Hollywood tough guys raised in Manhattan

Both acting legends were born in 1899, but under very different financial circumstances.

James Cagney started life in a tenement on Avenue D and East Eighth Street but grew up on East 96th Street in mostly German Yorkville.

“Yorkville was then a street-brawling neighborhood, and Jimmy became a champion battler,” stated his 1986 New York Times obituary.

“As a catcher for a Yorkville amateur baseball team, he played a game in 1919 at Sing Sing prison, where five former schoolmates were serving terms.”

Young Cagney went to Stuyvesant High School, then a semester at Columbia. He had jobs at the New York Sun, the New York Public Library, and Wanamaker’s department store on Astor Place.

Good thing he learned tap dancing as a kid. He was able to pick up extra cash doing vaudeville, which led to roles on Broadway and in movies.

Meanwhile, on West 103rd Street, Humphrey Bogart was growing up affluent, a descendant of the Bogaert family, who came to New Amsterdam from Holland in 1652.

Son of a doctor and suffragette, Bogart attended Trinity School, then Phillips Andover academy, where he was expelled.

His family money slowly draining away, he went into the Navy, then tried his hand at screenwriting before turning to acting.

“I was born to be indolent,” he reportedly said. “And this was the softest of rackets.”

[Photo: Bogart at age nine, from Upper West Side Story by Peter Salwen]

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4 Responses to “Hollywood tough guys raised in Manhattan”

  1. petey Says:

    “Yorkville was then a street-brawling neighborhood”

    and still was not so long ago. someone i knew growing up on my block became a stick-up man and died of an o.d. there were rumbles in carl schurz park and one person at least was killed. i was routinely terrorized as a kid by a group of thugs on lexington ave. walk around here now and imagine it, if you can.

  2. Nabe News: December 27 - Bowery Boogie | A Lower East Side Chronicle Says:

    […] New York City of James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart [Ephemeral […]

  3. Bookpod Says:

    In my early twenties, I lived on West 103rd Street in a cockroach-infested apartment. If only I’d known Bogart had grown up in the neighborhood, and who knows, in my building, I might have borne that awful place with greater fortitude!

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