Written by Kris Land
James Cagney: The Life of Captain James Morton
James Cagney is one of the most popular American actors in film history. The American Film Institute
placed him as eighth in a list of the greatest male stars of all time, which was compiled in 1999. Even decades after his death, Cagney is still receiving recognition for his acting talent. His first role was very different from his portrayal of Captain James Morton in the film Mister Roberts (1955). He wore a dress and performed as a female dancer in a chorus line for Every Sailor, a 1919 revue.
Early Life of James Cagney
Cagney was brought into the world on July 17th, 1899. His mother gave birth on the Lower East Side of Manhattan; however there is disagreement about exactly where. Some claim Cagney was actually born on the corner of Avenue D and 8th Street while others say it was in a top floor apartment at 391 East 8th Street. His father was a bartender and amateur boxer. Cagneys family moved twice during his earliest years. The family included seven children (Cagney was the second). Sadly, two of Cagneys siblings passed away only months after their birth. Even Cagney was a sickly child. His mother feared he would pass away before being baptized.
As a boy, Cagney began tap dancing. He earned the nick name Cellar Door Cagney because he could often be found dancing on a slanted cellar door. He was protective of his older brother Harry and improved his street fighting skills defending his sibling. Cagney even took up amateur boxing and placed as a runner up in the New York State lightweight title. Although his coaches pushed him to go professional, his mother forbade it.
James Cagney on Board
James Cagney used his talent to bring to life the character of Captain James Morton. Cagney accepted the role partly because Spencer Tracy was also slated to star as well. Even though Cagney stayed, Tracy did not take the role. Cagney also had experience working with director John Ford in the past, and they had no serious problems as professionals. However, upon arriving for the filming of Mister Roberts, Fords attitude was off putting and confrontational. Still, Cagney and his fellow stars stuck with the film and created an amazing picture that is often referred to as a classic.
The Death of James Cagney
In 1986, Cagney suffered from a heart attack and passed away at his farm in Stanfordville, New York. He was 86 years old and left behind a long, celebrated film legacy. His talent on the set of Mister Roberts has helped bring attention to the old Navy vessel the U.S.S. New Bedford. Today, the ship is the focus of an effort to improve maritime technology and begin cleaning up the Earth. Thanks to Cagney and his co-stars on Mister Roberts, the former U.S.S. New Bedford (currently the Seabird) may be able to reach out to more people through a love of classic film and concern for the environment.
1944: Camano Class Light Cargo Ship was laid down for the US Army as FS-289 at Wheeler Shipbuilding in Whitestone, NY.
1955 - 1963: Used as a cargo supply ship for the Texas Towers, a network of advanced radar stations located off the Eastern Seaboard. In 1957, Capt. Sixto Mangual was commander of the AKL-17 and in 1961 it was rechristened the USNS New Bedford. The New Bedford, sailing out of State Pier, was keeping vigil when Texas Tower No. 4 callapsed off the New Jersey coast during a January 1961 nor'easter.
2006: Design of the Tesla Turbine began on June 11, 2006. The Sea Bird was sold by Defense Reutilization and Marketing Service for commercial service.