""He's a great movie actor"," opined Orson Welles of James Cagney, the Broadway vaudeville dancer/female impersonator who became Hollywood's ultimate tough guy. ""Everything he does is big and yet it's never for a moment unbelievable, because it's real."" The four classic crime-pictures in this collection capture the stylised realism and limitless vitality of this most original of actors.
Cagney's break came with one of the first gangster movies, The Public Enemy (1931), and such was his brute force as a prohibition-era Mobster, he became forever associated with the genre. In Angels With Dirty Faces (1938), he wrestles with priest Pat O'Brien for the souls of the Dead End Kids. The Death Row finale's preposterous but Cagney makes it moving.
Such is the star's magnetism in The Roaring Twenties (1939) that he even eclipses co-star Humphrey Bogart, while 10 years later he reunited with director Raoul Walsh for his best film: White Heat (1949). The anti-hero gangster of his earlier work had now become a psychopath and Cagney is terrifyingly believable. Essential viewing.
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