1. James Francis Cagney, Jr. though he had his greatest impact in film.
2. In his first professional acting performance, Cagney danced costumed as a woman in the chorus line of the 1919 revue Every Sailor.
3. He spent several years in vaudeville as a dancer and comedian, until he got his first major acting part in 1925.
4. He secured several other roles, receiving good notices, before landing the lead in the 1929 play Penny Arcade.
5. After rave reviews, Warner Bros. signed him for an initial $500-a-week, three-week contract to reprise his role; this was quickly extended to a seven-year contract.
6. In 1938, he received his first Academy Award for Best Actor nomination, for Angels with Dirty Faces for his subtle portrayal of the tough guy/man-child Rocky Sullivan.
7. In 1942, Cagney won the Oscar for his energetic portrayal of George M. Cohan in Yankee Doodle Dandy. He was nominated a third time in 1955 for Love Me or Leave Me.
8. Cagney retired from acting and dancing in 1961 to spend time on his farm with his family.
9. He exited retirement, 20 years later, for a part in the 1981 movie Ragtime, mainly to aid his recovery from a stroke.
10. This was one of the first times an actor prevailed over a studio on a contract issue.
11. He worked for an independent film company for a year while the suit was being settled—and established his own production company, Cagney Productions, in 1942, before returning to Warners four years later.
12. Cagney was born on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in New York City.
13. His biographers disagree as to the actual location: either on the corner of Avenue D and 8th Street His father, James Francis Cagney, Sr., was of Irish descent.
14. Cagney was the second of seven children, two of whom died within months of birth.
15. He was sickly as a young child—so much so that his mother feared he would die before he could be baptized.
16. He later attributed his sickness to the poverty his family had to endure.
17. The red-haired, blue-eyed Cagney graduated from Stuyvesant High School in New York City, in 1918, and attended Columbia College of Columbia University,