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CAGNEY FLEXES HIS FISTS

    

For Hicksflicks.com, March 7, 2014

James Cagney's best-known movies are all on DVD singly and in various collections, but there are still a few that linger on studio shelves. Now, however, there are three fewer to yearn for thanks to the manufacture-on-demand website Warner Archive.

These new releases include a military romantic comedy-drama, a boxing melodrama and … wait for it … a Western.

Yes, Cagney made Westerns (though only three), but here's the kicker: He co-stars with Humphrey Bogart (who made only two).

Fair to say both were more at home in urban settings.

"Here Comes the Navy" (1934). Frequent Warner Bros. movie rivals Cagney and Pat O'Brien are at odds when cocky Cagney joins the Navy and finds himself on O'Brien's ship. The stars' chemistry is palpable here and both are in top form.

Gloria Stuart — the actress who earned an Oscar nomination for James Cameron's "Titanic" some 60 years later — is Cagney's love interest here, and O'Brien's sister.

Of historical interest: Much of the film was shot aboard the battleship Arizona, which would sink during the attack on Pearl Harbor some six years later. Also prominent in the film is the Navy's dirigible Macon, which would crash into the Pacific Ocean during a storm off California less than a year later, killing two of its 76 crew members.

"Winner Take All" (1932) has Cagney as boxer torn between two women, society dame Virginia Bruce and a widowed single mother, played by Marian Nixon. Three guesses who wins him in the end.

Bruce leads Cagney along, which prompts him to get plastic surgery and also affects his boxing style; he doesn't want to damage his face. But she really has no interest in him and it takes awhile for the punch-drunk pug to realize Nixon is the one for him.

         

"The Oklahoma Kid" (1939) casts Cagney and Bogie as competing outlaws, and the film opens with Cagney stealing loot that Bogie has just stolen. (Is that like re-gifting?)

But when Bogie arranges for Cagney's father to be falsely accused of murder and hanged, Cagney's ready for revenge — and maybe to go straight.

Routine Western fare in every way except the casting, and it's a hoot to see these guys scrapping in the Old West.