Wednesday, March 6, 2024

A Look Back At James Cagney's 'The Roaring Twenties'

Long before Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci and Al Pacino portrayed American mobsters in films, the late, great James Cagney appeared as a gangster in several classic American crime films. 

James Cagney is one of my favorite actors. 

I recently rewatched James Cagney in 1939’s The Roaring Twenties. 

Directed by Raoul Walsh, Cagney and two friends, Humphrey Bogart and Jeffrey Lynn, return home after serving together in the U.S. Army in WWI. 

Cagney and Bogart go into the bootlegging business during Prohibition, and Lynn, a lawyer, works for the two gangsters. 

Cagney, a dancer and a former amateur boxer, was very good as the tough guy Irish hoodlum. I love the way he threw a realistic punch upwards at taller and bigger men. 

He had a great face, voice and swagger. Although a short man, Cagney had a powerful screen presence. 

Bogart is also very good as a truly bad guy in the film. 

James Cagney was one of Warner Brothers’ movie stars during their Gold Age of crime films, along with Bogart, Edward G. Robinson and George Raft. 

Cagney’s breakout gangster film was 1930’s The Public Enemy, in which he famously squashed a grapefruit into a girl’s face. 

Cagney’s last portrayal of a gangster was in Raoul Walsh’s 1949’s White Heat, where the older, heavier Cagney dies shouting, “Top of the world, Ma!” 

You can watch The Roaring Twenties via the below link:        

Bing Videos 

Cagney also starred as song & dance man George M. Cohan in 1942’s Yankee Doodle Dandy.  

You can also read a biography of Jimmy Cagney via the below link:

James Cagney [biography]:Biography Description: Performing Arts Encyclopedia, Library of Congress ( 

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