Cagney Eulogized as Having Been ‘Good to the Core’
James Cagney was eulogized Tuesday in the simple church where he had been confirmed and served as an altar boy.
With about 250 people--many of them in work clothes and few of them celebrities--looking on, Cagney was carried by pallbearers more diverse than the characters the late actor had portrayed in his 64 films.
Among them were dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov, actor Ralph Bellamy, boxer Floyd Patterson, producer A. C. Lyles and director Milos Forman, who directed Cagney in his last motion picture, “Ragtime.”
Cuomo and Koch Attend
In the audience to hear him eulogized as a man “good to the core of his being” were New York Gov. Mario M. Cuomo and Mayor Edward I. Koch, who appeared in Cagney’s final acting effort, a 1984 TV movie, “Terrible Joe Moran.”
In a little-noticed aside, Cardinal John J. O’Connor was heard talking to Frances Willard Cagney, the actor’s wife of 64 years (called Willi, and sometimes Billie, by Cagney). The cardinal apologized for a reported slight by a priest against her husband many years ago. Cagney apparently carried throughout his life an emotional scar because the priest had failed to arrive at the family home after the death of Cagney’s father, O’Connor said.
At the family’s request, only four floral arrangements were in the 800-seat St. Francis de Sales Church where the Rev. John Catoir, director of The Christophers, a Roman Catholic media organization, said:
“Jimmy Cagney was not the most pious man to walk across the stage . . . " but “he was good to the core of his being.
“In the end, none of us will be judged by how much money we make, by how many people we impress, or by how successful we are. In the end, all of us will be judged on love. In that department, Jimmy Cagney obtained a different kind of stardom. We will all miss him very, very much.”
‘Always Had a Heart’
Catoir also quoted from one of Cagney’s most famous performances, in “Angels with Dirty Faces.”
“I never had a heart,” the Cagney character had said.
“America loved him,” the priest said, “because he always had a heart.”
When the hearse left for a cemetery in Westchester County, scores of people waiting behind police barriers outside gave Cagney, who died Sunday at age 86, one last round of applause.