This warm and engaging adaptation of Saroyan's superlative comedy represents a labor of love by James Cagney and his brother, producer William Cagney.
The film, set in a San Francisco waterfront saloon, is told in a helter skelter fashion, as Cagney (who remains seated through almost the entire picture) functions as the calm, controlling eye of the human hurricane that whirls on the screen. Cagney is a barroom philosopher, endlessly drinking
expensive champagne as he indulges in his own peculiarities. He enjoys listening to old records as he sits, sending Morris, an earnest, mildly retarded young man, on various errands, placing bets on horses, picking up children's toys, and buying gum that this good friend loves to chew in big wads.
Bendix, a member of the original Broadway cast, is the bartender. Cagney's real-life sister Jeanne is a down-on-her-luck streetwalker with a self-mocking sense of humor. Barton plays "Kit Carson," a quintessential old-timer, whom Cagney constantly prods into telling stories about the Wild West. In
the end, the world inside the saloon is threatened, but Cagney at last rises from his chair to defend his terrain and friends.
The story's message--encouraging people to live out their dreams--is simple, and Cagney's performance is a delight. The supporting cast is marvelous, an eclectic and enjoyable bunch that keeps the film moving along at a bouncy pace. Potter's direction allows the material to flow freely, giving his
cast every opportunity to excel without letting the camera call attention to itself. This was the third film Cagney did in conjunction with his brother William. The first two (JOHNNY COME LATELY and BLOOD ON THE SUN) had not done well at the box office, so the Cagney brothers were determined to
find a script of quality that would also be popular with filmgoers. It wasn't: THE TIME OF YOUR LIFE lost $500,000 at the box office. It was the only Cagney picture ever to lose money, and, though the actor was proud of his artistic achievement, he remained disappointed that this never caught on
with the public.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: This warm and engaging adaptation of Saroyan's superlative comedy represents a labor of love by James Cagney and his brother, producer William Cagney. The film, set in a San Francisco waterfront saloon, is told in a helter skelter fashion, as Cagney (who… (more)