Born in 1899, Cagney, along with a very few others like Errol Flynn, Humphrey Bogart, Spencer Tracy, Jimmy Stewart, Cary Grant, Clark Gable, Gary Cooper, John Wayne -- a real pantheon -- were the heroes that dominated my youth in the 1960s through re-runs of their black-and-white movies. For some reason -- OK, the obvious reason -- today's stars like Tom Cruise, John Travolta, Tobey McGuire, Leo DiCaprio just don't have the same weight. Doesn't it seem to say a lot that it's hard to imagine two or three of those 1930s and 1940s stars being able to kick the crap out of a dozen or so of today's nancy boys? Doesn't Tom Cruise's Mission Impossible character look like a little boy next to Cagney's gangsters?
Anyway, Cagney, of course, was also a wildly talented tap dancer, here in a routine with the great Bob Hope: