James Cagney

Angels With Dirty Faces: Fake Cowardice, Real Courage and Redemption

 

A profoundly Catholic movie, Angels With Dirty Faces (1938) is usually not perceived as such.  The tale of two slum kids, Jerry Connolly, Pat O’Brien, and Rocky Sullivan, James Cagney, who attempt to steal fountain pens from a train.  Sullivan, who can’t run as fast as his friend, is caught after the robbery.  Connolly wants to share in the blame for the theft, but Sullivan tells him not to be a sucker and takes all the blame.  Sentenced to a brutal reform school he embarks on a life of crime while his friend becomes a priest, assigned to the same slum parish which he and Sullivan attended as boys.

 

The priest and the gangster renew their friendship with Sullivan quickly becoming the idol of the slum boys that Connolly is trying to keep from a life of crime.  Connolly embarks on a crusade against the local gangsters, including Sullivan.  Sullivan murders his partner Jim Frazier, Humphrey Bogart, and Mac Keefer, George Bancroft, to save Connelly who they were planning to have killed to stop his anti-crime crusade.

 

Sullivan, who tells the authorities all he knows about the local criminal operations, is tried for these murders and sentenced to death.

The ending of the film is a powerful look at courage and redemption:

 

Father Jerry:  We haven’t got a lot of time.
I want to ask one last favor.

 
Rocky:   There’s not much left that I can do, kid.

 
Father Jerry:  Yes, there is, Rocky.
Perhaps more than you could do
under any other circumstances.
If you have the courage for it,
and I know you have.

 
Rocky:  Walking in there?
That’s not gonna take much.

 
Father Jerry:  I know that, Rocky.

 
Rocky:  It’s like a barber chair.
They’re gonna ask, “Anything to say?”
I’ll say, “Sure, give me a haircut, a shave
and one of those new electric massages.”

 
Father Jerry:  But you’re not afraid, Rocky?

 
Rocky:   No. They’d like me to be.
But I’m afraid I can’t oblige them, kid.
You know, Jerry, I think to be afraid,
you gotta have a heart.
I don’t think I got one.
I had that cut out of me a long time ago.

 
Rocky:  Suppose I asked you to have the heart, huh?
To be scared.

 
Rocky:  What do you mean?

 
Father Jerry:  Suppose the guards dragged you out of here
screaming for mercy.  Suppose you went to the chair yellow.

 

Continue reading

Fortnight For Freedom: Yankee Doodle

Fortnight For Freedom 2015

Something for a Fourth of July weekend:  Yankee Doodle.

 Originally sung by British officers to disparage American troops who fought beside them in the French and Indian War, it was seized upon by Patriots, given endless lyrics, and cheered the patriot troops and civilians during the eight long years of the Revolution.  After Lexington and Concord it was reported by Massachusetts newspapers that the British were suddenly not as fond of the song:

“Upon their return to Boston [pursued by the Minutemen], one [Briton] asked his brother officer how he liked the tune now, — ‘Dang them,’ returned he, ‘they made us dance it till we were tired’ — since which Yankee Doodle sounds less sweet to their ears.”

James Cagney did an immortal riff on Yankee Doodle in the musical biopic of composer and actor George M. Cohan in Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942):

Yankee Doodle plays in the background as Cagney at the end of the film, entirely impromptu, dances down the White House staircase:

Continue reading

Fortnight For Freedom: Battle Cries of Freedom

Fortnight For Freedom 2014

Something for the weekend.  The Battle Cry of Freedom was a popular song North and South during the Civil War.  Of course they sang different lyrics to the song.  The Union version was such a favorite among the Union troops, that President Lincoln, in a letter to George F. Root, the composer, wrote:  “You have done more than a hundred generals and a thousand  orators. If you could not shoulder a musket in defense of your country, you certainly have served her through your songs.”

Here is the Southern version sung by Bobby Horton who has waged a one man campaign to bring Civil War music to modern audiences:

 

Here is the version from the Lincoln (2012) movie:

Continue reading

Fortnight For Freedom 2013: Yankee Doodle

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops have proclaimed a second Fortnight for Freedom from June 21-July 4th, and, as last year, The American Catholic will participate with special blog posts each day.

Something for the weekend.  Yankee Doodle.  Originally sung by British officers to disparage American troops who fought beside them in the French and Indian War, it was seized upon by Patriots, given endless lyrics, and cheered the patriot troops and civilians during the eight long years of the Revolution.  After Lexington and Concord it was reported by Massachusetts newspapers that the British were suddenly not as fond of the song:

“Upon their return to Boston [pursued by the Minutemen], one [Briton] asked his brother officer how he liked the tune now, — ‘Dang them,’ returned he, ‘they made us dance it till we were tired’ — since which Yankee Doodle sounds less sweet to their ears.”

James Cagney did an immortal riff on Yankee Doodle in the musical biopic of composer and actor George M. Cohan in Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942):

Yankee Doodle plays in the background as Cagney at the end of the film, entirely impromptu, dances down the White House staircase:

Continue reading

One, Two, Three

Tomorrow is Victims of Communism Day and I will be having a post on that subject.  In a lighter vein on the same subject is the hilarious Cold War comedy One, Two, Three (1961), starring James Cagney and directed by Billy Wilder.  It actually foreshadowed the trajectory of the Cold War fairly better than many a serious study.  As the film indicates the Soviets simply were unable to produce consumer goods of a high enough quality to keep their people satisfied, and the failure to do so, along with the lack of freedom, ultimately led to the rapid fall in the eighties of the last century of regimes that looked on the surface to be rock solid. Continue reading

Follow The American Catholic
Bookmark and Share
Subscribe by eMail

Enter your email:

Recent Comments
Archives
Our Visitors. . .
Our Subscribers. . .