s La traviata. But, as biographer Armando Cesari wrote, Lanza by 1949 “was already deeply engulfed in the Hollywood machinery and consequently never learned [that key mid-Verdi tenor] role.”

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At the time of his death, Lanza was preparing to return to the operatic stage. Conductor Peter Herman Adler, with whom Lanza had previously worked both in concert and on the soundtrack of The Great Caruso, visited the tenor in Rome during the summer of 1959 and later recalled that, “[Lanza] was working two hours a day with an operatic coach, and intended to go back to opera, his only true love.” Adler promised the tenor “all possible help” in his “planning for his operatic future.” In the October 14, 1959, edition of Variety, it was reported that Lanza had planned to make his return to opera in the role of Canio in Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci during the Rome Opera’s 1960–61 season. This was subsequently confirmed by Riccardo Vitale, Artistic Director of the Rome Opera. Variety also noted that preparations had been underway at the time of Lanza’s death for him to participate in recording a series of complete operas for RCA Italiana.

 

Film career

 

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A concert at the Hollywood Bowl in August 1947 had brought Lanza to the attention of Louis B. Mayer, who promptly signed Lanza to a seven-year film contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. The contract required him to commit to the studio for six months, and at first Lanza believed he would be able to combine his film career with his operatic and concert one. In May 1949, he made his first commercial recordings with RCA Victor. His rendition of the aria “Che gelida manina” (from La Bohème) from that session was subsequently awarded the prize of Operatic Recording of the Year by the (United States) National Record Critics Association.

 

The Toast of New Orleans

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Lanza’s first two starring films, That Midnight Kiss and The Toast of New Orleans, both opposite top-billed Kathryn Grayson, were commercial successes, and in 1950 his recording of “Be My Love” from the latter became the first of three million-selling singles for the young singer, earning him enormous fame in the process. While at MGM, Lanza worked closely with the Academy Award-winning conductor, composer, and arranger Johnny Green.

In a 1977 interview with Lanza biographer Armando Cesari, Green recalled that the tenor was insecure about the manner in which he had become successful, and was keenly aware of the fact that he had become a Hollywood star before first having established himself on the operatic stage.

“Had [Lanza] been already a leading tenor, if not the leading tenor at the Metropolitan Opera House], and come to Hollywood in between seasons to make a picture, he would have had [the security of having] the Met as his home,” Green remarked. According to Green, Lanza possessed “the voice of the next Caruso. [Lanza] had an unusual, very unusual quality…a tenor with a baritone color in the middle and lower registers, and a great feeling for the making of music. A great musicality. I found it fascinating, musically, to work with [him].”

 

The Great Caruso

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In 1951, Lanza portrayed Enrico Caruso in The Great Caruso, which proved a success. At the same time, Lanza’s increasing popularity exposed him to intense criticism by some music critics, including those who had praised his work years earlier. His performance earned him compliments from the subject’s son, Enrico Caruso Jr., a tenor in his own right. Shortly before his own death in 1987, Enrico Jr. wrote in Enrico Caruso: My Father and My Family (posthumously published by Amadeus in 1990) that:

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“I can think of no other tenor, before or since Mario Lanza, who could have risen with comparable success to the challenge of playing Caruso in a screen biography… Lanza was born with one of the dozen or so great tenor voices of the century, with a natural voice placement, an unmistakable and very pleasing timbre, and a nearly infallible musical instinct.”

 

The Student Prince

In 1952, Lanza was dismissed by MGM after he had pre-recorded the songs for The Student Prince. The reason most frequently cited in the tabloid press at the time was that his recurring weight problem had made it impossible for him to fit into the costumes of the Prince. However, as his biographers Cesari and Mannering have established, Lanza was not overweight at the beginning of the production, and it was, in fact, a disagreement with director Curtis Bernhardt over Lanza’s singing of one of the songs in the film that led to Lanza walking off the set. MGM refused to replace Bernhardt, and the film was subsequently made with English actor Edmund Purdom, who was dubbed to Lanza’s recorded voice.

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Depressed by his dismissal, and with his self-confidence severely undermined, Lanza became a virtual recluse for more than a year, frequently seeking refuge in alcoholic binges. During this period, Lanza also came very close to bankruptcy as a result of poor investment decisions by his former manager, and his lavish spending habits left him owing about $250,000 in back taxes to the IRS.

 

Serenade

Lanza returned to an active film career in 1955 in Serenade, released by Warner Bros. However the film was not as successful as his previous films, despite its strong musical content, including arias from Der Rosenkavalier, Fedora, L’arlesiana, and Otello, as well as the Act III duet from Otello with soprano Licia Albanese. Ms. Albanese said of Lanza in 1980: I had heard all sorts of stories about Mario [Lanza]. That his voice was too small for the stage, that he couldn’t learn a score, that he couldn’t sustain a full opera; in fact, that he couldn’t even sing a full aria, that his recordings were made by splicing together various portions of an aria. None of it is true! He had the most beautiful lirico spinto voice. It was a gorgeous, beautiful, powerful voice. I should know because I sang with so many tenors. He had everything that one needs. The voice, the temperament, perfect diction. . . . Vocally he was very secure. All he needed was coaching. Everything was so easy for him. He was fantastic!
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He then moved to Rome, Italy in May 1957, where he worked on the film Seven Hills of Rome, and returned to live performing in November of that year, singing for Queen Elizabeth II at the Royal Variety Show at the London Palladium. From January to April 1958, Lanza gave a concert tour of the UK, Belgium, the Netherlands, France and Germany. He gave a total of 22 concerts on this tour, receiving mostly positive reviews for his singing. Despite a number of cancellations, which resulted from his failing health during this period, Lanza continued to receive offers for operatic appearances, concerts, and films.

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In September 1958, he made a number of operatic recordings at the Rome Opera House for the soundtrack of what would turn out to be his final film, For the First Time. It was then that he came to the attention of that opera house’s artistic director, Riccardo Vitale, who promptly offered the tenor carte blanche in his choice of operatic roles. Lanza also received offers to sing in any opera of his choosing from the San Carlo in Naples. At the same time, however, his health continued to decline, with the tenor suffering from a variety of ailments, including phlebitis and acute high blood pressure. His old habits of overeating and crash dieting, coupled with binge drinking, compounded his problems.

 

Death

In April 1959, Lanza reportedly suffered a minor heart attack followed in August by double pneumonia. On September 25, 1959, he entered Rome’s Valle Giulia clinic for the purpose of losing weight for an upcoming film. While in the clinic, he underwent a controversial weight loss program colloquially known as “the twilight sleep treatment,” which required its patients to be kept immobile and sedated for prolonged periods. On October 7, a day before his scheduled discharge, he died at the age of 38. No autopsy was performed. He was buried at the Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California. Maria Caniglia, Franco Fabrizi and Enzo Fiermonte attended the funeral. Frank Sinatra sent his condolences by telegram.

 

Legacy

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Lanza was the first RCA Victor Red Seal artist to win a gold disc and the first artist to sell 2 1/2 million albums. Lanza was referred to by some sources as the “new Caruso” after his “instant success” in Hollywood films, while MGM hoped he would become the movie studio’s “singing Clark Gable” for his good looks and powerful voice.

In 1994, outstanding tenor José Carreras paid tribute to Lanza during a worldwide concert tour, saying of him, “If I’m an opera singer, it’s thanks to Mario Lanza.” His equally outstanding colleague Plácido Domingo echoed these comments in a 2009 CBS interview with, “Lanza’s passion and the way his voice sounds are what made me sing opera. I actually owe my love for opera … to a kid from Philadelphia.”

Even today “the magnitude of his contribution to popular music is still hotly debated,” and because he appeared on the operatic stage only twice, many critics feel that he needed to have had more “operatic quality time” in major theaters before he could be considered a star of that art form. His films, especially The Great Caruso, influenced numerous future opera stars, including Joseph Calleja, José Carreras, Plácido Domingo and Luciano Pavarotti. According to opera historian Clyde McCants, “Of all the Hollywood singers who performed operatic music… the one who made the greatest impact was Mario Lanza.” Hollywood gossip columnist Hedda Hopper concluded “there had never been anyone like Mario, and I doubt whether we shall ever see his like again.”

In 1998, a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs, California, Walk of Stars was dedicated to him. Mario Lanza has been awarded two Stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame: a Star for Recording at 1751 Vine Street, and a Star at 6821 Hollywood Boulevard for Motion Pictures.

 

Portrayal on stage

In October 2007, Charles Messina directed the big budget musical Be My Love: The Mario Lanza Story, written by Richard Vetere, about Lanza’s life, which was produced by Sonny Grosso and Phil Ramone, and which premiered at The Tilles Center for the Performing Arts in Greenvale, New York.

 

Filmography

•    Winged Victory, Twentieth Century-Fox 1944 (un-credited chorus member)

•    That Midnight Kiss, MGM 1949

•    The Toast of New Orleans, MGM 1950

•    The Great Caruso, MGM 1951

•    Because You’re Mine, MGM 1952

•    The Student Prince, MGM 1954 (voice only)

•    Serenade, Warner Bros. 1956

•    Seven Hills of Rome, MGM 1958

•    For the First Time, MGM 1959

 

 

Dan Duryea

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Dan Duryea (January 23, 1907 – June 7, 1968) was an American actor in film, stage

and television. Known for portraying a vast range of character roles as a villain, he

nonetheless had a long career in a wide variety of leading and secondary roles.

 

Early Life

Born and raised in White Plains, New York, Duryea graduated from White Plains High

School in 1924 and Cornell University in 1928. While at Cornell, he was elected

into the prestigious Sphinx Head Society, Cornell’s oldest senior honor society. He

majored in English with a strong interest in drama, and in his senior year succeeded

Franchot Tone as president of the college drama society.

