Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, July 13, 2017


CAGNEY. John McCabe. Knopf; 1997.

John McCabe was actually the ghost writer for Cagney's memoirs, Cagney by Cagney, and herein fills in some of the gaps based on his knowledge of and conversations with the star and icon. There's Cagney's early days growing up in a tough neighborhood, his early stage career and his dissatisfaction with movie assignments and the money he was making, his hiring his actor-brother William to be his manager, his long-term marriage to wife "Willie," and so on. Apparently his relationship with his two adopted children was far from perfect, perhaps stemming from the fact that they were put in a separate house and didn't receive that much nurturing from their parents. There's just a little gossip -- Merle Oberon allegedly coming on to Cagney and being rebuffed -- and lots of information about Cagney's career. McCabe doesn't love every Cagney performance, and dissects his mannerisms and acting approach to certain roles, right or wrong, but considers him one of the three greatest American actors. While this is a solid and substantial book, one senses that a lot of has been left on the "cutting room floor," so to speak; sometimes being friends with your subject is not the best idea. With lots of illustrations and a filmography.

Verdict: Good, but something's missing ... ***.

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