James Cagney

Don’t worry. Quivering with a giant smile on your face is a normal reaction after seeing these. A whole host of vintage movie posters was found in Berwick, Pennsylvania and recently snagged over half a million dollars at auction. We may never be able to put them on our walls (unless one of our readers is insanely rich (in which case we have some exciting investment opportunities in a spunky little movie site we’d like to share with you)), but we can still ogle them. What’s on the block? Posters from Dracula (1931), Cimmaron (1931), Little Caesar (1931) and the only known one sheet of the James Cagney-starring The Public Enemy (1931). Seriously, all the movies are from 1931. Check out some of the posters for yourself. Gaze upon their glory and shudder just a little.

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Every Sunday, Film School Rejects presents a film that was made before you were born and tells you why you should like it. This week, Old Ass Movies presents the story of James Cagney turning into a donkey, a jealous king who wants to steal an Indian child, an amateur acting troupe trying to present the story of a wall, and a group of young lovers who need a little help from the woodland narcotics to realize their undying emotions for each other. Plus, as a bonus, little Mickey Rooney cackles like a drunken hyena to no one in particular. It’s Shakespeare, so you know it’s smart.

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Culture Warrior

One odd thing about being a child of the 80s is that you learn movie history backwards. In watching anything from Animaniacs to Pulp Fiction, I became acquainted with references and homages to classical Hollywood cinema long before I ever watched the movies referenced or the moments paid homage to. Thus, my knowledge of cinema’s past was framed through cinema’s present: I learned about old movies because of what new movies did with them. One of the most formidable moments of this backwards cinematic education occurred in the late 1980s and early 1990s when major event kids’ movies became especially preoccupied with 40s film noir in movies like Robert Zemeckis’s Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988) or Warren Beatty’s Dick Tracy (1990). These movies embodied a world of double crosses, femme fatales, and cynical detectives without requiring their viewers, young or old, to have seen any of the films these genre tropes are indebted to. Thus, because of my exposure to new tweaks on an old form, conventions became familiar to me long before I could name the films from which such conventions originated. But one movie was exceptionally influential in formulating a distinct impression of film noir in my childhood imagination, and that movie was – oddly enough – Home Alone (1990).

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Every Sunday in September, Film School Rejects will present a musical that was made before you were born and tell you why you should like it. This week, Old Ass Musicals tells the story of a theater man played by James Cagney who takes the immense talent in his troupe and translates that into an impossibly large spectacle that movie-goers will enjoy before a film plays. If nothing else, it tells of a better time when singers and dancers thrilled movie crowds instead of Fill in the Blank quiz games sponsored by Coca Cola where “George Clooney” is always the answer.

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James Cagney plays George M. Cohan in the story of the man’s life. It spans from his childhood stardom on the Vaudeville circuit through his wild success, downfall, and comeback – featuring the music that made the man a legend. “You’re a Grand Old Flag,” “Over There,” “Give My Regards to Broadway,” and, of course, “Yankee Doodle Dandy.”

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