Even celebrities have favorite actors, and that includes superstars like Clint Eastwood. Famous for Westerns like A Fistful of Dollars and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, one would expect the actor to name someone like John Wayne or Gary Cooper. It turns out, according to an interview with the Play Misty for Me star, gangster movie actor James Cagney ruled the roost.
Actors should have favorite actors of their own because it shows they are studying their craft and learning from their peers. However, it’s astounding to think of those actors who have honed their craft as ever being novices. In fact, when one researches “cowboy actors” on Google, Clint Eastwood is only behind John Wayne.
The 92-year-old actor and director acknowledges that he and his favorite have two very different styles. James Cagney is known for the snappy, fast speech that prevailed in movies of the 1940s and 50s, and starred mostly in films about organized crime and gangsters. Clint Eastwood, on the other hand, is known for playing the Man with No Name, also a man of few words.
At this time, the actors have a comparable number of roles, with James Cagney having played in 70 films and Clint Eastwood in 72. However, the former cowboy actor also has a prolific resume of directing and producing credits, including the Oscar-winning movies Million Dollar Baby and The Unforgiven. However, this isn’t a race, as James Cagney is easily as revered as Clint Eastwood, even if it is for different reasons.
Among James Cagney’s credits include White Heat, Angels with Dirty Faces, and A Lion Is in the Streets. In 1957, he starred as Lon Chaney in the biopic Man of a Thousand Faces, which told the tragic story of the silent film star and his off-screen struggles. After famously stepping back from acting after the frenetic 1961 Billy Wilder film One, Two, Three, he made his last two appearances in 1981’s Ragtime and the 1984 television movie Terrible Joe Moran.
Meanwhile, as his favorite actor was playing Lon Chaney, Clint Eastwood was getting his start in numerous television credits and uncredited movie roles. The 1964 Sergio Leone Yojimbo remake, A Fistful of Dollars, propelled him into stardom. He very quickly found fame in the cowboy genre, starring in the television show Rawhide while filming the two famous sequels about the Man with No Name.
It wasn’t long before Clint Eastwood turned his attention to being behind the camera. His first directing credit was the 1971 thriller Play Misty for Me, about a radio jockey with a music-loving stalker. Since then he has added his expertise to helming The Outlaw Josey Wales, Pale Rider, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, and Gran Torino among the 45 films he’s had a hand in directing.
While the careers of James Cagney and Clint Eastwood had some significant differences, both of them are very famous and loved by their fans. Knowing that the cowboy actor looked up to his gangster movie contemporary gives us an insight into a prolific career both in front of and behind the camera.