Title: The James Cagney Signature Collection
Silent or Talkie: Talkie
Warner Brothers has released the James Cagney Signature Collection. Voted the 14th Greatest Movie Star of all time, Cagney has one of the most recognizable faces and personas in Hollywood history. The films in the set are as follows: The Bride Came C.O.D. (1941), Captains of the Clouds (1942), The Fighting 69th (1940), Torrid Zone (1940) and The West Point Story (1950).
The Bride Came C.O.D. (1941)
James Cagney and Bette Davis star in this 1941 romantic escapade! Tommy Keenan (Stuart Erwin), oil heiress Joan Winfield (Bette Davis) and band leader Allen Brice (Jack Carson) suddenly elope after a radio announcer suggests it. Steve Collins (Cagney) is a pilot who is in some financial trouble with a company threatening to repossess one of his planes. Steve masquerades as a married man but is actually single. He uses this farce to keep himself from being distracted by potential love interests. Collins wants to buy more planes, and he knows that a woman in his life would make that difficult. Joan’s father, Lucius Winfield (Eugene Pallette), calls the airfield to stop the flight when he hears of his daughter’s upcoming marriage. Collins agrees to bring Joan back before she can get married, in exchange for a small fee. Collins gets the other two men off the plane and takes off with Joan, who pleads with him to take her back to Los Angeles. Joan attempts to jump from the plane in desperation but Collins is able to stop her. However, in the process, he damages his plane and makes an emergency landing. Collins and Joan are now alone in the middle of the desert, and search for any signs of a residential setup. After a few harrowing and unexpected events, Collins admits he is single and in love with Joan. Special features include: Warner Night at the Movies 1941: Vintage newsreel, Musical shorts “Carnival of Rhythm” and the Oscar-nominated “Forty Boys and a Song,” Classic cartoons “Porky’s Pooch” and the Oscar-nominated “Rhapsody in Rivets”, and the Theatrical trailer.
Captains of the Clouds (1942)
James Cagney is Brian MacLean, a new pilot who is getting more flying assignments than the veteran pilots. The veteran pilots are jealous and sabatoge one of MacLean’s flights, which forces him to land near a store owned by Foster (J.M. Kerrigan) and his daughter Emily (Brenda Marshall). MacLean slips and injures his head after leaving his plane. Johnny Dutton (Dennis Morgan) goes to get a doctor, who performs an emergency operation. Johnny has his mind set on starting his own airline before he commits to marrying Emily. MacLean is going through his recovery, and in the process, becomes close with Emily. Johnny returns from a trip and invites MacLean to fly explosives to a mine with him. MacLean abandons the budding relationship with Emily and joins Johnny in the mission. Johnny and MacLean get into an argument over the morals of Emily, who MacLean believes has ulterior motives for marrying Johnny. In the scuffle, MacLean knocks Johnny out cold and marries Emily himself, just to prevent Johnny from “making a mistake”. Shortly after, MacLean realizes that Johnny is out of reach for Emily and leaves her. MacLean returns to flying, but crashes a plane and is dismissed from the Air Force. However, he is able to continue serving under an assumed name and engages in the most dangerous mission of his career. Captains of the Clouds was the first film that Cagney filmed in color. With the United States in the midst of World War II, movies about heroes and the military were being churned out by the dozen. This is one of the best examples of patriotism. Special features include: Warner Night at the Movies 1942: Vintage newsreel, Sports short “Rocky Mountain Big Game,” Classic cartoons “Fresh Hare” and “What’s Cookin’, Doc?” and the Theatrical trailer for best stainless steel cookware reviews.
The Fighting 69th (1940)
Cagney plays Jerry Plunkett, a new recruit of the fighting 69th who is being sworn in by Major “Wild Bill” Donovan (George Brent). Plunkett is full of himself and believes he doesn’t have to take orders from anyone. He only gets more arrogant when he is sent overseas, despite the attempts by Father Duffy (Pat O’Brien, who ironically played a priest in another film with Cagney, “Angels With Dirty Faces”) to bring him back to reality. Plunkett’s attitude hits a new low when he angers the Germans. A massacre occurs as a result of a German attack. Major Donovan has finally had enough and moves to transfer Plunkett, but Father Duffy convinces him to reconsider. Although he brags of bravado and is bursting with a ridiculous ego, Plunkett is not that brave in the face of battle. He causes even more casualties when his cowardice mistakingly alerts the Germans to their location. For this, he is sentenced to death by gunfire. Meanwhile, the rest of the regiment undergoes a suicide mission alone and without support. Plunkett is being held in a prison while awaiting his execution. The prison is bombed and Plunkett manages to escape in the wake of the chaos. Father Duffy is in the middle of praying with the wounded soldiers when Plunkett experiences a wave of courage. Plunkett oversees an attack, cutting through barbed wire and helping the regiment carry their mission out. This attack injures Plunkett, but at the same time, he is finally able to redeem himself from past acts of selfishness and falsified heroism. Special features include: Warner Night at the Movies 1940 Short Subjects Gallery: Vintage newsreel, 2 Patriotic shorts “Young America Flies” and the Oscar-nominated “London Can Take It” Classic cartoons “The Fighting 69 1/2th” and the “Pilgrim Porky”, Trailers of “The Fighting 69th” and 1940’s “Brother Orchid”, Audio-only bonus: Radio adaptation with Pat O’Brien, Robert Preston and Ralph Bellamy.
