About this Famous Person

James CAGNEY

American James CAGNEY

born James Francis CAGNEY

American actor

Source :  Tim DOWLING

Born: on July 18, 1899 in New York City, New York, USA
Died: on March 30, 1986 in Stanfordville, New York, USA


Biography

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 himself was very sick 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 in which they grew up. The family moved twice while he was still young, first to East 79th Street, and then to East 96th Street.

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.

He 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. 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 would eventually contribute 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, against all comers 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 in Brooklyn who lived 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. 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. Afterward, he joined a number of companies as a performer in a variety of roles.

Source :  © Copyright Wikipédia authors - This article is under licence CC BY-SA 3.0 .

See Also :

- Category Actor