LEGENDS JAMES CAGNEY by Richard Schnickel
This is an analysis of Cagney's screen characters and career. It recounts how he began his Hollywood career, and claims that he was the movies' symbol of the aspirations of America's urban second generation. Himself the child of immigrants, Cagney represented the spirit they believed could lift them out of the ghetto to power and prosperity. The drama of his first films, mostly comedies, revolved around the energetic assertion of his sprightly self in a world that was far from sprightly - Depression America. After filming "Yankee Doodle Dandy", both Cagney and the world began to age and change. Cagney played a succession of deranged anti-heroes. This study of Cagney's screen personalities is a profile of Cagney himself, but it also offers a meditation on over half a decade's social history, and on the changing national character which Cagney refracted.