Well, call me a “dirty rat,” but I’ve never paid much attention to this memorial on East 91 Street (or “James Cagney Place,” to be precise), a mere two blocks from where I used to live. The everyday renders much what surrounds us invisible; so, I’m going to make some noise for the old “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” the tribute to whom I now see with eyes accustomed to the green hills of Wales. Say, just how Welsh is the old New Yorker? Taking advantage of the wireless network I am gleefully tapping, I reencountered the aforementioned Cagney in an adaptation of Night Must Fall by Welsh playwright Emlyn Williams (previously discussed here). On American radio, the role of Danny, the charming psychopath, was most frequently played by Robert Montgomery, who also starred in the 1937 screen version. As it turns out, Cagney does not sound unlike Montgomery, which is to say, rather Irish than, as Williams prescribed it, “more Welsh than anything else.”
Among the other radio-related finds of the day were fine copies of Earle McGill’s Radio Directing (1940) and Harrison B. Summer’s Thirty-Year History of Radio Programs, 1926-1956 (1971), the latter of which I consulted so frequently while writing my doctoral study on old-time radio. Both volumes sat on the shelves of the Strand bookstore on 828 Broadway, which is well worth a visit for anyone who enjoys browsing for unusual books. A few blocks away, I found a copy of Once Upon a Time (for a mere $4.99); I have long wanted to catch up with this comedy. After all, it is based on Norman Corwin’s radio fantasy (“My Client, Curley” (previously discussed here).
Meanwhile, night is falling on Manhattan. Time to leave the old wireless alone and go out for a drink . . .