James Francis Cagney Jr. (July 17, 1899 – March 30, 1986) was an American actor and dancer, both on stage and in film, though he had his greatest impact in film. Known for his consistently energetic performances, distinctive vocal style, and deadpan comic timing, he won acclaim and major awards for a wide variety of performances. He is best remembered for playing multifaceted tough guys in movies such as The Public Enemy (1931), Taxi! (1932), Angels with Dirty Faces (1938), and White Heat (1949), and was typecast or limited by this view earlier in his career. In 1999, the American Film Institute ranked him eighth among its list of greatest male stars of Classic Hollywood Cinema. Orson Welles said of Cagney, " maybe the greatest actor who ever appeared in front of a camera", and Stanley Kubrick considered him to be one of the best actors of all time.
In his first professional acting performance, Cagney danced costumed as a woman in the chorus line of the revue Every Sailor, in 1919. He spent several years in vaudeville as a dancer and comedian, until he got his first major acting part in 1925. He secured several other roles, receiving good notices, before landing the lead in the 1929 play Penny Arcade. After rave reviews, Warner Bros. signed him for an initial $500-a-week, three-week contract to reprise his role; this was quickly extended to a seven-year contract.