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As his parents did not approve of his choice to pursue an acting career, Duryea

became an advertising executive, but after six stress-filled years, had a heart attack

that sidelined him for a year.‪

 

Acting Career

Returning to his earlier love of acting and the stage, Duryea made his name on

Broadway in the play Dead End, followed by The Little Foxes, in which he portrayed

Leo Hubbard.‪ In 1940, Duryea moved to Hollywood to appear in the film version of

The Little Foxes.‪‬ He continued to establish himself with supporting and secondary

roles in films such as The Pride of the Yankees and None But the Lonely Heart. As

the 1940s progressed, he found his niche as the “sniveling, deliberately taunting”

antagonist in a number of film noir subjects (Scarlet Street, The Woman in the

Window, Criss Cross, Too Late for Tears) and westerns such as Along Came Jones

and Black Bart, although he was sometimes cast in more sympathetic roles (Black

Angel, One Way Street).‪ In 1946, exhibitors voted him the eighth most promising “star

of tomorrow.”‬

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In the 1950s, Duryea co-starred with James Stewart in three films, Winchester ’73 (as

the dastardly “Waco Johnny” Dean), Thunder Bay, and Night Passage. He was

featured in several other westerns, including Silver Lode, Ride Clear of Diablo, and

The Marauders, and in more film-noir productions like 36 Hours, Chicago Calling,

Storm Fear, and The Burglar, not always as the film’s villain but often.

When interviewed by Hedda Hopper in the early 1950s, Duryea spoke of career goals

and his preparation for roles:

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“Well, first of all, let’s set the stage or goal I set for myself when I decided to become

an actor … not just ‘an actor’, but a successful one. I looked in the mirror and knew

with my ‘puss’ and 155-pound weakling body, I couldn’t pass for a leading man, and I

had to be different. And I sure had to be courageous, so I chose to be the meanest

s.o.b. in the movies … strictly against my mild nature, as I’m an ordinary, peace-loving

husband and father. Inasmuch, as I admired fine actors like Richard Widmark, Victor

Mature, Robert Mitchum, and others who had made their early marks in the dark,

sordid, and guilt-ridden world of film noir; here, indeed, was a market for my talents. I

thought the meaner I presented myself, the tougher I was with women, slapping them

around in well produced films where evil and death seem to lurk in every nightmare

alley and behind every venetian blind in every seedy apartment, I could find a market

for my screen characters…. At first it was very hard as I am a very even-tempered

guy, but I used my past life experiences to motivate me as I thought about some of

the people I hated in my early as well as later life … like the school bully who used to

try and beat the hell out of me at least once a week … a sadistic family doctor that

believed feeling pain when he treated you was the birthright of every man inasmuch

as women suffered giving birth … little incidents with trade-people who enjoyed acting

superior because they owned their business, overcharging you. Then the one I used

when I had to slap a woman around was easy! I was slapping the over-bearing

teacher who would fail you in their ‘holier-than-thou’ class and enjoy it! And especially

the experiences I had dealing with the unbelievable pompous ‘know-it-all-experts’ that

I dealt with during my advertising agency days … almost going ‘nuts’ trying to please

these ‘corporate heads’ until I finally got out of that racket!”‪

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In his last years, Duryea rejoined former co-star Stewart for the adventure film The

Flight of the Phoenix, about men stranded in the Sahara desert by a downed airplane.

He worked in overseas film productions including the Italian western The Hills Run

Red (1966) and the spy thriller Five Golden Dragons (1967) in West Germany, while

continuing to find roles on American television. He also appeared twice on the big

screen with his son, character actor Peter Duryea, in the low-budget westerns

Taggart (1964), and The Bounty Killer (1965).

 

Duryea starred as the lead character China Smith in the television series China Smith

from 1952 to 1956, and The New Adventures of China Smith from 1953 to 1954.

He spoofed his tough-guy image in a comedy sketch about a robbery on the Feb. 20,

1955 episode of The Jack Benny Program.

 

Duryea guest starred as Roy Budinger, the self-educated mastermind of a criminal

ring dealing in silver bullion, in the episode “Terror Town” on October 18, 1958 of

NBC’s western series Cimarron City.‪

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In 1959, Duryea appeared as an alcoholic gunfighter in third episode of The Twilight

Zone, “Mr. Denton on Doomsday.”  He guest starred on NBC’s anthology series The

Barbara Stanwyck Show and appeared in an episode of Rawhide in 1959, “Incident

Of The Executioner.”‪ On September 15, 1959, Duryea guest starred as the outlaw

Bud Carlin in the episode “Stage Stop,” the premiere of NBC’s Laramie western

series. ‪‬ Duryea appeared again as Luke Gregg on Laramie on October 25, 1960, in

the episode “The Long Riders.”‪ Duryea also put in a great comic performance in The

Alfred Hitchcock Hour in an episode called “Three Wives Too Many” (1964).

Three weeks later, on November 16, 1960, Duryea played a mentally unstable

pioneer obsessed by demons and superstitions in “The Bleymier Story” of NBC’s

Wagon Train. Elen Willard played his daughter; James Drury, his daughter’s suitor.

Duryea was cast twice in 1960 as Captain Brad Turner in consecutive episodes of the

NBC western series Riverboat.‪

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In 1963, Duryea portrayed Dr. Ben Lorrigan on NBC’s medical drama, The Eleventh

Hour. From 1967 to 1968, he appeared in a recurring role as Eddie Jacks on the soap

opera Peyton Place.

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Personal Life

Duryea was quite different from the unsavory characters he often portrayed. He was

married for 35 years to his wife, Helen, until her death in January 1967. The couple

had two sons: Peter (who worked for a time as an actor), and Richard, a talent agent.

At home, Duryea lived a quiet life at his house in the San Fernando Valley, devoting

himself to gardening, boating, and community activities that included, at various times,

active membership in the local parent-teacher association, and Scout Master of a Boy

Scout troop.

 

On June 7, 1968, Duryea died of cancer at the age of 61. The New York Times

tellingly noted the passing of a “heel with sex appeal.” His remains are interred in

Forest Lawn – Hollywood Hills Cemetery in Los Angeles, California.

Robert Taylor

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Robert Taylor (August 5, 1911 – June 8, 1969) was an American film and television actor who was one of the most popular leading men of his time.

Taylor began his career in films in 1934 when he signed with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. He won his first leading role the following year in Magnificent Obsession. His popularity increased during the late 1930s and 1940s with appearances in A Yank at Oxford (1938), Waterloo Bridge (1940), and Bataan (1943). During World War II, he served in the United States Naval Air Corps, where he worked as a flight instructor and appeared in instructional films. From 1959 to 1962, he starred in the ABC series The Detectives Starring Robert Taylor. In 1966, he took over hosting duties from his friend Ronald Reagan on the series Death Valley Days.

Taylor was married to actress Barbara Stanwyck from 1939 to 1951. He married actress Ursula Thiess in 1954, and they had two children. A chain smoker, Taylor was diagnosed with lung cancer in October 1968. He died of the disease in June 1969 at the age of 57.

 

Early life

Born Spangler Arlington Brugh Taylor in Filley, Nebraska, he was the son of Ruth Adaline (née Stanhope) and Spangler Andrew Brugh, who was a farmer turned doctor. During his early life, the family moved several times, living in Muskogee, Oklahoma;, Kirksville, Missouri, and Fremont, Nebraska. By September 1917, the Brughs had moved to Beatrice, Nebraska, where they remained for 16 years.

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As a teenager, Brugh was a track star and played the cello in his high school orchestra. Upon graduation, he enrolled at Doane College in Crete, Nebraska. While at Doane, he took cello lessons from Professor Herbert E. Gray, a man whom he admired and idolized. After Professor Gray announced he was accepting a new position at Pomona College in Los Angeles, Brugh moved to California and enrolled at Pomona. He joined the campus theatre group and was eventually spotted by an MGM talent scout in 1932 after production of Journey’s End.

 

Career

He signed a seven-year contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer with an initial salary of $35 a week, which rose to $2500 by 1936. The studio changed his name to Robert Taylor. He made his film debut in the 1934 comedy, Handy Andy, starring Will Rogers (on a loan-out to 20th Century Fox). His first leading role was in an MGM short subject called Buried Loot. Irene Dunne requested him for her leading man in Magnificent Obsession. This was followed by Camille, opposite Greta Garbo.

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Throughout the late 1930s, Taylor appeared in films of varying genres including the musicals Broadway Melody of 1936 and Broadway Melody of 1938, and the British comedy A Yank at Oxford with Vivien Leigh. In 1940, he reteamed with Leigh in Mervyn LeRoy‘s drama Waterloo Bridge.

After being given the nickname “The Man with the Perfect Profile,” Taylor began breaking away from his perfect leading man image and began appearing in darker roles beginning in 1941. That year he portrayed Billy Bonney (better known as Billy the Kid) in Billy the Kid. The next year, he played the title role in the film noir Johnny Eager opposite Lana Turner. After playing a tough sergeant in Bataan in 1943, Taylor contributed to the war effort by becoming a flying instructor in U.S. Naval Air Corps. During this time, he also starred in instructional films and narrated the 1944 documentary The Fighting Lady.

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After the war he appeared in a series of edgy roles, including Undercurrent and High Wall. In 1949, he co-starred opposite Elizabeth Taylor in Conspirator. In 1950, Taylor landed the role of General Marcus Vinicius in Quo Vadis, opposite Deborah Kerr. The epic film was a hit, grossing US$11 million in its first run. The following year, he starred opposite Elizabeth Taylor in the film version of Walter Scott‘s classic Ivanhoe, followed by 1953’s Knights of the Round Table and The Adventures of Quentin Durward, all filmed in England. Taylor also filmed Valley of the Kings in Egypt in 1954.

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By the mid-1950s, Taylor began to concentrate on westerns, his preferred genre. He starred in a comedy western in 1955 co-starring Eleanor Parker, Many Rivers To Cross. In 1958 he shared the lead with Richard Widmark in the edgy John Sturges western, The Law and Jake Wade. In 1958, he left MGM and formed his own production company, Robert Taylor Productions, and the following year starred in the ABC hit television series The Detectives Starring Robert Taylor (1959–1962). Following the end of the series in 1962, Taylor continued to appear in films and television including A House Is Not a Home and two episodes of Hondo.

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Robert Taylor received the 1953 World Film Favorite – Male, award at the Golden Globes (tied with Alan Ladd).

