|How James Cagney might have looked in|
The Adventures of Robin Hood.
The most famous role that Cagney rejected was the one that cemented Errol Flynn's superstar status: The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938). I have great difficulty imagining the 5' 6" Cagney as the charismatic bandit of Sherwood Forest. Warner Bros., though, considered him seriously after the success of its all-star A Midsummer Night's Dream (1935), which featured Cagney as Bottom (and also Olivia de Havilland, destined to be cast as Maid Marion). Cagney as Robin Hood was a risk, but Warner Bros. was willing to gamble on a career-changing performance. The studio soon began developing a treatment for its Sherwood Forest tale, which would have co-starred Guy Kibbee as Friar Tuck.
However, Warner Bros. became concerned after learning rival studio MGM planned to make a Robin Hood operetta with Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy. That production never came to fruition, but it delayed the Warners version. Meanwhile, Cagney sued Warner Bros. in 1935 for breach of contract, a lengthy lawsuit eventually won by the actor. By the time Cagney returned to the studio in 1938, Flynn--who had scored big hits with Captain Blood and The Charge of the Light Brigade--was attached to The Adventures of Robin Hood.
Here's a quick look at other films that could have starred James Cagney:
Lady for a Day (1933). The role of Dave the Dude was originally written with Robert Montgomery in mind. When he wasn't available, Frank Capra considered James Cagney and William Powell. The part eventually went to Warren William (shown on left with May Robson as Apple Annie).
At one time, Cagney was attached to a film called The Padre about an unconventional priest. When he nixed the idea, the film became Going My Way. It earned star Bing Crosby an Academy Award for Best Actor. One year later, he was nominated again for the same role in The Bells of St. Mary's.
|Stanley Holloway as Mr. Doolittle.|
According to Robert Osborne, James Cagney turned down the role of Vito Corleone in The Godfather; other sources claim he also declined to play Hyman Roth (Lee Strasberg) in The Godfather Part II.
One role James Cagney wanted, but did not get was the lead in Knute Rockne--All American. In a TCM article, Robert Osborne explained: "Notre Dame's administration had a say in who'd play their famous football leader and said 'no' to Cagney because of a stance he'd taken at the time on a controversial political matter."
Click here to check out all the posts in the James Cagney Blogathon hosted by The Movie Projector.