1974: James Cagney

2nd AFI Life Achievement Award


JAMES CAGNEY: LIFE ACHIEVEMENT AWARD 74 TRIBUTE ADDRESS

Last year, when the Trustees of the American Film Institute nominated a candidate to receive our first Life Achievement Award, their choice fell appropriately, perhaps almost inevitably, on John Ford. With a similar conviction of unavoidable rightness, this year they have selected James Cagney.

Unchallengeably, his work fulfills the prime criteria of the award: that it must have, in some way, advanced the film art, and that it be acknowledged alike by the general public, the critical and academic community, and by his professional peers. What is remarkable, I think, is that Jimmy Cagney should have made such a monumental contribution to film …working as an actor.

While the auteur theory of the director as the sole creative contributor to a film has suffered some erosion of credibility in recent years, it’s still generally conceded that film is a director’s medium. To a large degree, he controls the films he makes, and the level of this talent can generally be read throughout the body of his work, while an actor’s work often varies widely, depending on the parts he gets and the directors who guide him.

Not so Cagney. Through a span of over sixty films, many magnificent, some inevitably less than remarkable, he stamped each one with an incandescent vigor of his personality and his driving talent. One of the most significant figures of a generation when American film was dominant, Cagney, that most American of actors, somehow communicated eloquently to audiences all over the world …and to actors as well. Actors as disparate as Albert Finney, Toshiro Mifune, and Jean Belmondo seem to have shaped some of what they do on what Cagney did before them. The model, and the lesson, he has provided for actors in this country is clear, and classic, as most of them would tell you.

Jimmy Cagney richly deserves the Life Achievement Award we give him tonight. Let it serve as token of the admiration and respect of his audiences and his colleagues. He’s had that for nearly forty years.

Charleton Heston

Chairman

The American Film Institute


FILMOGRAPHY (as of award year)

  • TERRIBLE JOE MORAN (1984) ....Joe Moran
    Television Actor
  • RAGTIME (1981) ....Rheinlander Waldo
    Motion Picture Actor
  • ARIZONA BUSHWACKERS (1968)
    Motion Picture Narrator

  • ONE TWO THREE (1961) ....C.R. MacNamara
    Motion Picture Actor

  • THE GALLANT HOURS (1960) ....Fleet Admiral William F. 'Bull' Halsey Jr
    Motion Picture Actor

  • SHAKE HANDS WITH THE DEVIL (1959) ....Sean Lenihan
    Actor

  • NEVER STEAL ANYTHING SMALL (1958) ....Jake MacIllaney
    Motion Picture Actor

  • MAN OF A THOUSAND FACES (1957) ....Lon Chaney
    Motion Picture Actor

  • SHORT CUT TO HELL (1957)
    Motion Picture Director

  • THESE WILDER YEARS (1956) ....Steve Bradford
    Motion Picture Actor

  • TRIBUTE TO A BAD MAN (1956) ....Jeremy Rodock
    Motion Picture Actor

  • LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME (1955) ....Martin 'Marty the Gimp' Snyder
    Motion Picture Actor

