James Cagney

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James Cagney

James CagneyCagney - one of the most unique motion picture personalities ever- truly earned the title of Hollywood legend. But he never did say: "You dirty rat!" At least...not on screen. He came to Hollywood in 1930 from Broadway, under contract to Warner Bros. His screen career took off the following year with his star-making gangster role in The Public Enemy, 1939: with SAG board member Humphrey Bogart in The Roaring Twenties where he would smash half a grapefruit into the face of his pretty young blonde co-star, Mae Clarke. Along with Eddie Cantor and Robert Montgomery, Cagney was part of the first group of major stars to join the Guild in October 1933-as member number 50-and he accepted a seat on the Board of Directors along with it. Before his Guild presidency, he'd serve nearly a decade on the Board and as 1st Vice-President. 1942: Yankee Doodle Dandy Cagney was elected Guild president in September 1942, just months after the release of one of his most famous films, Yankee Doodle Dandy. At the time, Guild membership stood at 7,192 - a drop from the previous year's 8,683 members, due primarily to military service withdrawals. Two major issues characterized Cagney's presidency: one was the government's wartime anti-inflation wage-stabilization program, imposing a salary ceiling of $25,000 per year. It also prohibited salary increases in option contracts, and severely limited the bargaining power of non-contract freelance players. 1942: with script for Screen Guild radio show Yankee Doodle Dandy In November 1942, Cagney traveled to Washington DC, with the Guild's Executive Secretary, Kenneth Thomson, to attend Treasury Department conferences on the subject. The second major issue of Cagney's presidency concerned background players, the extras, who had never been allowed a vote in Guild matters, although they were members. The desire for some to break away from the Guild into their own autonomous organization created a fierce struggle for their representation (and that of even bit players, stunt performers and singers) by a new group: the Screen Players Union. The extras issue, which Cagney characterized in his farewell address as "one of the Guild's most serious internal problems" would not be settled until the next Guild president, George Murphy, who would see the new Screen Extras Guild on the scene in 1945. Cagney would serve two more three-year terms on the Board after his Guild presidency ended: 1945 (resigning mid-term in March, 1947, due to production interest) and 1955-58.