A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from February 23, 2013
James Cagney Love Scene

James ("Jimmy") Cagney (1899-1986) was a New York City-born actor who played tough guys on film. Cagney was honored with the Life Achievement Award of the American Film Institute in March 14, and comedian Bob Hope (1903-2003) quipped:

“For Jimmy, a love scene was when he let the other guy live.” (Associated Press report)
“Cagney was such a tough guy that a love scene for him was when he let the other guy live.” (United Press International report)

Hope didn’t actually use the term “James Cagney love scene” (or “Jimmy Cagney love scene"), but the joke spawned that term.


Wikipedia: James Cagney
James Francis Cagney, Jr. (July 17, 1899 – March 30, 1986) was an American actor, first on stage, then in film, where he had his greatest impact. Although he won acclaim and major awards for a wide variety of performances, he is best remembered for playing tough guys. In 1999, the American Film Institute ranked him eighth among its 50 Greatest American Screen Legends.

14 March 1974, The Register-Republic (Rockford, IL), pg. B13, cols. 1-2:
Cagney love scene:
“Other guy lived”

LOS ANGELES (AP)—James Cagney came out of a 13-year retirement to accept the tributes of the film world as the man who “sang, danced and machine-gunned his way into our hearts.”

Cagney, a movie tough guy and self-described song-and-dance man for 40 years until his retirement in 1961, Wednesday night received the second Life Achievement Award of the American Film Institute from its director, George Stevens Jr.
(...)
Bob Hope, who appeared with Cagney in “The Seven Little Foys,” said Cagney played “vicious characters. For Jimmy, a love scene was when he let the other guy live.”

14 March 1974, The Times (San Mateo, CA), “Film Institute Honors Cagney” by Vernon Scott (UPI), pg. 4B, col. 4:
Hope quipped, “Cagney was such a tough guy that a love scene for him was when he let the other guy live.”

Google Books
The Mammoth Book of Zingers, Quips, and One-Liners: Over 10,000 Gems of Wit and Wisdom, One-liners and Wisecracks
By Geoff Tibballs
New York, NY: Carroll & Graff
2004
Pg. 358:
A James Cagney love scene is one where he lets the other guy live.
BOB HOPE

The Internet Movie Database
Memorable quotes for
Shoot ‘Em Up (2007)

Mr. Hertz: Does anyone know what a Jimmy Cagney love scene is? It’s when Cagney lets the good guy live.
[lobby of henchmen laugh]
Mr. Hertz: [growing serious] And if that happens in this show, I will do a lot more than ask for my money back.

Urban Dictionary
jimmy cagney love scene
any scene from a jimmy cagney movie where he lets the other guy live.
when arnold stops before finishing off the predator, it was almost a jimmy cagney love scene. until the whole nuclear explosion part.
by thestig863 Sep 28, 2011

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityMusic/Dance/Theatre/Film • Saturday, February 23, 2013 • Permalink