Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Lady Killer (1933)

Director: Roy Del Ruth

Staring: James Cagney

More Info: IMDB

Tagline: Is Hollywood howling at this inside story of The Screen Idol Who Threw -?- -?- -?- Out Of His -?- -?- -?- On Her -?- !

Plot: When a movie theater usher is fired, he takes up with criminals and finds himself quite adept at various illegal activities. Eventually though, the police catch up with him, and he runs to hide out in Los Angeles. There he stumbles into the movie business and soon rises to stardom. He has gone straight, but his new found success arouses the interest of his old criminal associates, who are not above blackmail...

My Rating: 9/10

Would I watch it again? It's Cagney, of course.

I could go on all day about Cagney but for the gist of it, read what I said about JOHNNY DANGEROUSLY (1984) just before this one. Cagney is THE MAN. No one can touch him on what he brings to his pictures. He adds little touches to his performances that elevate him to a greater level. His pictures are fun as hell and he's always fun to watch. I first saw him, as most people do, as Tom Powers in THE PUBLIC ENEMY (1931). He's a badass through and through in this one and that final shot of him in the doorway gives me chills just thinking about it. From that point on, nearly twenty years ago, I was hooked. Over the years I would watch everything I came across of his but surprisingly it wasn't until about 5 years ago that I FINALLY watched YANKEE DOODLE DANDY (1942). I'd always loved his performances but in this one I was moved by how freaking talented he was. I was speechless. Here's a guy I'd only known as a gangster, apart from a few comedies I'd seen, and then here he his dancing his ass off all over the place. WOW!

I've idolized this guy since I first discovered him in my late teens. His first name is James. So is mine. He's 5'9", I'm 5'9". His first acting role was in a musical dressed in drag. My first acting role was in a musical dressed in drag (Mary Sunshine in Chicago). That's it but I'll take it.

See? I can go on all day. So I'm watching JOHNNY DANGEROUSLY and I've just GOT to watch a Cagney flic I hadn't see yet so I popped this one in. I found myself laughing so hard chocolate milk was flying out of my nose only I wasn't drinking chocolate milk. The power of the movies I guess.

It starts out innocently enough for Dan (Cagney) as he gets fired from his movie theater gig in a fashion that suits him - loudmouth smartass. He's duped into returning a lady's purse to her apartment where a back room card game is going on. He gets taken for all his dough but figures out he's been had and catches onto their scheme. Next thing you know his head of the gang and making money hand-over-fist running a nightclub. A robbery goes bad for him and his boys so they split up and he heads out West eventually making his way to California where, starting out as an extra in a film, he's on his way to movie stardom. He hooks up with a lovely actress and just when he thinks everything is peachy the old gang shows up looking to take advantage of their boss' new found influence whether they have to steal it or blackmail him for it.

One cool thing about this is not only is this a largely comedic roll for Cagney, he's also got a few scenes where he gets to be badass and roughhouse with the boys showing some great range. From wise-cracking funny man to badass in less than a second. Nice.

Remember that scene from THE PUBLIC ENEMY where Cagney smashes the grapefruit in Joan Blondell's face? He's got a great moment in this where he does something equally unexpected and shocking. Myra (Mae Clarke) has shown up at Dan's flat to attempt to blackmail him with his past that he's trying to hide. She says, "I think you'd better start bein' nice to Mama." "Umm, hmm" Dan laughs as he does this...

"Just look at that style!"

and drags her ass to the door, kicks her across the hallway onto a hall sofa and then throws her suitcase at her, missing her by inches, as it slams against the wall!!!

His criminal former-pals show up and cause a great deal of trouble for Dan. It looks like things are going downhill for Dan so fast and hard that he might not make it. But, naturally, being a comedy of the 30s, it ends happily and that's the way we want it because Dan's such a great guy. And why not? Cagney's THE MAN!

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