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Popular New York band leader Terry Rooney (Cagney) is offered a lucrative film contract out in Hollywood. Rooney and his wife pack up and head for California. Upon arriving, they meet Mr. Regan, the head of the studio, who believes that Rooney's true lack of desire for stardom is arrogance on the band leaders part. When his first film is huge success and hit for the studio, Regan tries to hide the truth from Rooney. Feeling a need to get away from Hollywood, Rooney takes his wife on a South Seas cruise, only to return to the real truth of his fame. Written by
Parts of the film are based on James Cagney's own experience. In the film, Cagney's character, Terry Rooney, is a New York band-leader and hoofer who goes to Hollywood to make a "tough guy" movie. When he gets back from his honeymoon cruise, Rooney discovers the movie has made him a star, and he is mobbed by autograph seekers outside a movie theater where his film is showing. Likewise, Cagney himself was a Broadway hoofer who went to Hollywood in 1930 to make movies. After several supporting roles, Cagney filmed his breakout movie, The Public Enemy (1931), in early 1931. When filming was completed, Cagney returned to New York, thinking the movie would be nothing special. A few months later, he was surprised to see a long line of movie-goers outside a New York theater where The Public Enemy (1931) was being shown. Cagney had become a star. See more »
Rita is in New York when she reads of Terry's supposed relationship with Steffie on the front page of the "Express" newspaper. Meanwhile in Hollywood, Terry learns of the false rumours in exactly the same way, from the exact front page of an identical "Express" newspaper. Props used the same newspaper for both coasts. Highly unlikely. See more »
The plot of this film is fairly ordinary--bandleader/hoofer goes to Hollywood and becomes a star, studio wants to play up his credentials as a lover so they put the kibosh on announcing his marriage and cook up an on-set romance for the papers, the strain threatens his marriage. If it were with any other cast, that might have been the end of it. But with Cagney in the starring role, the movie just pops. The man had star quality positively oozing out of him, which had been evident from his earliest bit roles, in films like "A Handful of Clouds."
This was Cagney's second and last film with Grand National studios, where he'd taken refuge during a contract dispute with Warner Brothers. The first film had cast him in standard dramatic fare, but this one reunited him with his NY dance coach, Harland Dixon, who staged the dances for the film. Cagney's dancing is even more spirited than in "Yankee Doodle Dandy"--at one point, where other dancers might kick their heels, he kicks his knees! According to a NY Times article cited in the AFI Catalog, Cagney practiced his steps with Fred Astaire before filming.
What's most striking to me, though, in this film is Cagney's incomparably naturalistic acting. One scene in particular, where Cagney phones his fiancée back in New York while sitting in the dark in his Hollywood apartment, and listens to her sing a new song, is as moving and realistic as anything I've seen.
Many scenes will evoke more famous moments from later films--Cagney dancing on piano keys, like Tom Hanks and Robert Loggia in "Big," or Cagney working on his pear-shaped tones, like Gene Kelly in "Singin' in the Rain." Cagney gives them all his unique brand of liveliness. There is also an almost anachronistic recognition of the degradation Hollywood visited on minorities, in the person of Philip Ahn, who plays Cagney's manservant, Ito.
Evelyn Daw, as Cagney's fiancée, was a discovery of the director, Schertzinger, and this was her first film. She's got a cute little smile, but her voice is absolutely wrong for the sort of band Cagney is supposed to be leading. She does well enough, though, and holds her own with William Frawley as Cagney's sympathetic press agent and Gene Lockhart as the studio boss. The only real sour note is sounded by Mona Barrie, as the Hungarian star set up as Cagney's love interest by the studio press machine. She's neither attractive nor talented, and one has to wonder why she was supposed to be such a big star.
This movie is out on DVD, unlike all too many of Cagney's early efforts, and it's worth checking out for a side of Cagney seen entirely too seldom.
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