Torrid Zone (1940)
James Cagney stars as Nick Butler in yet another collaboration with Pat O’Brien in this 1940 feature. Steve Case (Pat O’Brien) is a powerful man who rules a port in steamy Central America. Case banishes Lee Donley (the beautiful Ann Sheridan) and orders the execution of Rosario La Mata (George Tobias), just to flex his influential muscle. Butler (Cagney) is the only man who is unaffected by Case. Butler is Case’s foreman and a bit of a womanizer who is planning a return to the United States. Instead, Case persuades Butler, with the lure of a bonus, to stay on as foreman for two more weeks. Butler and Lee Donley return to the plantation on the same train. Lee, a known cheater at cards, is hiding from both Case and the police. At the same time, Rosario La Mata escapes before his scheduled execution and begins to assemble a gang of revolutionaries, made up mostly of the workers that Butler oversees. Butler is the center of both positive and negative attention. A co-worker’s wife begins to make advances, Lee becomes increasingly snobbish and sarcastic and Rosario’s attitude is too much for Butler to handle. Butler captures Rosario and once again makes a plan to leave for the United States. Case becomes angered with Butler’s intentions and blackmales him. He threatens to charge Lee with a severe crime unless Butler agrees to abandon his plans. Not wanting to call Case’s bluff, Butler is willing to admit defeat when Rosario escapes yet again. Butler’s feelings for Lee have accelerated quickly and he must decide whether to stay with her or defy Case and head back to the United States. Special features include: Warner Night at the Movies 1940: Vintage newsreel, Musical short “Ozzie Nelson and His Orchestra,” Historical short “Pony Express Days,” Classic Oscar-nominated cartoon “A Wild Hare” and the Theatrical trailer.
The West Point Story (1950)
The most different film in the collection is The West Point Story, starring James Cagney as Elwin “Bix” Bixby, a faltering Broadway producer. Bixby is offered a job by Harry Eberhart (Roland Winters), a man he no longer associates with and therefore turns the job down. However, when Bix’s girlfriend Eve Dillon (Virginia Mayo) threatens to leave him, he reconsiders the job offer from Eberhart. Bix again turns the job down when he learns that Eberhart wants him to direct the annual West Point “One Hundredth Night” show. Bix had served under West Pointers in the war and can’t stand the sight of them. Eberhart devises a sly counter-offer. He offers to have Eve’s Las Vegas job (which she threatened to leave Bix for) canceled if Bix will convince Tom Fletcher (Gordon MacRae) to perform in a Broadway production of his show. Bix accepts this idea and leaves with Eve for West Point. Though he loves the show, Bix is extremely uncomfortable with the rules and regulations of West Point. Bix gets in a fight with a cadet, which is forgiven with the condition that he become a cadet himself. Bix invites Jan Wilson (Doris Day), a movie star, to West Point with the hope that she will help persuade Tom to leave West Point. Jan listens to Tom’s plans and begins to turn against Bix, and thus, the plan begins to backfire. Eventually, Jan and Tom fall in love and Bix continues his West Point training. Bix sends Jan back to California when he learns that she and Tom are engaged. Bix continues to be at odds with Tom and Jan until an unexpected event changes his attitude towards them, and ultimately, affects his relationship with Harry Eberhart. The West Point Story was nominated for an Oscar in 1951 for Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture – Ray Heindorf. Special features include: Warner Night at the Movies 1950: Vintage newsreel, Oscar-winning Sports Parade short “Granddad of Races,” Classic cartoon “His Bitter Half” and the Theatrical trailer.
The James Cagney Signature Collection is a great way to see another side of Cagney. Known primarily for his tough-guy gangster roles, the other work he did tends to get swept under the rug and overshadowed. This new collection from Warner Brothers helps us to remember Cagney as a brilliant and versatile performer, capable of portraying any character in front of him.
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