and magnificent maggie


In 1929, James Cagney landed a part in George Kelly’s new play Maggie the Magnificent, at the Cort Theater in New York.  It was an important episode in the the Cagney story.  The girl playing opposite him was a dynamic youngster named Joan Blondell. 

The two auditioned for their parts in the play at the same time.  Joan sat in room at the New York Bond Building wearing a brown beret and an embarrassed, nervous look on her face.  Jimmy came into the room and winked at her.  When Kelly called to “the young lady in the brown beret,” Jimmy winked again.  “You’re going to get the part,” he told her.

 The next day at the Cort Theater, she was formally introduced to the male lead–James Cagney.  Years later, she was to say that she fell in love with him that very moment, only to be floored when Kelly invited the entire cast to lunch at the nearby English Tearoom, where Mrs. Cagney had reserved a booth.  But Joan said when she saw the way Jimmy and Bill greeted each other, that was the last idea that she had of any romantic attachment between them.  It was, however, the beginning of a long friendship.