James Francis Cagney Jr. was an American dancer, actor and film director, well-known for his distinctive vocal style, deadpan comic timing, and upbeat stage performances. He is famous for his complex tough guy roles in movies, including The Public Enemy (1931), Taxi (1932), Angels with Dirty Faces (1938), Roaring Twenties (1939), City for Conquest (1940), and White Heat (1949).

Enough of James Cagney, let’s talk about his late wife, Frances Willard Vernon. Keep reading if that sounds like what might interest you!

The Biography of Frances Willard Vernon

Frances Willard Vernon lived from 19 June 1899 to 10 October 1994. Her birthplace was Des Moines, Iowa, United States. Willard married James Cagney in 1922. The couple were together until Willard died in 1986.

Frances Willard Vernon’s remaining legacies are her children and grandchildren. Cathleen Cagney and James Cagney Jr. are Frances’s children, while her grandchildren are James Cagney IV and Cynthia Cagney. Also, Frances now has a great-grandchild named Fiona Cagney.

About James Frances Cagney’s Early Life

In 1899, James Francis “Jimmy” Cagney was born in New York City’s Lower East Side. James Francis Cagney Sr. (1875–1918), his father, was of Irish ancestry.

Early in James’s career, he worked as a bellhop, draughtsman, night doorkeeper, copy boy for the New York Sun, book custodian at the New York Public Library, and junior architect.  He met Florence James while he was employed by the New York Public Library. She assisted him in pursuing an acting career. James believed in the value of perseverance, saying, “I feel bad for the child who has an excessively comfortable life. Without his mother or father to perform his thoughts for him, he is suddenly forced to face the reality of life.”

James Francis Cagney began tap dancing when he was young, and because of his propensity for dancing on slanted cellar doors, he earned the moniker “Cellar-Door Cagney.” This talent ultimately helped him win an Academy Award.

Furthermore, James was a skilled street fighter.  He competed in amateur boxing and finished second in the lightweight state championship of New York. His coaches urged him to pursue a career in sports, but his mother forbade it. Also, James Cagney participated in a local team’s semi-pro baseball league while harbouring aspirations of making the Major Leagues.

James Francis Cagney’s career

James got dancing roles for himself in his movies, and for his performance in the musical Yankee Doodle Dandy, he won the Academy Award. For that, James was named seventh on the American Cinema Institute’s list of the top male stars of the Hollywood Golden Age in 1999. He was referred to as “perhaps the greatest actor to ever appear in front of a camera” by Orson Welles.

The role of Rocky Sullivan, the tough guy/man-child played by Cagney in the 1938 film Angels with Dirty Faces, earned him his first Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. Also, for his enthusiastic portrayal of George M. Cohan in Yankee Doodle Dandy in 1942, Cagney earned the Academy Award.

In 1955, actor Cagney received a third nomination for the film Love Me or Leave Me starring Doris Day. Cagney gave up dancing and performing in 1961 so he could spend more time with his family on their farm. Twenty years later, primarily to speed up his recovery from a stroke, he came out of retirement for a role in the film Ragtime (1981).