James Cagney, America’s leading gangster for decades, simply wanted to be a song and dance man. But, this was the film that would type cast his stardom for the remainder of his career. Originally cast as the sidekick, Cagney and Wood traded spaces, giving Jimmy the range he obviously required on-screen.
Feeding off the previously released film ‘Little Caesar’ with Edward G. Robinson, the film hits hard and keeps hitting at every turn, to almost make us feel the plight of this depression era hood and his inevitable downfall. Although recast in a dozen later gangster films echoing the same thoughts, it was ‘Tom Powers’ that set Cagney in motion and still sets him apart as a ‘B’ list (as Gangster pics were considered in the day) actor worthy of ‘A’ list roles.
Not till his biggest gangster redux eight years later in ‘Angels with Dirty Faces’ or ‘The Roaring Twenties’ would Cagney get such sweet mob roles. Listed as ‘Best’ in my category, it helped set the pace and take the lumps for better mafia films to follow.