By Chuck Ross
We’re in the post-Olympics dog days and nights of August. As I write this it’s 6:00 in the evening here in L.A., and it’s still close to 80 degrees in much of the country — and even hotter here.
With the Olympics now done, I wanted to alert you to two terrific must-see movies on TV later tonight. Both are on TCM, uncut and with no commercials. And both star the great James Cagney.
First is "White Heat (1949)." For my money, Cagney’s performance as Cody Jarrett might just be the most raw, blistering performance ever given in a mainstream Hollywood movie. Eighteen years after establishing himself as America’s No. 1 criminal punk in "The Public Enemy" (1931) Cagney outdid himself in this gangster role. He makes the good fellas depicted in Martin Scorsese movies seem like choir boys.
"White Heat" screens tonight, Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2012, at 10 pm eastern time, 9 pm central time and 7 pm pacific time.
Stay tuned immediately following the movie at midnight eastern time, 11 pm central time and 9 pm pacific time for part two of a wonderful double-bill: Cagney in "Footlight Parade" (1933). Cagney always thought of himself as a song and dance man, but he didn’t make many musicals. He won the Oscar for "Yankee Doodle Dandy" in 1942, but Cagney’s dancing in "Footlight Parade," made in 1933, is more varied.
Released the same year as the celebrated musical "42nd Street," for my money "Footlight Parade" is a lot better and is the best backstage musical ever made. Both films have Ruby Keeler and Dick Powell, and both films have musical numbers by Busby Berkeley. But only "Footlight" has the kinetic energy of Cagney.
To see the versatility of Cagney in these two movies back-to-back is a rare privilege. What a great actor. What a sensational entertainer. If you can’t watch these movies tonight be sure to put them on your DVR.