James Cagney — Answers 21 Big Questions (1933) 🇺🇸
It’s something new in interviews! Movie Classic, through James Fidler, puts twenty-one impertinent questions to the recently rebellious redhead, and he makes twenty-one pertinent answers.
Again, Movie Classic springs something new — a brand-new form of interview. It is a newsy cross-examination. You form your own impression of a star, without any suggestions from the interviewer. Moreover, no star can set up that famous old wail, “But no one knows the questions I was asked!” We have sought to make our questions franker and more news-inviting than the usual questions — with emphasis on the present and future, rather than the past — to encourage franker, more revealing answers. And Jimmy Cagney, the lead-off star in this new series, did not disappoint us a bit.—Editor.
James Cagney, who has just returned to work after his “one-man uprising” and has just finished “Hard to Handle,” submits to a cross-examination by James Fidler, who has guessed what everybody would like to ask Jimmy — and Jimmy tells the public all about his new outlook on movies, marriage, money and his future. Mr. Fidler’s twenty-one “impertinent” questions are in italics; and Jimmy Cagney’s “pertinent” answers are in heavy Roman type. They give a new slant on the fiery redhead:
1. Originally, was it your idea or the studio’s, that you strike women on the screen?
Jimmy’s answer: “Neither; an author thought of it first. My initial act of the sort wasn’t a slap — it was the situation in The Public Enemy in which I smeared Mae Clarke’s face with a grapefruit. That started it all.”
2. Would you slap a woman in real life?
James Cagney: “Certainly not. No man with a sense of decency or humor would do such a thing. The cad who will hit a woman will also kick a dog — and I don’t kick dogs.”
3. What is the public reaction to your abuse of leading ladies?
James Cagney: “Fans seem to like it. The response to the grapefruit sequence was so widespread that writers now spend days planning new abuses for me to heap on my leading ladies. Although the average man will not strike a woman, most men, at least once in their lives, have felt the urge to do so. It delights these men to see me enact on the screen a thing they’ve often wanted to do in real life. Robert Sherwood, the critic and motion picture authority, told me that when he visited a theatre to see The Public Enemy, he was seated behind an elderly gentleman who had evidently seen the picture previously. When the grapefruit sequence reached the screen, this gentleman muttered, ‘What a man!’”
4. Are you completely satisfied with the settlement of your recent quarrel with Warner Brothers?
James Cagney: “Yes, or I would not have returned to work.”
5. Are you now converted to the business methods of the motion picture industry, or do you intend to fight against any possible future situations that you may consider unjust?
James Cagney: “I don’t believe I am naturally combative. I had only one quarrel with my employers, and that was about money. With that argument now settled, I do not anticipate others. However, I will never permit anyone to override my just rights, regardless of the cost to me of fighting back.”
6. Were you requested to appear dejected when you posed for news photographs following the settlement of your quarrel, in order that it might appear the studio had won?
James Cagney: “On the contrary, I’ve seen those news photographs, and Mr. Jack Warner and I both wear grins that reach around to our ears.”
7. What effect do you think your stand will have on other actors placed in similar circumstances?
James Cagney: “None. It would be absurd for another man to be guided by my actions. No two people act the same in similar circumstances.”
8. What is your opinion of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as an arbitrative board for the settlement of disputes between studios and players?
James Cagney: “The arbitrative board of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is composed of a body of fair-minded, impartial gentlemen. They, as a board, are doing excellent work in the settlement of inner-studio misunderstandings.”
9. Do you intend to pursue a medical career when your motion picture popularity wanes?
James Cagney: “No. Years of study are vital to a successful medical career. I have always been ambitious to become a physician, but I realize that the time element now prevents fulfillment of my hopes. I was absolutely sincere when I declared, at the time of my disagreement with the studio, that I would pursue a medical career, rather than return to motion pictures under unhappy conditions.”
10. Do you expect your marriage to endure in Hollywood? If so, what are you doing to achieve that end?
James Cagney: “Certainly. Why should success in Hollywood affect my private life? My wife and I are continuing to live exactly as we did before we came to Hollywood, and we expect to remain that way, and eventually to add children to our household.”
11. What is the truth about your motion picture salary?
James Cagney: “I’d rather not talk about my salary, other than to say that the adjustment made by Warner Brothers is entirely satisfactory. The amount of money I am paid has no bearing on my prowess as an actor, or upon my reception by the public.”
