Musical: vaudeville tap dancer, “Yankee Doodle Dandy”
Tough guy: “The Public Enemy,” “Angels With Dirty Faces”
Despite his first job in a revue as a female dancer in a chorus line and an early resume of light comedies, Cagney set the standard as the quintessential tough guy. He gained notoriety for his gangster characters beginning with Tom Powers in “The Public Enemy” in 1931. His style has been imitated yet never replicated. Even Tony Soprano idolized him. In the 1930s and ’40s, he co-starred alongside other bad guys such as Humphrey Bogart and Edward G. Robinson, further cementing his gangster persona. So it was rather ironic that he won his only Oscar for his remarkable portrayal of the musical composer-dancer-actor George M. Cohan in “Yankee Doodle Dandy” in 1942.