TAXI! James Cagney

TAXI! Warner Brothers, 1932. James Cagney, Loretta Young, George E. Stone, Guy Kibbee, Leila Bennett, Dorothy Burgess. Screenplay: Kubec Glasmon & John Bright. Director: Roy Del Ruth.

   Also in the film is a cameo by George Raft (as the winner of a dance contest; Cagney outsteps him all the way but the dance-hall audience registers its approval for the Raft team). Cagney and his brother (George E. Stone) are taxi drivers caught in a Manhattan taxi war.

   Loretta Young is the daughter of “Pops,” a taxi-driver played by Guy Kibbee, murdered by the mob-run opposing taxi company. Cagney believes in fighting, not compromising, and when a truce is arranged, he is outraged and convinced no good will come of it. When his brother is killed, Cagney goes on a one-man vendetta, and it’s a toss up whether his brother’s killer, the police, or his temper will get him first.

TAXI! James Cagney

   William Everson characterizes this as a “tough, cocky comedy-melodrama.” The comedy is supplied by Young’s waitress friend. Marie, played by Dorothy Burgess. The character’s whine gets a bit tiring after a while, but there is no gainsaying the skill with which Burgess plays this role.

   The movie is short (seventy minutes), and Cagney delivers his “you dirty yellow dog” line with an appropriate snarl. All the familiar Cagney mannerisms are used to good effect, and Young has a few moments in which she doesn’t have that plastic look she adopted for most of her career.

   A minor Cagney and Warner Brothers melodrama with a weak resolution, but fun, with a very striking opening behind the credits with some jazzy editing to set the big city/taxi war context.

— Reprinted from The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 8, No. 4, July-August 1986 (very slightly revised).

TAXI! James Cagney