This is my contribution to the Symbiotic Collaborations blogathon, being hosted by CineMaven’s Essays from the Couch. Please take a look at the other postings, which all focus on collaborations between a director and star.
Both Raoul Walsh and James Cagney are known for their quality of toughness, so it’s no surprise that two of the four movies they made together are famous gangster films. But both director and actor were also interested in focusing on character and, beyond the action sequences, their films also contain equally powerful scenes bringing out the vulnerability of the heroes/villains played by Cagney. I can’t look at every aspect of all four films here, so am concentrating on this theme. I’ve also put a separate bit about some of the films’ endings at the end, including pictures.
Just came across this amazing rarity on Youtube – a screen test for Laurette Luez for A Lion is in the Streets, playing opposite James Cagney as his character’s much younger mistress. In the film, the part went to Anne Francis, who is good – at 23, she was a couple of years younger than Luez and looked younger still, so maybe the studio wanted to emphasise the age gap between her and Cagney, who was 53, although he looks much younger here in black and white. (The film’s Technicolor is less forgiving.) But I think Luez is very good in this clip, anyway. Cagney really goes for it, too, although he is largely standing with his back to the camera. I’ve seen all of Cagney’s films except for a few TV productions, so it was a thrill suddenly to spot this piece of footage.