James Cagney had an ambivalent attitude about his gangster roles, and yet — having firmly established himself as an actor with far more range — he returned to the genre after nine years with Raoul Walsh’s White Heat. It’s a good thing he did. Cody Jarrett, his psychotic hood on the run, became one of his signature roles, and the film may have been the high point of his storied career. It opened today in 1949.
Cagney was an old pro when he made White Heat, but Audrey Hepburn was an unknown when she appeared in William Wyler’s Roman Holiday as a modern day princess who slips away from her obligations for one glorious day with a little help from Gregory Peck’s sympathetic journalist. It turned her into a star overnight and scored her a well-deserved Oscar for Best Actress to boot. The film opened today in 1953.