In 1963, NBC filmed, but never aired, four episodes of what was to have been The Robert Taylor Show, a series based on case files from the United States Department of Health, Education and Welfare. The project was suddenly dropped, and Warner Brothers studio boss Jack Webb sold the network a replacement series, Temple Houston, starring Jeffrey Hunter as frontier lawyer Temple Lea Houston, an actual historical figure. WB had only six weeks to get the first episode of Temple Houston on the air, and the pilot was unusable. The series ran for only 26 weeks.

In 1964, Taylor co-starred with his former wife, Barbara Stanwyck, in William Castle‘s psychological horror film The Night Walker. In 1965, after filming Johnny Tiger in Florida, Taylor took over the role of narrator in the television series Death Valley Days, when Ronald Reagan left to pursue a career in politics. Taylor would remain with the series until his death in 1969.

Taylor was dubbed “the man with the perfect profile.” His beautiful granddaughter, actress Mary Taylor (b. August 7, 1990 Santa Monica, California), was dubbed “the perfect profile of a woman” and “the blonde of angelic face.”

 

Personal life 

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After three years of dating, Taylor married Barbara Stanwyck on May 14, 1939 in San Diego, California. Zeppo Marx‘s wife, Marion, was Stanwyck’s matron of honor and her godfather, actor Buck Mack, was Taylor’s best man. Stanwyck divorced Taylor (reportedly at his request) in February 1951. The couple had no children.

Taylor met German actress Ursula Thiess in 1952. They married in Jackson Hole, Wyoming on May 23, 1954. They had two children together, son Terrance (born 1955) and daughter Tessa (born 1959). Taylor was also stepfather to Thiess’ two children from her previous marriage, Manuela and Michael Thiess. On May 29, 1968, shortly before Taylor’s death from lung cancer, Ursula Thiess found her son Michael’s body in a West Los Angeles motel room. He died from what was later determined to be a drug overdose. One month before his death, Michael had been released from a mental hospital. In 1964, he spent a year in a reformatory for attempting to poison his natural father with insecticide.

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Politics

In February 1944, Taylor helped found the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals. In October 1947, Taylor was called to testify before the House Committee on Un-American Activities regarding Communism in Hollywood. He did this reluctantly, regarding the hearings as a “circus” and refusing to appear unless subpoenaed. In his testimony concerning the Screen Actors Guild (SAG), delivered on October 22, 1947, Taylor stated: “It seems to me that at meetings, especially meetings of the general membership of the Guild, there was always a certain group of actors and actresses whose every action would indicate to me that, if they are not Communists, they are working awfully hard to be Communists,” becoming the first witness to “name names” by singling out actors Howard Da Silva and Karen Morley.

Taylor alleged that at meetings of the SAG, Da Silva “always had something to say at the wrong time,” and these remarks ultimately resulted in Da Silva being hounded out of Hollywood and blacklisted on Broadway and New York radio, while Morley never worked again after her name surfaced at the hearings. Taylor went on to declare that he would refuse to work with anyone who was even suspected of being a Communist: “I’m afraid it would have to be him or me, because life is too short to be around people who annoy me as much as these fellow-travellers and Communists do.”

Taylor also labeled screenwriter Lester Cole “reputedly a Communist,” while adding, “I would not know personally.” In consequence, Cole was sent to prison and was never able to write again under his own name. After the hearings, Taylor’s films were banned in Hungary and in Czechoslovakia and there were calls to boycott his films in France.

 

Flying

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In 1952, Taylor starred in the film Above and Beyond, a biopic of Enola Gay pilot Paul Tibbets. The two men met and found that they had much in common. Both had considered studying medicine, and were avid skeet-shooters and fliers. Taylor learned to fly in the mid-1930s, and served as a United States Navy flying instructor during World War II. His private aircraft was a Twin Beech called “Missy” (his then-wife Stanwyck’s nickname) which he used on hunting and fishing trips.

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Death

In October 1968, Taylor underwent surgery to remove a portion of his right lung after doctors suspected that he had contracted coccidioidomycosis (known as “valley fever”). During the surgery, doctors discovered that he had lung cancer. Taylor, who had smoked three packs of cigarettes a day since he was a boy, quit smoking shortly before undergoing surgery. During the final months of his life, he was hospitalized seven times due to infections and complications related to the disease. He died of lung cancer on June 8, 1969, at Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California.

Taylor’s funeral was held on June 11 at the Church of Recessional at Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery, in Glendale, California. Long-time friend Ronald Reagan (who was then the governor of California) eulogized Taylor. Among the mourners were Robert Stack, Van Heflin, Eva Marie Saint, Walter Pidgeon, Keenan Wynn, and Taylor’s ex-wife Barbara Stanwyck.

For his contribution to the motion picture industry, Robert Taylor has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1500 Vine Street.

 

Glenn Ford

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Glenn Ford (May 1, 1916 – August 30, 2006) was a Canadian-born American actor from Hollywood’s Golden Era with a career that lasted over 50 years. Despite his versatility, Ford was best known for playing ordinary men in unusual circumstances.

Early life and career

Born Gwyllyn Samuel Newton Ford at Jeffrey Hale Hospital in Quebec City, Ford was the son of Anglo-Quebecers Hannah Wood Mitchell and Newton Ford, a railway conductor. Through his father, Ford was a great-nephew of Canada’s first Prime Minister, Sir John A. Macdonald. Ford moved to Santa Monica, California, with his family at the age of eight. He became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1939.

After Ford graduated from Santa Monica High School, he began working in small theatre groups. While in high school, he took odd jobs including working for Will Rogers who taught him horsemanship. Ford later commented that his railroad executive father had no objection to his growing interest in acting, but told him, “It’s all right for you to try to act, if you learn something else first. Be able to take a car apart and put it together. Be able to build a house, every bit of it. Then you’ll always have something.” Ford heeded the advice and during the 1950s, when he was one of Hollywood’s most popular actors, he regularly worked on plumbing, wiring, and air conditioning at home. At times, he worked as a roofer and installer of plate-glass windows.

Ford acted in West Coast stage companies before joining Columbia Pictures in 1939. His stage name came from his father’s hometown of Glenford, Alberta. His first major movie part was in the 1939 film, Heaven with a Barbed Wire Fence.

Military service

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Ford interrupted his film career to volunteer for duty in World War II with the United States Marine Corps Reserve on December 13, 1942. He was assigned in March 1943 to active duty at the Marine Corps Base in San Diego. He was sent to Marine Corps Schools Detachment (Photographic Section) in Quantico, Virginia, three months later, with orders as a motion-picture production technician. Promoted to sergeant, Ford returned to the San Diego base in February 1944 and was next assigned to the radio section of the Public Relations Office, Headquarters Company, Base Headquarters Battalion. There he staged and broadcast the radio program Halls of Montezuma. Ford was honorably discharged from the Marines on December 7, 1944, for duodenal ulcers that had him hospitalized for several months.
In 1958, Ford joined the U.S. Naval Reserve and was commissioned as a lieutenant commander and made a public affairs officer – a position he had portrayed the previous year in the comedy Don’t Go Near the Water. During his annual training tours, he promoted the Navy through radio and television broadcasts, personal appearances, and documentary films. He was promoted to commander in 1963, and captain in 1968.

Ford went to Vietnam in 1967 for a month’s tour of duty as a location scout for combat scenes in a training film entitled Global Marine. He traveled with a combat camera crew from the demilitarized zone south to the Mekong Delta. For his service in Vietnam, the Navy awarded him a Navy Commendation Medal. His World War II decorations are as follows: American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal, Rifle Marksman Badge, and the US Marine Corps Reserve Medal. He retired from the Naval Reserve in the 1970s at the rank of captain.

Acting career

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Following military service, Ford’s breakthrough role was in 1946, starring alongside Rita Hayworth in the noir classic Gilda. The New York Times movie reviewer Bosley Crowther praised Ford’s “stamina and poise in a thankless role” despite the movie’s poor direction. He went on to be a leading man opposite Hayworth in a total of five films.

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Ford’s film career flourished in the 1950s and 1960s and continued into the 1980s with many television roles. His major roles in thrillers, dramas and action films include A Stolen Life with Bette Davis, The Secret of Convict Lake with Gene Tierney, The Big Heat, Blackboard Jungle, Framed, and Interrupted Melody with Eleanor Parker, Experiment in Terror with Lee Remick, Don’t Go Near The Water with Gia Scala, Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and westerns such as Jubal, The Fastest Gun Alive, 3:10 to Yuma and Cimarron. Ford’s versatility also allowed him to star in a number of popular comedies, such as The Teahouse of the August Moon, Don’t Go Near the Water, The Gazebo, Cry for Happy and The Courtship of Eddie’s Father.

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In 1971, Ford signed with CBS to star in his first television series, a half hour comedy/drama titled The Glenn Ford Show. However, CBS head Fred Silverman noticed that many of the featured films being shown at a Glenn Ford film festival were westerns. He suggested doing a western series instead, which resulted in the “modern day western” series, Cade’s County. Ford played southwestern Sheriff Cade for one season (1971–1972) in a mix of police mystery and western drama. In The Family Holvak (1975–1976), Ford portrayed a depression era preacher in a family drama, reprising the same character he had played in the TV film, The Greatest Gift.

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In 1978, Ford had a supporting role in Superman, as Clark Kent’s adoptive father, Jonathan Kent, a role that introduced Ford to a new generation of film audiences. In Ford’s final scene in the film, the theme song from Blackboard Jungle, “Rock Around the Clock,” is heard on a car radio.

In 1981, Ford co-starred with Melissa Sue Anderson in the slasher film Happy Birthday to Me.

In 1991, Ford agreed to star in a cable network series, African Skies. However, prior to the start of the series, he developed blood clots in his legs which required a lengthy stay in Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Eventually he recovered, but at one time his situation was so severe that he was listed in critical condition. Ford was forced to drop out of the series and was replaced by Robert Mitchum.

The 2006 movie Superman Returns includes a scene where Ma Kent (played by Eva Marie Saint) stands next to the living room mantel after Superman returns from his quest to find remnants of Krypton. On that mantel is a picture of Glenn Ford as Pa Kent.

Personal life

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Ford’s first wife was actress and dancer Eleanor Powell (1943–1959), with whom he had his only child, Peter (born 1945). The couple appeared together on screen just once, in a short subject produced in the 1950s entitled Have Faith in Our Children. When they married, Powell was more famous than Ford. Ford subsequently married actress Kathryn Hays (1966–1969), Cynthia Hayward (1977–1984), and Jeanne Baus (1993–1994). All four marriages ended in divorce. Ford was not on good terms with his ex-wives, except for Cynthia Hayward with whom he remained close until his death. He also had a long-term relationship with actress Hope Lange in the early 1960s, although they never married.

For the first half of his life, Glenn Ford supported the U.S. Democratic Party – in the 1950s he supported Adlai Stevenson for President – and in later years became a supporter of the Republican Party, campaigning for his friend Ronald Reagan in the 1980 and 1984 presidential elections.

Ford attempted to purchase the Atlanta Flames in May 1980 with the intention of keeping the team in the city. He was prepared to match a $14 million offer made by Byron and Daryl Seaman, but was outbid by an investment group led by Nelson Skalbania and included the Seaman brothers which acquired the franchise for $16 million on May 23 and eventually moved it to Calgary.

Ford lived in Beverly Hills, California, where he illegally raised 140 leghorn chickens, until he was stopped by the Beverly Hills Police Department.

 

Awards

After being nominated in 1957 and 1958, in 1962, Ford won a Golden Globe Award as Best Actor for his performance in Frank Capra’s Pocketful of Miracles. He was listed in Quigley’s Annual List of Top Ten Box Office Champions in 1956, 1958, and 1959, topping the list at number one in 1958.

For his contribution to the motion picture industry, Ford has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6933 Hollywood Blvd. In 1978, he was inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. In 1987 he received the Donostia Award in the San Sebastian International Film Festival, and in 1992 he was awarded the Légion d’honneur medal for his actions in the Second World War.

Ford was scheduled to make his first public appearance in 15 years at a 90th birthday tribute gala in his honor hosted by the American Cinematheque at Grauman’s Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood on May 1, 2006, but at the last minute, he had to bow out. Anticipating that his health might prevent his attendance, Ford had the previous week recorded a special filmed message for the audience, which was screened after a series of in-person tributes from friends including Martin Landau, Shirley Jones, Jamie, Farr and Debbie Reynolds.

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Death

Ford suffered a series of minor strokes which left him in frail health in the years leading up to his death. He died in his Beverly Hills home on August 30, 2006, at the age of 90.

James Cagney

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James Cagney (July 17, 1899 – March 30, 1986) was an American actor and dancer, both on stage and in film, though he had his greatest impact in film.

Known for his consistently energetic performances, distinctive vocal style, and deadpan comic timing, he won acclaim and major awards for a wide variety of performances. He is best remembered for playing multi-faceted tough guys in movies like The Public Enemy (1931), Taxi! (1932), Angels with Dirty Faces (1938) and White Heat (1949), and was often typecast or limited by this view earlier in his career. In 1999, the American Film Institute ranked him eighth among its 50 Greatest American Screen Legends. Orson Welles said of Cagney that he was “maybe the greatest actor who ever appeared in front of a camera.”

In his first professional acting performance, Cagney danced costumed as a woman in the chorus line of the 1919 revue Every Sailor. He spent several years in vaudeville as a dancer and comedian, until he got his first major acting part in 1925. He secured several other roles, receiving good notices, before landing the lead in the 1929 play Penny Arcade. After rave reviews, Warner Bros. signed him for an initial $500-a-week, three-week contract to reprise his role; this was quickly extended to a seven-year contract.

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Cagney’s seventh film, The Public Enemy, became one of the most influential gangster movies of the period. Notable for a famous scene in which Cagney pushes a grapefruit against his co-star’s face, the film thrust him into the spotlight. He became one of Hollywood’s biggest stars and one of Warner Brothers’ biggest contracts. In 1938, he received his first Academy Award for Best Actor nomination, for Angels with Dirty Faces for his subtle portrayal of the tough guy/man-child Rocky Sullivan. In 1942, Cagney won the Oscar for his energetic portrayal of George M. Cohan in Yankee Doodle Dandy. He was nominated a third time in 1955 for Love Me or Leave Me. Cagney retired from acting and dancing in 1961 to spend time on his farm with his family. He exited retirement, twenty years later, for a part in the 1981 movie Ragtime, mainly to aid his recovery from a stroke.

Cagney walked out on Warner Brothers several times over the course of his career, each time returning on much improved personal and artistic terms. In 1935, he sued Warners for breach of contract and won. This was one of the first times an actor prevailed over a studio on a contract issue. He worked for an independent film company for a year while the suit was being settled—and established his own production company, Cagney Productions, in 1942, before returning to Warners four years later. Jack Warner called him “The Professional Againster,” in reference to Cagney’s refusal to be pushed around. Cagney also made numerous morale-boosting troop tours before and during World War II, and was president of the Screen Actors Guild for two years.

 

Early life

Cagney was born on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in New York City. His biographers disagree as to the actual location: either on the corner of Avenue D and 8th Street or in a top floor apartment at 391 East Eighth. His father, James Francis Cagney, Sr., was of Irish descent. By the time of his son’s birth, he was a bartender and amateur boxer, though on Cagney’s birth certificate, he is listed as a telegraphist. His mother was Carolyn (née Nelson); her father was a Norwegian ship captain while her mother was Irish.

Cagney was the second of seven children, two of whom died within months of birth. He was sickly as a young child—so much so that his mother feared he would die before he could be baptized. He later attributed his sickness to the poverty his family had to endure. The family moved twice while he was still young, first to East 79th Street, and then to East 96th Street. He was confirmed at St. Francis de Sales Roman Catholic Church in Manhattan, where he would eventually have his funeral service.

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The red-haired, blue-eyed Cagney graduated from Stuyvesant High School in New York City in 1918, and attended Columbia College of Columbia University where he intended to major in art. He also took German and joined the Student Army Training Corps, but dropped out after one semester, returning home upon the death of his father during the 1918 flu pandemic.

Cagney held a variety of jobs early in his life, giving all his earnings to his family: junior architect, copy boy for The New York Sun, book custodian at the New York Public Library, bellhop, draughtsman, and night doorman. While Cagney was working for the New York Public Library, he met Florence James, who helped him into an acting career. Cagney believed in hard work, later stating, “It was good for me. I feel sorry for the kid who has too cushy a time of it. Suddenly he has to come face-to-face with the realities of life without any mama or papa to do his thinking for him.”

He started tap dancing as a boy (a skill that eventually contributed to his Academy Award) and was nicknamed “Cellar-Door Cagney” after his habit of dancing on slanted cellar doors. He was a good street fighter, defending his older brother Harry, a medical student, when necessary. He engaged in amateur boxing, and was a runner-up for the New York State lightweight title. His coaches encouraged him to turn professional, but his mother would not allow it. He also played semi-professional baseball for a local team, and entertained dreams of playing in the Major Leagues.

His introduction to films was unusual. When visiting an aunt who lived in Brooklyn opposite Vitagraph Studios, Cagney would climb over the fence to watch the filming of John Bunny movies. He became involved in amateur dramatics, starting as a scenery boy for a Chinese pantomime at Lenox Hill Neighborhood House, one of the first settlement houses in the nation, where his brother Harry performed and his soon-to-be friend, Florence James, directed. He was initially content working behind the scenes and had no interest in performing. One night, however, Harry became ill, and although Cagney was not an understudy, his photographic memory of rehearsals enabled him to stand in for his brother without making a single mistake. Therefore, Florence James has the unique distinction of being the first director to put him on a stage. Afterward, he joined a number of companies as a performer in a variety of roles.

 

Early career (1919–1930)

While working at Wanamaker’s Department Store in 1919, Cagney learned, from a colleague who had seen him dance, of a role in the upcoming production Every Sailor. A wartime play in which the chorus was made up of servicemen dressed as women, it was originally titled Every Woman. Cagney auditioned for the role of a chorus girl, despite considering it a waste of time; he only knew one dance step, the complicated Peabody, but he knew it perfectly. This was enough to convince the producers that he could dance, and he copied the other dancers’ moves while waiting to go on. He did not find it odd to play a woman, nor was he embarrassed. He later recalled how he was able to shed his own natural shy persona when he stepped onto the stage: “For there I am not myself. I am not that fellow, Jim Cagney, at all. I certainly lost all consciousness of him when I put on skirts, wig, paint, powder, feathers and spangles.”

Had Cagney’s mother had her way, his stage career would have ended when he quit Every Sailor after two months; proud as she was of his performance, she preferred that he get an education. Cagney appreciated the $35 a week he was paid, which he called “a mountain of money for me in those worrisome days.” In deference to his mother’s worries, he got employment as a brokerage house runner. This did not stop him looking for more stage work, however, and he went on to successfully audition for a chorus part in the William B. Friedlander musical Pitter Patter, for which he earned $55 a week—he sent $40 to his mother each week. So strong was his habit of holding down more than one job at a time, he also worked as a dresser for one of the leads, portered the casts’ luggage, and understudied for the lead. Among the chorus line performers was sixteen-year-old Frances Willard “Billie” Vernon, whom he married in 1922.

The show began Cagney’s ten-year association with vaudeville and Broadway. Cagney and his wife were among the early resident of Free Acres, a social experiment established by Bolton Hall in Berkeley Heights, New Jersey.

Pitter Patter was not hugely successful, but it did well enough to run for 32 weeks, enabling Cagney to join the vaudeville circuit. He and Vernon toured separately with a number of different troupes, reuniting as “Vernon and Nye” to do simple comedy routines and musical numbers. “Nye” was a rearrangement of the last syllable of Cagney’s surname. One of the troupes Cagney joined was Parker, Rand and Leach, taking over the spot vacated when Archie Leach—who later changed his name to Cary Grant—left.

After years of touring and struggling to make money, Cagney and Vernon moved to Hawthorne, California in 1924, partly for Cagney to meet his new mother-in-law, who had just moved there from Chicago, and partly to investigate breaking into the movies. Their train fares were paid for by a friend, the press officer of Pitter Patter, who was also desperate to act. They were not successful at first; the dance studio Cagney set up had few clients and folded, and he and Vernon toured the studios, but garnered no interest. Eventually, they borrowed some money and headed back to New York via Chicago and Milwaukee, enduring failure along the way when they attempted to make money on the stage.

