“The thing that makes you also breaks you in this business, if you hammer at it too hard. The career is short enough as it is. It is always good policy to change your pace.” — James Cagney on playing certain types of characters on screen.
Source: Martha Kerr (1936)
“Shy. Intelligent. Genteel, Soft. Sentimental. Graceful. A beautiful dancer. Just the opposite from the roles he played. And also very observing. He’d observe people, cab drivers, everybody, and then he’d use what he saw in his acting. Jimmy Cagney! Dear Jimmy! He used to call me the world’s most naive sophisticate.” — Joan Blondell
Source: Donald Freeman (1968)
Photo: Blonde Crazy (1931)
“Once a song and dance man, always a song and dance man. Those few words tell as much about me professionally as there is to tell.” – James Cagney
“It can’t last. It never has and it never will.” – James Cagney in 1934, when asked to comment on the high salaries of popular stars.
Jimmy the Gent (1934)
At a celebrity baseball junket with George Raft.
“I look nuts. There’s something that people like about a guy who looks a little bit crazy. They never know which way he’s going to jump, whether he’ll turn out to be a poached egg or Napoleon. I guess that my other selling point would be titled, ‘pugnacity.’ I look the kind of guy who’s just about to pick a fight.” — James Cagney
Source: Caroline S. Hoyt (1938)
“They need you. Without you, they have an empty screen. So, when you get on there, just do what you think is right and stick with it.” – James Cagney
Photo: The Oklahoma Kid (1939)
The Oklahoma Kid (1939)
“My attitude to acting was completely professional. I had no thought of committing art. It was a job, and at night I went home to my family.” — James Cagney
Source: Joseph Glascott (1974)
Photo: Only Angels Have Wings (1939)
“There’s not much to say about acting but this. Never settle back on your heels. Never relax. If you relax, the audience relaxes. And always mean everything you say.” — James Cagney
James Cagney and George Raft from “Hollywood Steps Out,” a 1941 Warner Bros. cartoon that takes place inside a cartoon Ciro’s.
“…Jimmy, with whom I wanted to work in something fine, spent most of the picture removing cactus quills from my behind. This was supposedly hilarious. We romped about the desert and I kept falling into cactus. We both reached bottom in this one.” — Bette Davis
Photo: The Bride Came C.O.D. (1941)