  • MISTER ROBERTS (1955) ....The Captain
    Motion Picture Actor

  • RUN FOR COVER (1955) ....Matt Dow
    Motion Picture Actor

  • THE SEVEN LITTLE FOYS (1955) ....George M. Cohan
    Motion Picture Actor

  • A LION IS IN THE STREETS (1953) ....Hank Martin
    Motion Picture Actor

  • WHAT PRICE GLORY (1952) ....Captain Flagg
    Motion Picture Actor

  • COME FILL THE CUP (1951) ....Lew Marsh
    Motion Picture Actor

  • STARLIFT (1951) ....Himself
    Motion Picture Actor

  • KISS TOMORROW GOODBYE (1950) ....Ralph Cotter
    Actor

  • WEST POINT STORY (1950) ....Elwin 'Bix' Bixby
    Motion Picture Actor

  • WHITE HEAT (1949) ....Cody Jarrett
    Actor

  • THE TIME OF YOUR LIFE (1948) ....Joe
    Actor

  • 13 RUE MADELEINE (1946) ....Bob Sharkey
    Motion Picture Actor

  • BLOOD ON THE SUN (1945) ....Nick Condon
    Actor

  • JOHNNY COME LATELY (1943) ....Tom Richards
    Actor

  • YOU JOHN JONES (1943) ....John Jones
    Motion Picture Actor

  • CAPTAINS OF THE CLOUDS (1942) ....Brian MacLean
    Actor

  • YANKEE DOODLE DANDY (1942) ....George M. Cohan
    Motion Picture Actor

  • CITY FOR CONQUEST (1941) ....Danny Kenny (Young Samson)
    Motion Picture Actor

  • STRAWBERRY BLONDE (1941) ....T. L. 'Biff' Grimes
    Motion Picture Actor

  • THE BRIDE CAME C.O.D. (1941) ....Steve Collins
    Actor

  • THE FIGHTING 69TH (1940) ....Jerry Plunkett
    Actor

  • TORRID ZONE (1940) ....Nick Butler
    Actor

  • EACH DAWN I DIE (1939) ....Frank Ross
    Actor

  • THE OKLAHOMA KID (1939) ....Jim Kincaid
    Actor

  • THE ROARING TWENTIES (1939) ....Eddie Bartlett
    Actor

  • ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES (1938) ....William 'Rocky' Sullivan
    Actor

  • BOY MEETS GIRL (1938) ....Robert Law
    Actor

  • SOMETHING TO SING ABOUT (1937) ....Terry Rooney
    Actor

  • GREAT GUY (1936) ....Johnny 'Red' Cave
    Motion Picture Actor

  • A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM (1935) ....Bottom
    Actor

  • CEILING ZERO (1935) ....Dizzy Davis
    Motion Picture Actor

  • DEVIL DOGS OF THE AIR (1935) ....Timmy O'Toole
    Actor

  • G-MEN (1935) ....James 'Brick' Davis
    Actor

  • THE FRISCO KID (1935) ....Bat Morgan
    Actor

  • THE IRISH IN US (1935) ....Danny O'Hara
    Actor

  • HE WAS HER MAN (1934) ....Flicker Hayes
    Actor

  • HERE COMES THE NAVY (1934) ....Chester 'Chesty' J. O'Conner
    Actor

  • JIMMY THE GENT (1934) ....Jimmy Corrigan
    Actor

  • ST. LOUIS KID (1934) ....Eddie Kennedy
    Motion Picture Actor

  • FOOTLIGHT PARADE (1933) ....Chester Kent
    Actor

  • HARD TO HANDLE (1933) ....Lefty Merrill
    Actor

  • LADY KILLER (1933) ....Dan Quigley
    Actor

  • PICTURE SNATCHER (1933) ....Danny Kean
    Actor

  • THE MAYOR OF HELL (1933) ....Patsy Gargan
    Actor

  • TAXI (1932) ....Matt Nolan
    Motion Picture Actor

  • THE CROWD ROARS (1932) ....Joe Greer
    Actor

  • WINNER TAKES ALL (1932) ....Jim Kane
    Motion Picture Actor

  • BLONDE CRAZY (1931) ....Bert Harris
    Actor

  • INTIMATE INTERVIEW (1931)
    Motion Picture Actor

  • OTHER MEN'S WOMEN (1931) ....Ed
    Actor

  • SMART MONEY (1931) ....Jack
    Actor

  • THE MILLIONAIRE (1931) ....Schofield, Insurance Salesman
    Actor

  • THE PUBLIC ENEMY (1931) ....Tom Powers
    Motion Picture Actor

  • DOORWAY TO HELL (1930) ....Steve Mileaway
    Motion Picture Actor

  • SINNER'S HOLIDAY (1930) ....Harry Delano
    Actor