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Cagney secured his first significant non-dancing role in 1925. He played a young tough guy in the three-act play Outside Looking In by Maxwell Anderson, earning $200 a week. As with Pitter Patter, Cagney went to the audition with little confidence he would get the part. He had no experience with drama at this point. Cagney felt that he only got the role because his hair was redder than that of Alan Bunce, the only other redheaded performer in New York. Both the play and Cagney received good reviews; Life magazine wrote, “Mr. Cagney, in a less spectacular role [than his co-star] makes a few minutes silence during his mock-trial scene something that many a more established actor might watch with profit.” Burns Mantle wrote that it “…contained the most honest acting now to be seen in New York.”

Following the show’s four-month run, Cagney went back to vaudeville for the next couple of years. He achieved varied success, but after appearing in Outside Looking In, the Cagneys were more financially secure. During this period, he met George M. Cohan, whom he later portrayed in Yankee Doodle Dandy, though they never spoke.

Cagney secured the lead role in the 1926–27 season West End production of Broadway by George Abbott. The show’s management insisted that he copy Broadway lead Lee Tracy’s performance, despite Cagney’s discomfort in doing so, but the day before the show sailed for England, they decided to replace him. This was a devastating turn of events for Cagney; apart from the logistical difficulties this presented—the couple’s luggage was in the hold of the ship and they had given up their apartment. He almost quit show business. As Vernon recalled, “Jimmy said that it was all over. He made up his mind that he would get a job doing something else.”

The Cagneys had run-of-the-play contracts, which lasted as long as the play did. Vernon was in the chorus line of the show, and with help from the Actors’ Equity Association, Cagney understudied Tracy on the Broadway show, providing them with a desperately needed steady income. Cagney also established a dance school for professionals, then landed a part in the play Women Go On Forever, directed by John Cromwell, which ran for four months. By the end of the run, Cagney was exhausted from acting and running the dance school.

He had built a reputation as an innovative teacher, so when he was cast as the lead in Grand Street Follies of 1928, he was also appointed the choreographer. The show received rave reviews and was followed by Grand Street Follies of 1929. These roles led to a part in George Kelly’s Maggie the Magnificent, a play the critics disliked, though they like Cagney’s performance. Cagney saw this role (and Women Go on Forever) as significant because of the talented directors he met. He learned “…what a director was for and what a director could do. They were directors who could play all the parts in the play better than the actors cast for them.”

 

Warner Bros. (1930–1935)

Playing opposite Cagney in Maggie the Magnificent was Joan Blondell, who starred again with him a few months later in Marie Baumer’s new play Penny Arcade. While the critics panned Penny Arcade, they praised Cagney and Blondell. Al Jolson, sensing film potential, bought the rights for $20,000. He then sold the play to Warner Brothers, with the stipulation that they cast Cagney and Blondell in the film version. Re-titled Sinners’ Holiday, the film was released in 1930. Cagney was given a $500-a-week, three-week contract. In the fjilm, he portrays Harry Delano, a tough guy who becomes a killer, but generates sympathy because of his unfortunate upbringing. This role of the sympathetic “bad” guy was a recurring character type for Cagney throughout his career. During filming of Sinners’ Holiday, he also demonstrated the stubbornness that characterized his work attitude. He later recalled an argument he had with director John Adolfi about a line: “There was a line in the show where I was supposed to be crying on my mother’s breast… [The line] was ‘I’m your baby, ain’t I?’ I refused to say it. Adolfi said ‘I’m going to tell Zanuck.’ I said ‘I don’t give a shit what you tell him, I’m not going to say that line.'” They took the line out.

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Despite this outburst, the studio liked him, and before his three-week contract was up—while the film was still shooting—they gave Cagney a three-week extension, which was followed by a full seven-year contract at $400 a week. The contract, however, allowed Warners to drop him at the end of any 40-week period, effectively only guaranteeing him 40 weeks income at a time. As when he was growing up, Cagney shared his income with his family. Cagney received good reviews, and immediately starred in another gangster role in The Doorway to Hell. The film was a financial hit, helping cement Cagney’s growing reputation. He made four more movies before his breakthrough role.

Warner Brothers′ succession of gangster movie hits, in particular Little Caesar with Edward G. Robinson, culminated with the 1931 film The Public Enemy. Due to the strong reviews in his short film career, Cagney was cast as nice-guy Matt Doyle, opposite Edward Woods as Tom Powers. However, after the initial rushes, each was reassigned the other’s part. The film cost only $151,000 to make, but it became one of the first low-budget films to gross $1 million.

Cagney received widespread praise for his role. The New York Herald Tribune described his performance as “…the most ruthless, unsentimental appraisal of the meanness of a petty killer the cinema has yet devised.” He received top billing after the film, but while he acknowledged the importance of the role to his career, he always disputed that it changed the way heroes and leading men were portrayed; he cited Clark Gable’s slapping of Barbara Stanwyck six months earlier (in Night Nurse) as more important. Night Nurse was actually released three months after The Public Enemy, and Gable punched Stanwyck in the film, knocking her character unconscious, then carried her across the hall, where she woke up later.

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Many critics view the scene in which Cagney pushes a grapefruit into Mae Clarke’s face as one of the most famous moments in movie history. The scene itself was a late addition, and who thought of the idea is a matter of debate. Producer Darryl Zanuck claimed he thought of it in a script conference, director William Wellman claimed that the idea came to him when he saw the grapefruit on the table during the shoot, and writers Glasmon and Bright claimed it was based on the real life of gangster Hymie Weiss, who threw an omelet into his girlfriend’s face. Cagney himself usually cited the writers’ version, but the fruit’s victim, Clarke, agreed that it was Wellman’s idea, saying, “I’m sorry I ever agreed to do the grapefruit bit. I never dreamed it would be shown in the movie. Director Bill Wellman thought of the idea suddenly. It wasn’t even written into the script.”

However, according to Turner Classic Movies (TCM), the grapefruit scene was a practical joke that Cagney and co-star Mae Clarke decided to play on the crew while the cameras were rolling. Wellman liked it so much that he left it in. TCM also notes that the scene made Clarke’s ex-husband, Lew Brice, very happy. “He saw the film repeatedly just to see that scene, and was often shushed by angry patrons when his delighted laughter got too loud.”

Filmmakers have mimicked it many times, such as Lee Marvin’s character splashing scalding coffee in the face of Gloria Grahame in The Big Heat. Cagney himself was offered grapefruit in almost every restaurant he visited for years after, and Clarke claimed it virtually ruined her career because of typecasting.

Cagney’s stubbornness became well known behind the scenes, not least after his refusal to join in a 100 percent participation free charity drive pushed by Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. Cagney did not object to donating money to charity, but rather to being forced to. Already he had acquired the nickname “The Professional Againster.”

Along with George Raft, Edward G. Robinson and Humphrey Bogart, all of whom were Warner Bros. actors, Cagney defined what a movie gangster was. In G Men (1934), though, he played a lawyer who joins the FBI.

Warners was quick to team its two rising gangster stars—Edward G. Robinson and Cagney—for the 1931 film Smart Money. So keen was the studio to follow up the success of Robinson’s Little Caesar that Cagney actually shot Smart Money (for which he received second billing in a supporting role) at the same time as The Public Enemy. As in The Public Enemy, Cagney was required to be physically violent to a woman on screen, a signal that Warners was keen to keep Cagney in the public eye. This time, he slapped co-star Evalyn Knapp.

With the introduction of the United States Motion Picture Production Code of 1930, and particularly its edicts concerning on-screen violence, Warners allowed Cagney a change of pace. They cast him in the comedy Blonde Crazy, again opposite Blondell. As he completed filming, The Public Enemy was filling cinemas with all-night showings. Cagney began to compare his pay with his peers, thinking his contract allowed for salary adjustments based on the success of his films. Warners disagreed, however, and refused to give him a raise. The studio heads also insisted that Cagney continue promoting their films, even ones he was not in, which he opposed. Cagney moved back to New York, leaving his apartment to his brother Bill to look after.

While Cagney was in New York, his brother, who had effectively become his agent, angled for a substantial pay rise and more personal freedom for his brother. The success of The Public Enemy and Blonde Crazy forced Warners’ hand. They eventually offered Cagney a contract for $1000 a week. Cagney’s first film upon returning from New York was 1932’s Taxi!. The film is notable for not only being the first time that Cagney danced on screen, but it was also the last time he allowed himself to be shot at with live ammunition (a relatively common occurrence at the time, as blank cartridges and squibs were considered too expensive and hard to find to use in most motion picture filming). He had been shot at in The Public Enemy, but during filming for Taxi!, he was almost hit.

In his opening scene, Cagney spoke fluent Yiddish, a language he had picked up during his boyhood in New York City. Critics praised the film. Taxi! was the source of one of Cagney’s most misquoted lines; he never actually said, “MMMmmm, you dirty rat!”, a line commonly used by impressionists. The closest he got to it in the film was, “Come out and take it, you dirty, yellow-bellied rat, or I’ll give it to you through the door!” The film was swiftly followed by The Crowd Roars and Winner Take All.

Despite his success, Cagney remained dissatisfied with his contract. He wanted more money for his successful films, but he also offered to take a smaller salary should his star wane. Warners refused, and so Cagney once again walked out. He held out for $4000 a week, the same salary as Edward G. Robinson, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., and Kay Francis. Warners refused to cave in this time, and suspended Cagney. Cagney announced that he would do his next three pictures for free if Warners canceled the five years remaining on his contract. He also threatened to quit Hollywood and go back to Columbia University to follow his brothers into medicine. After six months of suspension, Frank Capra brokered a deal that increased Cagney’s salary to around $3000 a week, and guaranteed top billing and no more than four films a year.

Having learned about the block-booking studio system that almost guaranteed the studios huge profits, Cagney was determined to spread the wealth. He regularly sent money and goods to old friends from his neighborhood, though he did not generally make this known. His insistence on no more than four films a year was based on his having witnessed actors—even teenagers—regularly being worked 100 hours a week to turn out more films. This experience was an integral reason for his involvement in forming the Screen Actors Guild in 1933.

