James Cagney, George Raft, dir. William Keighley
There’s no gangster film like a Warner Bros. gangster film, primarily because there’s no gangster like James Cagney or George Raft. Now, Cagney doesn’t actually play a gangster in this film, he plays a reporter (1930’s rockstar), but Raft does. The majority of this movie happens in the big house, after Cagney’s character gets framed and sent up the river for getting wise to some scuttlebutt about a crooked DA who is running for governor. Bad things happen, people die, the movie ends.
It’s very exciting right up to the last second. And so dramatic. My favorite scene is the part where…oh, but I won’t tell you that. I don’t want to ruin anything.
I have loved James Cagney ever since junior high school. He has lovely forearms and rolls up his shirt sleeves in almost every movie. I don’t know why. Watch any number of other classic movie actors and see if their sleeves are rolled up. I can already tell you- they’re not. And his face is so expressive you can tell he definitely gets into his roles.
And George Raft. Oh, George. This is actually the movie that introduced him to me. What shallow thing can I say about him? He has gorgeous skin. Merle Oberon gorgeous. I think it’s important to say that I saw “Some Like It Hot” years before I saw this film, but I didn’t know who Raft was, so it doesn’t count. I guess this was my formal introduction and since this introduction I have seen SLIH a few times and he’s perfect in it. He’s also perfect in this film. He can be scary, he can be funny, and he can break your heart.
This is actually the only film in which Cagney and Raft star together and their chemistry is really great. I could compare their chemistry to that between Cagney and Frank McHugh or Pat O’Brien, who did a lot of movies with Cagney.
Each Dawn I Die is probably my favorite gangster movie next to The Public Enemy (another Cagney gangster film) and, as it turns out, it happens to have been Josef Stalin’s favorite American movie (:/). I don’t even know if that’s true, you read things, you say them out loud, they must be true. And since I read it on the interwebs, of course it’s reliable information.