He played the gangster tough guy role better than anyone. James Cagney, one of my favorite actors, died on this day in 1986. Everyone associated Cagney with the tough guy roles, but he was also a very good song and dance man. He proved that to movie audiences when he appeared in the movie "Yankee Doodle Dandy" in which he won an Oscar in 1942.
It was the tough guy roles that brought him fame. In 1931, the movie "Public Enemy", made Cagney a star and the scene in which he gives actress Mae Clark a "grapefruit facial", is one of the greatest movie scenes of all time. According to Turner Classic Movies, the scene wasn't in the script. Cagney and Clark planned it as a practical joke on the crew. The director liked it so much, he kept it in the movie.
If you have never seen it, check out the video and watch a little movie history.