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Cagney returned to the studio and made Hard to Handle in 1933. This was followed by a steady stream of films, including the highly regarded Footlight Parade, which gave Cagney the chance to return to his song-and-dance roots. The film includes show-stopping scenes with Busby Berkeley-choreographed routines. His next notable film was 1934’s Here Comes the Navy, which paired him with Pat O’Brien for the first time. The two would have an enduring friendship.

In 1935, Cagney was listed as one of the Top Ten Moneymakers in Hollywood for the first time, and was cast more frequently in non-gangster roles; he played a lawyer who joins the FBI in G-Men, and he also took on his first, and only, Shakespearean role, as top-billed Nick Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream alongside Joe E. Brown as Flute and Mickey Rooney as Puck.

Cagney’s last movie in 1935 was Ceiling Zero, his third film with Pat O’Brien. O’Brien received top billing, which was a clear breach of Cagney’s contract. This, combined with the fact that Cagney had made five movies in 1934, again against his contract terms, caused him to bring legal proceedings against Warners for breach of contract. The dispute dragged on for several months. Cagney received calls from David Selznick and Sam Goldwyn, but neither felt in a position to offer him work while the dispute went on. Meanwhile, while being represented by his brother William in court, Cagney went back to New York to search for a country property where he could indulge his passion for farming.

 

Independent years (1936–1937)

Cagney spent most of the next year on his farm, and went back to work only when Edward L. Alperson from Grand National Films, a newly established, independent studio, approached him to make movies for $100,000 a film and 10% of the profits. Cagney made two films for Grand National: Great Guy and Something to Sing About. He received good reviews for both,] but overall the production quality was not up to Warners standards, and the films did not do well. A third film, Dynamite, was planned, but Grand National ran out of money.

Cagney also became involved in political causes, and in 1936, agreed to sponsor the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League] Unknown to Cagney, the League was in fact a front organization for the Communist International (Comintern), which sought to enlist support for the Soviet Union and its foreign policies.

The courts eventually decided the Warner Brothers lawsuit in Cagney’s favor. He had done what many thought unthinkable: taking on the studios and winning. Not only did he win, Warners knew that he was still a star and invited him back for a five-year, $150,000 a film deal, with no more than two pictures a year. Cagney would also have full say over what films he did and did not make. Additionally, William Cagney was guaranteed the position of assistant producer for the movies his brother starred in.

Cagney had demonstrated the power of the walkout in keeping the studios to their word. He later explained his reasons, saying, “I walked out because I depended on the studio heads to keep their word on this, that or other promise, and when the promise was not kept, my only recourse was to deprive them of my services.” Cagney himself acknowledged the importance of the walkout for other actors in breaking the dominance of the studio system. Normally, when a star walked out, the time he or she were absent was added onto the end of an already long contract, as happened with Olivia de Havilland and Bette Davis. Cagney, however, walked out and came back to a better contract. Many in Hollywood watched the case closely for hints of how future contracts might be handled.

Artistically, the Grand National experiment was a success for Cagney, who was able to move away from his traditional Warners tough guy roles to more sympathetic characters. How far he could have experimented and developed will never be known, but back in the Warners fold, he was once again playing tough guys.

 

Return to Warner Bros. (1938–1942)

Cagney’s two films of 1938, Boy Meets Girl and Angels with Dirty Faces, both costarred Pat O’Brien. The former saw Cagney in a comedy role, and received mixed reviews. Warners had allowed Cagney his change of pace, but was keen to get him back to playing tough guys, which was more lucrative. Ironically, the script for Angels was one that Cagney had hoped to do while with Grand National, but the studio had been unable to secure funding.

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Cagney starred as Rocky Sullivan, a gangster fresh out of jail and looking for his former associate, played by Humphrey Bogart, who owes him money. While revisiting his old haunts, he runs into his old friend Jerry Connolly, played by O’Brien, who is now a priest concerned about the Dead End Kids’ futures, particularly as they idolize Rocky. After a messy shootout, Sullivan is eventually captured by the police and sentenced to death in the electric chair. Connolly pleads with Rocky to “turn yellow” on his way to the chair so that the Kids will lose their admiration for him, and hopefully avoid turning to crime. Sullivan refuses, but on his way to his execution, he breaks down and begs for his life. It is unclear whether this cowardice is real or just feigned for the Kids’ benefit. Cagney himself refused to say, insisting he liked the ambiguity. The film is regarded by many as one of Cagney’s finest, and garnered him an Academy Award for Best Actor nomination for 1938. He lost to Spencer Tracy in Boys Town. Cagney had been considered for the role, but lost out on it due to his typecasting. (He also lost the role of Notre Dame football coach Knute Rockne in Knute Rockne, All American to his friend Pat O’Brien for the same reason.) Cagney did, however, win that year’s New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor.

His earlier insistence on not filming with live ammunition proved to be a good decision. Having been told while filming Angels with Dirty Faces that he would be doing a scene with real machine gun bullets (a common practice in the Hollywood of the time), Cagney refused and insisted the shots be added afterwards. As it turned out, a ricocheting bullet passed through exactly where his head would have been.

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During his first year back at Warners, Cagney became the studio’s highest earner, making $324,000. He completed his first decade of movie-making in 1939 with The Roaring Twenties, his first film with Raoul Walsh and his last with Bogart. After The Roaring Twenties it would be a decade before Cagney made another gangster film. Cagney again received good reviews; Graham Greene stated that “Mr. Cagney, of the bull-calf brow, is as always a superb and witty actor.” The Roaring Twenties was the last film in which Cagney’s character’s violence was explained by poor upbringing, or their environment, as was the case in The Public Enemy. From that point on, violence was attached to mania, as in White Heat. In 1939, Cagney was second to only Gary Cooper in the national acting wage stakes, earning $368,333.

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His next notable role was George M. Cohan in Yankee Doodle Dandy, a film Cagney “took great pride in” and considered his best. Producer Hal Wallis said that having seen Cohan in I’d Rather Be Right, he never considered anyone other than Cagney for the part. Cagney, on the other hand, insisted that Fred Astaire had been the first choice, but turned it down.

Filming began the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and the cast and crew worked in a “patriotic frenzy” as the United States’ involvement in World War II gave the cast and crew a feeling that “they might be sending the last message from the free world,” according to actress Rosemary DeCamp. Cohan was given a private showing of the film shortly before his death, and thanked Cagney “for a wonderful job.” A paid première, with seats ranging from $25 to $25,000, raised $5,750,000 for war bonds for the US treasury.

“Smart, alert, hard-headed, Cagney is as typically American as Cohan himself… It was a remarkable performance, probably Cagney’s best, and it makes Yankee Doodle a dandy”

Time magazine

Many critics of the time and since have declared it Cagney’s best film, drawing parallels between Cohan and Cagney; they both began their careers in vaudeville, struggled for years before reaching the peak of their profession, were surrounded with family and married early, and both had a wife who was happy to sit back while he went on to stardom. The film was nominated for eight Academy Awards and won three, including Cagney’s for Best Actor. In his acceptance speech, Cagney said, “I’ve always maintained that in this business, you’re only as good as the other fellow thinks you are. It’s nice to know that you people thought I did a good job. And don’t forget that it was a good part, too.”

 

Independent again (1942–1948)

Cagney announced in March 1942 that he and brother William were setting up Cagney Productions to release films though United Artists. Free of Warners again, Cagney spent some time relaxing on his farm in Martha’s Vineyard before volunteering to join the USO. He spent several weeks touring the US, entertaining troops with vaudeville routines and scenes from Yankee Doodle Dandy. In September 1942, he was elected president of the Screen Actors Guild.

Almost a year after the creation of his new production company, Cagney Productions produced its first film, Johnny Come Lately, in 1943. While the major studios were producing patriotic war movies, Cagney was determined to continue dispelling his tough guy image, so he produced a movie that was a “complete and exhilarating exposition of the Cagney ‘alter-ego’ on film.” According to Cagney, the film “made money but it was no great winner,” and reviews varied from excellent (Time) to poor (New York’s PM).

“I’m here to dance a few jigs, sing a few songs, say hello to the boys, and that’s all.”

Cagney to British reporters

Following the film’s completion, Cagney went back to the USO and toured US military bases in the UK. He refused to give interviews to the British press, preferring to concentrate on rehearsals and performances. He gave several performances a day for the Army Signal Corps of The American Cavalcade of Dance, which consisted of a history of American dance, from the earliest days to Fred Astaire, and culminated with dances from Yankee Doodle Dandy.

The second movie Cagney’s company produced was Blood on the Sun. Insisting on doing his own stunts, Cagney required judo training from expert Ken Kuniyuki and Jack Halloran, a former policeman. The Cagneys had hoped that an action film would appeal more to audiences, but it fared worse at the box office than Johnny Come Lately. At this time, Cagney heard of young war hero Audie Murphy, who had appeared on the cover of Life magazine. Cagney thought that Murphy had the looks to be a movie star, and suggested that he come to Hollywood. Cagney felt, however, that Murphy could not act, and his contract was loaned out and then sold.

While negotiating the rights for his third independent film, Cagney starred in 20th Century Fox’s 13 Rue Madeleine for $300,000 for two months of work. The wartime spy film was a success, and Cagney was keen to begin production of his new project, an adaptation of William Saroyan’s Broadway play The Time of Your Life. Saroyan himself loved the film, but it was a commercial disaster, costing the company half a million dollars to make; audiences again struggled to accept Cagney in a non-tough guy role.

Cagney Productions was in serious trouble; poor returns from the produced films, and a legal dispute with Sam Goldwyn Studio over a rental agreement forced Cagney back to Warners. He signed a distribution-production deal with the studio for the film White Heat, effectively making Cagney Productions a unit of Warner Brothers.