12. Has wealth made any difference in your mode of living?
James Cagney: “Absolutely none. I live quietly and modestly. The only difference that the bigger salary check is making is in my savings account. The important economic essential in life, in my opinion, is to achieve financial security. That is my present aim.”
13. Do you think you are, in real life, like the Jimmy Cagney of motion pictures?
James Cagney: “No. Off the screen I am quieter and more orderly. I am certainly less inclined to go about slapping women and trying to knock off gentlemen’s noses and ears.”
14. What outstanding knowledge did you gain from your recent tour of the United States?
James Cagney: “On my tour, I learned that audiences have a Hell-of-a-time dissociating an actor from the parts he plays.”
15. What do you dislike most about the motion picture industry?
James Cagney: “The gossip that immediately follows success. When I first arrived in Hollywood, I was amazed to hear of the horrible things done by every successful star. Soon I learned that most of the stories I heard were malicious gossip. Since I achieved a slight degree of success, there have come back to my ears a score of lies that have been broadcast about me. Why people I do not even know should take the trouble to repeat these malevolent stories is beyond my comprehension.”
16. Is it true that you fear crowds?
James Cagney: “Yes, I am a victim of crowd phobia. I am afraid to go places where there will be crowds. I deny myself the pleasure of going to the fights, for example, because I fear crowds. I am essentially an exhibitionist. Every actor is. Believe me, it is tormenting to be both an exhibitionist and a man afraid of crowds. It is like setting a woman who likes to talk among a group of deaf people.”
17. Which of your leading ladies have you most enjoyed working with, and why?
James Cagney: “I must answer from the viewpoint of business, and not with the involvement of personal friendship. I most enjoy working with girls like Mary Brian and Loretta Young, who are sweet, demure and charming and who thereby strengthen my own screen characterizations by means of contrast. Alice White was suggested for my most recent picture, but I preferred Miss Brian, because I feel that leading ladies such as Miss White, Joan Blondell and Ann Dvorak are too pert to contrast properly with my own type.”
18. Do you like publicity?
James Cagney: “I like the right kind of publicity. But publicity can also be harmful. For example, I think exploitation of big salaries is bad; it cannot fail to create resentment in the mind of the public, particularly during the current period of readjustment from the depression. Motion picture salaries, as a rule, are ridiculously exaggerated by the time they become public property. I know an actor, for instance, who is paid eighty thousand dollars a year. But in every account I have read, he received from one hundred and fifty thousand to two hundred and seventy-five thousand dollars annually. This actor happens to be wise about money matters, but at the end of last year his net salary, after deduction of his agent’s commission, his income tax and his studio expenses, was less than thirty-five thousand dollars — and that certainly is not an exorbitant salary for one of the most successful masculine stars in this business. Quotation of an actor’s salary should correspond with announcement of a corporation’s earnings. The earnings are the net amount of profit after deduction of operating costs. An actor’s real salary is the net amount left after deduction of his extraordinary expenses from the amount paid him by his studio. Because of the publicity given my salary controversy with Warner Brothers, I have received thousands of begging letters from destitute persons everywhere. I don’t earn one-tenth enough money to help them all. But those people probably think me a heel because I do not send them clothes or money.”
19. Do you think the title of your new picture, “Hard to Handle,” is in good taste?
James Cagney: “Sure! When I heard it, I laughed and liked ‘Hard to Handle,’ for it immediately associated itself with all the publicity that accompanied my recent one-man uprising. I think theatre audiences will laugh and like it, too.”
20. What type of screen roles do you prefer to play? What particular characterizes your ambition?
James Cagney: “I’d like to play varying roles within the scope of my limited appearance and talent. There is one part that I dare not make public, because I will not be prepared to play it for two years and I won’t want someone else to beat me to it.”
21. What will you do when your motion picture career is finished?
James Cagney: “I will probably live a diversified life. I intend to travel to every part of the world. I will interest myself in the study of economics applicable to governmental affairs. With sufficient money invested to protect me from political enemies, I should like to plunge deeply into state affairs. I might be able to put up enough fight to accomplish a few good results.”
Jimmy Fidler (opposite) asks if the real Cagney is the same as the screen Cagney and he answers “No” — pointing out that off the screen he is “quieter and more orderly”
Photo by: Bert Longworth (1893–1964)
Source: Movie Classic Magazine, February 1933