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James Cagney Quotes


James CagneyBefore James Cagney's rise to prominence as one of the 2oth century's most iconic actors he learned his trade in Vaudeville as a dancer and a comedian. After securing his first movie role in the 1930 film Sinners' Holiday his fast talking New York accent became a trademark of his style as he delivered his lines with an intensity that oozed on screen charisma. Cagney got somewhat typecast in the early 1930's for gangster roles and despite excelling in this genre he always yearned to play different roles to enhance his acting repertoire. It was ironic that his only academy award for best actor came in a musical dramatisation of the life of George M. Cohan in Yankee Doodle Dandy whereby he danced his way to his Oscar in 1942. He also had a love of farming and in 1961 he retired from the silver screen to concentrate on his upstate New York farm. After his death in 1986 his long time friend Ronald Reagan, who was the U.S. president at the time, read the eulogy at his funeral which was held at the St. Francis de Sales Roman Catholic Church in Manhattan. He was undoubtedly one of the best actors of his generation with the actor and director Orson Welles going further by describing him as probably the best actor ever to stand in front of a camera. The greatest actors are often responsible for some fantastic one liners so here is my compilation of 10 of the best James Cagney quotes.
  • Mini Bio
  • Name: James Francis Cagney
  • Born: 17th July 1899, New York City, U.S.
  • Died: 30th March 1986, Stanford, New York, U.S.
  • Occupation: Actor and dancer
  • Famous for: Playing gangster roles with a wise cracking and compelling intensity
  • Influenced: Charles Durning, Michael J. Fox, Clint Eastwood and Malcolm McDowell all cited Cagney as there inspiration to become actors
  • Awards: He won an Oscar for best actor for his role as George M. Cohan in the movie Yankee Doodle Dandy in 1942, the same role also earned him the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor
  • Trivia: In an extraordinary (for a Hollywood star) turn of events he never once cheated on his wife Frances which saw them live a happily married life that lasted 64 years until his death

"You dirty, double-crossing rat"

James Cagney

"Never settle back on your heels. Never relax. If you relax, the audience relaxes. And always mean everything you say"

James Cagney

"You don't psych yourself up for these things, you do them... I'm acting for the audience, not for myself"

James Cagney

"I know you’re a smart lawyer, very smart, but don’t get smart with me"

James Cagney

"The kind of fellows I play, pretty girls don’t write to"

James Cagney

"All the kids today have cars, it seems. When I was young you were lucky to have a bike"

James Cagney

"Absorption in things other than self is the secret of a happy life"

James Cagney

"I have an idea that the Irish possess a built-in don't-give-a-damn that helps them through all the stress"

James Cagney

"Find your mark, look the other fellow in the eye, and tell the truth"

James Cagney

"I'm sick of carrying guns and beating up women"

James Cagney

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