 

Back to Warners (1949–1955)

Cagney’s portrayal of Cody Jarrett in the 1949 film White Heat is one of his most memorable. Cinema had changed in the ten years since Walsh last directed Cagney (in The Strawberry Blonde), and the actor’s portrayal of gangsters had also changed. Unlike Tom Powers in The Public Enemy, Jarrett was portrayed as a raging lunatic with few if any sympathetic qualities. In the 18 intervening years, Cagney’s hair had begun to gray, and he developed a paunch for the first time. He was no longer a romantic commodity, and this was reflected in his performance. Cagney himself had the idea of playing Jarrett as psychotic; he later stated that “it was essentially a cheapie one-two-three-four kind of thing, so I suggested we make him nuts. It was agreed so we put in all those fits and headaches.”

Cagney’s final lines in the film – “Made it, Ma! Top of the world!” – was voted the 18th greatest movie line by the American Film Institute. Likewise, Jarrett’s explosion of rage in prison on being told of his mother’s death is widely hailed as one of Cagney’s most memorable performances. Some of the extras on set actually became terrified of the actor because of his violent portrayal. Cagney attributed the performance to his father’s alcoholic rages, which he had witnessed as a child, as well as someone that he had seen on a visit to a mental hospital.

“[A] homicidal paranoiac with a mother fixation”

Warner Bros. publicity description of Cody Jarrett in White Heat

The film was a critical success, though some critics wondered about the social impact of a character that they saw as sympathetic. Cagney was still struggling against his gangster typecasting. He said to a journalist, “It’s what the people want me to do. Some day, though, I’d like to make another movie that kids could go and see.” However, Warners, perhaps searching for another Yankee Doodle Dandy, assigned Cagney a musical for his next picture, 1950’s The West Point Story with Doris Day, an actress he admired.

His next film, Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye, was another gangster movie, which was the first by Cagney Productions since its acquisition by Warners. While compared unfavorably to White Heat by critics, it was fairly successful at the box office, with $500,000 going straight to Cagney Productions’ bankers to pay off their losses. Cagney Productions was not a great success, however, and in 1953, after William Cagney produced his last film, A Lion Is in the Streets, the company came to an end.

Cagney’s next notable role was the 1955 film Love Me or Leave Me, his third with Day. Cagney played Martin “Moe the Gimp” Snyder, a lame Jewish-American gangster from Chicago, a part Spencer Tracy had turned down. Cagney described the script as “that extremely rare thing, the perfect script.” When the film was released, Snyder reportedly asked how Cagney had so accurately copied his limp, but Cagney himself insisted he had not, having based it on personal observation of other people when they limped: “What I did was very simple. I just slapped my foot down as I turned it out while walking. That’s all.”

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His performance earned him another Best Actor Academy Award nomination, 17 years after his first. Reviews were strong, and the film is considered one of the best of his later career. In Day, he found a co-star he could build a rapport with, such as he had had with Blondell at the start of his career. Day herself was full of praise for Cagney, stating that he was “the most professional actor I’ve ever known. He was always ‘real’. I simply forgot we were making a picture. His eyes would actually fill up when we were working on a tender scene. And you never needed drops to make your eyes shine when Jimmy was on the set.”

Cagney’s next film was Mister Roberts, directed by John Ford and slated to star Spencer Tracy. It was Tracy’s involvement that ensured that Cagney accepted a supporting role, although in the end, Tracy did not take part. Cagney had worked with Ford before on What Price Glory?, and they had gotten along fairly well. However, as soon as Ford met Cagney at the airport, the director warned him that they would “tangle asses,” which caught Cagney by surprise. He later said, “I would have kicked his brains out. He was so goddamned mean to everybody. He was truly a nasty old man.” The next day, Cagney was slightly late on set, incensing Ford. Cagney cut short his imminent tirade, saying “When I started this picture, you said that we would tangle asses before this was over. I’m ready now – are you?” Ford walked away, and they had no more problems, even though Cagney never particularly liked Ford.

Cagney’s skill at noticing tiny details in other actors’ performances became apparent during the shooting of Mister Roberts. While watching the Kraft Music Hall anthology television show some months before, Cagney had noticed Jack Lemmon performing left-handed. The first thing that Cagney asked Lemmon when they met was if he was still using his left hand. Lemmon was shocked; he had done it on a whim, and thought no one else had noticed. He said of his co-star, “his powers of observation must be absolutely incredible, in addition to the fact that he remembered it. I was very flattered.”

The film was a success, securing three Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, Best Sound Recording and Best Supporting Actor for Lemmon, who won. While Cagney was not nominated, he had thoroughly enjoyed the production. Filming on Midway Island and in a more minor role meant that he had time to relax and engage in his hobby of painting. He also drew caricatures of the cast and crew.

 

Later career (1955–1961)

Cagney worked with MGM on the Western film Tribute to a Bad Man, a role that had originally been written for Spencer Tracy. He received praise for his performance, and the studio liked his work enough to offer him These Wilder Years with Barbara Stanwyck. The two stars got on well; they had both previously worked in vaudeville, and they entertained the cast and crew off-screen by singing and dancing.

In 1956, Cagney undertook one of his very rare television roles, starring in Robert Montgomery’s Soldiers From the War Returning. This was a favor to Montgomery, who needed a strong fall season opener to stop the network from dropping his series. Cagney’s appearance ensured that it was a success. The actor made it clear to reporters afterwards that television was not his medium: “I do enough work in movies. This is a high-tension business. I have tremendous admiration for the people who go through this sort of thing every week, but it’s not for me.”

The following year, Cagney appeared in Man of a Thousand Faces, in which he played Lon Chaney. He received excellent reviews, with the New York Journal American rating it one of his best performances, and the film, made for Universal, was a box office hit. Cagney’s skill at mimicry, combined with a physical similarity to Chaney, helped him generate empathy for his character.

Later in 1957, Cagney ventured behind the camera for the first and only time to direct Short Cut to Hell, a remake of the 1941 Alan Ladd film This Gun for Hire, which in turn was based on the Graham Greene novel A Gun for Sale. Cagney had long been told by friends that he would make an excellent director, so when he was approached by his friend, producer A. C. Lyles, he instinctively said yes. He refused all offers of payment, saying he was an actor, not a director. The film was low budget, and shot quickly. As Cagney recalled, “We shot it in twenty days, and that was long enough for me. I find directing a bore, I have no desire to tell other people their business.”

In 1959, Cagney played a labor leader in what proved to be his final musical, Never Steal Anything Small, which featured a comical song and dance duet with Cara Williams, who played his girlfriend.

For Cagney’s next film, he traveled to Ireland for Shake Hands with the Devil, directed by Michael Anderson. Cagney had hoped to spend some time tracing his Irish ancestry, but time constraints and poor weather meant that he was unable to do so. The overriding message of violence inevitably leading to more violence attracted Cagney to the role of an Irish Republican Army commander, and resulted in what some critics would regard as the finest performance of his final years.

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Cagney’s career began winding down, and he made only one film in 1960, the critically acclaimed The Gallant Hours, in which he played Admiral William F. “Bull” Halsey. The film, although set during the Guadalcanal Campaign in the Pacific Theater during World War II, was not a war film, but instead focused on the impact of command. Cagney Productions, which shared the production credit with Robert Montgomery’s company, made a brief return, though in name only. The film was a success, and The New York Times’ Bosley Crowther singled its star out for praise: “It is Mr. Cagney’s performance, controlled to the last detail, that gives life and strong, heroic stature to the principal figure in the film. There is no braggadocio in it, no straining for bold or sharp effects. It is one of the quietest, most reflective, subtlest jobs that Mr. Cagney has ever done.”

“I never had the slightest difficulty with a fellow actor. Not until One, Two, Three. In that picture, Horst Buchholz tried all sorts of scene-stealing didoes. I came close to knocking him on his ass.”

James Cagney on the filming of One, Two, Three

Cagney’s penultimate film was a comedy. He was handpicked by Billy Wilder to play a hard-driving Coca-Cola executive in the film One, Two, Three. Cagney had concerns with the script, remembering back 23 years to Boy Meets Girl, in which scenes were re-shot to try to make them funnier by speeding up the pacing, with the opposite effect. Cagney received assurances from Wilder that the script was balanced. Filming did not go well, though, with one scene requiring 50 takes, something Cagney was unaccustomed to. In fact, it was one of the worst experiences of his long career. For the first time, Cagney considered walking out of a film. He felt he had worked too many years inside studios, and combined with a visit to Dachau concentration camp during filming, he decided that he had had enough, and retired afterward. One of the few positive aspects was his friendship with Pamela Tiffin, to whom he gave acting guidance, including the secret that he had learned over his career: “You walk in, plant yourself squarely on both feet, look the other fella in the eye, and tell the truth.”

 

Later years and retirement (1961–1986)

Cagney remained in retirement for twenty years, conjuring up images of Jack Warner every time he was tempted to return, which soon dispelled the notion. After he had turned down an offer to play Alfred Doolittle in My Fair Lady, he found it easier to rebuff others, including a part in The Godfather Part II. He made few public appearances, preferring to spend winters in Los Angeles, and summers either at his Martha’s Vineyard farm or at Verney Farms in New York State. When in New York, he and Billie Vernon held numerous parties at the Silver Horn restaurant, where they got to know Marge Zimmerman, the proprietress.

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Cagney was diagnosed with glaucoma and began taking eye drops, but continued to have vision problems. On Zimmerman’s recommendation, he visited a different doctor, who determined that glaucoma had been a misdiagnosis, and that Cagney was actually diabetic. Zimmerman then took it upon herself to look after Cagney, preparing his meals to reduce his blood triglycerides, which had reached alarming levels. Such was her success that, by the time Cagney made a rare public appearance at his American Film Institute Lifetime Achievement award ceremony in 1974, he had lost 20 pounds (9.1 kg) and his vision had improved. Charlton Heston opened the ceremony, and Frank Sinatra introduced Cagney. So many Hollywood stars attended—said to be more than for any event in history—that one columnist wrote at the time that a bomb in the dining room would have ended the movie industry. In his acceptance speech, Cagney lightly chastised the impressionist Frank Gorshin, saying, “Oh, Frankie, just in passing, I never said ‘MMMMmmmm, you dirty rat!’ What I actually did say was ‘Judy, Judy, Judy!'”—a joking reference to a similar misquotation attributed to Cary Grant.

“I think he’s some kind of genius. His instinct, it’s just unbelievable. I could just stay at home. One of the qualities of a brilliant actor is that things look better on the screen than the set. Jimmy has that quality.”

Director Miloš Forman

While at Coldwater Canyon in 1977, Cagney had a minor stroke. After two weeks in the hospital, Zimmerman became his full-time caregiver, traveling with him and Billie Vernon wherever they went. After the stroke, Cagney was no longer able to undertake many of his favorite pastimes, including horseback riding and dancing, and as he became more depressed, he even gave up painting. Encouraged by his wife and Zimmerman, Cagney accepted an offer from the director Miloš Forman to star in a small but pivotal role in the film Ragtime (1981).

This film was shot mainly at Shepperton Studios in Surrey, England, and on his arrival at Southampton aboard the Queen Elizabeth 2, Cagney was mobbed by hundreds of fans. Cunard Line officials, who were responsible for the security at the dock, said they had never seen anything like it, although they had experienced past visits by Marlon Brando and Robert Redford.

Despite the fact that Ragtime was his first film in twenty years, Cagney was immediately at ease: Flubbed lines and miscues were committed by his co-stars, often simply through sheer awe. Howard Rollins, who received a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for his performance, said, “I was frightened to meet Mr. Cagney. I asked him how to die in front of the camera. He said ‘Just die!’ It worked. Who would know more about dying than him?” Cagney also repeated the advice he had given to Pamela Tiffin, Joan Leslie, and Lemmon. As filming progressed, Cagney’s sciatica worsened, but he finished the nine-week filming, and reportedly stayed on the set after completing his scenes to help the other actors with their dialogue.

Cagney’s frequent co-star, Pat O’Brien, appeared with him on the British chat show Parkinson in the early 1970s and they both made a surprise appearance at the Queen Mother’s command birthday performance at the London Palladium in 1980. His appearance on stage prompted the Queen Mother to rise to her feet, the only time she did so during the whole show, and she later broke protocol to go backstage to speak with Cagney directly.

Cagney made a rare TV appearance in the lead role of the movie Terrible Joe Moran in 1984. This was his last role. His health was fragile and more strokes had confined him to a wheelchair. The producers, however, worked his real-life disabilities into the role. The film made use of fight clips from Cagney’s boxing movie Winner Take All (1932), despite the fact that the TV-movie is about an entirely different character.

 

Personal life

In 1920, Cagney was a member of the chorus for the show Pitter Patter, where he met Frances Willard “Billie” Vernon. They married on September 28, 1922, and the marriage lasted until his death in 1986. Frances Cagney died in 1994. In 1941, they adopted a son whom they named James Cagney, Jr., and later a daughter, Cathleen “Casey” Cagney. Cagney was a very private man, and while he was very willing to give the press opportunities for photographs, he generally spent his time out of the public eye.

Cagney’s son married Jill Lisbeth Inness in 1962. The couple had two children, James III and Cindy. Cagney Jr. died from a heart attack on January 27, 1984 in Washington, D.C., two years before his father’s death. He had become estranged from his father and had not seen or talked to him since 1982.

Cagney’s daughter Cathleen married Jack W. Thomas in 1962. She too was estranged from her father during the final years of his life. She died on August 11, 2004.

As a young man, Cagney became interested in farming – sparked by a soil conservation lecture he had attended – to the extent that during his first walkout from Warners, he help to found a 100-acre (0.40 km2) farm in Martha’s Vineyard. Cagney loved that there were no concrete roads surrounding the property, only dirt tracks. The house was rather run-down and ramshackle, and Billie was initially reluctant to move in, but soon came to love the place as well. After being inundated by movie fans, Cagney sent out a rumor that he had hired a gunman for security. The ruse proved so successful that when Spencer Tracy came to visit, his taxi driver refused to drive up to the house, saying, “I hear they shoot!” Tracy had to go the rest of the way on foot.

In 1955, having shot three films, Cagney bought a 120-acre (0.49 km2) farm in Stanfordville, Dutchess County, New York, for $100,000. Cagney named it Verney Farm, taking the first syllable from Billie’s maiden name and the second from his own surname. He turned it into a working farm, selling some of the dairy cattle and replacing them with beef cattle. He expanded it over the years to 750 acres (3.0 km2). Such was Cagney’s enthusiasm for agriculture and farming that his diligence and efforts were rewarded by an honorary degree from Florida’s Rollins College. Rather than just “turning up with Ava Gardner on my arm,” to accept his honorary degree, Cagney turned the tables upon the college’s faculty by writing and submitting a paper on soil conservation.

Cagney, born in 1899 (prior to widespread use of automobiles) loved horses from childhood. As a child, he often sat on the horses of local deliverymen, and rode in horse-drawn streetcars with his mother. As an adult, well after horses were replaced by automobiles as the primary mode of transportation, Cagney raised horses on his farms, specializing in Morgans, a breed he was particularly fond of.

Cagney was a keen sailor and owned boats harbored on both US coasts, His joy in sailing, however, did not protect him from occasional seasickness—becoming ill, sometimes, on a calm day while weathering rougher, heavier seas] at other times. Cagney greatly enjoyed painting, and claimed in his autobiography that he might have been happier, if somewhat poorer, as a painter than a movie star. The renowned painter Sergei Bongart taught Cagney in his later life and owned two of Cagney’s works. Cagney often gave away his work but refused to sell his paintings, considering himself an amateur. He signed and sold only one painting, purchased by Johnny Carson to benefit a charity.

 

Political views

In his autobiography, Cagney said that as a young man, he had no political views, since he was more concerned with where the next meal was coming from. However the emerging labor movement of the twenties and thirties soon forced him to take sides. The first version of the National Labor Relations Act was passed in 1935 and growing tensions between labor and management fueled the movement. Fanzines in the 1930s, however, described his politics as “radical.” This somewhat exaggerated view was enhanced by his public contractual wranglings with Warners at the time, his joining of the Screen Actors Guild in 1933, and his involvement in the revolt against the so-called “Merriam tax“. The “Merriam Tax” was an underhanded method of funneling studio funds to politicians: during the 1934 Californian gubernatorial campaign, the studio executives would ‘tax’ their actors, automatically taking a day’s pay from their biggest-earners, ultimately sending nearly half a million dollars to the gubernatorial campaign of Frank Merriam. Cagney (as well as Jean Harlow) publicly refused to pay and Cagney even threatened that, if the studios took a day’s pay for Merriam’s campaign, he would give a week’s pay to Upton Sinclair, Merriam’s opponent in the race.

He supported political activist and labor leader Thomas Mooney’s defense fund, but was repelled by the behavior of some of Mooney’s supporters at a rally. Around the same time, he gave money for a Spanish Republican Army ambulance during the Spanish Civil War, which he put down to being “a soft touch.” This donation enhanced his liberal reputation. He also became involved in a “liberal group…with a leftist slant,” along with Ronald Reagan. However, when he and Reagan saw the direction the group was heading in, they resigned on the same night.

Cagney was accused of being a communist sympathizer in 1934, and again in 1940. The accusation in 1934 stemmed from a letter police found from a local Communist official that alleged that Cagney would bring other Hollywood stars to meetings. Cagney denied this, and Lincoln Steffens, husband of the letter’s writer, backed up this denial, asserting that the accusation stemmed solely from Cagney’s donation to striking cotton workers in the San Joaquin Valley. William Cagney claimed this donation was the root of the charges in 1940. Cagney was cleared by U.S. Representative Martin Dies, Jr., on the House Un-American Activities Committee.

Cagney became president of the Screen Actors Guild in 1942 for a two-year term. He took a role in the Guild’s fight against the Mafia, which had begun to take an active interest in the movie industry. His wife, Billie Vernon once received a phone call telling her that Cagney was dead. Cagney alleged that, having failed to scare him and the Guild off, they sent a hit man to kill him by dropping a heavy light onto his head. Upon hearing of the rumor of a hit, George Raft made a call, and the hit was supposedly canceled.

During World War II, Cagney raised money for war bonds by taking part in racing exhibitions at the Roosevelt Raceway and selling seats for the premiere of Yankee Doodle Dandy. He also let the Army practice maneuvers at his Martha’s Vineyard farm.

After the war, Cagney’s politics started to change. He had worked on Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidential campaigns, including the 1940 presidential election against Wendell Willkie. However, by the time of the 1948 election, he had become disillusioned with Harry S. Truman, and voted for Thomas E. Dewey, his first non-Democratic vote. By 1980, Cagney was contributing financially to the Republican Party, supporting his friend Ronald Reagan’s bid for the presidency in the 1980 election. As he got older, he became more and more conservative, referring to himself in his autobiography as “arch-conservative.” He regarded his move away from liberal politics as “…a totally natural reaction once I began to see undisciplined elements in our country stimulating a breakdown of our system… Those functionless creatures, the hippies … just didn’t appear out of a vacuum.”

 

Death

Cagney died at his Dutchess County farm in Stanfordville, New York, on Easter Sunday 1986, of a heart attack. He was 86 years old. A funeral Mass was held at Manhattan’s St. Francis de Sales Roman Catholic Church. The eulogy at the funeral was given by his close friend, who was also the President of the United States at the time, Ronald Reagan. His pallbearers included the boxer Floyd Patterson, the dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov (who had hoped to play Cagney on Broadway), actor Ralph Bellamy, and the director Miloš Forman.

Cagney’s body is interred in the Cemetery of the Gate of Heaven in Hawthorne, New York.

 

Honors and legacy

In 1974, Cagney received the American Film Institute’s Life Achievement Award. Charlton Heston, in announcing that Cagney was to be honored, called him “…one of the most significant figures of a generation when American film was dominant, Cagney, that most American of actors, somehow communicated eloquently to audiences all over the world …and to actors as well.”

He received the Kennedy Center Honors in 1980. In 1984, Ronald Reagan awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

In 1999, the U.S. Postal Service issued a 33-cent stamp honoring Cagney.

Cagney was among the most favored actors for the director Stanley Kubrick and the actor Marlon Brando, and was considered by Orson Welles to be “…maybe the greatest actor to ever appear in front of a camera.” Warner Brothers would arrange private screenings of Cagney films for Winston Churchill.