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Obituaries : Cagney's Brother William; 'Business Brains' of Family

January 05, 1988

William J. Cagney, a one-time actor who became both a successful producer of his brother's films and Jimmy Cagney's personal manager, died over the weekend.

The younger brother of the scrappy, tough-talking actor was the last surviving member of the five-sibling Cagney clan when he died Sunday, said his niece, Terry Morrison, daughter of the Cagneys' actress sister, Jeanne.

Cagney was 82 and died at Hoag Memorial Hospital in Newport Beach. He had lived in Orange County for many years.

Like his brother, he was born and raised on the streets of New York City and appeared on screen for the first time in "Ace of Aces" in 1933. As a young man he bore a strong physical resemblance to his brother Jimmy but unlike him never realized much success in front of the camera.

He turned to producing at Warner Brothers in 1940 and was an associate producer for "The Strawberry Blonde," "The Bride Came C.O.D." and "Blood on the Sun."

With Hal. B. Wallis, William Cagney produced one of the grand musicals of all times, "Yankee Doodle Dandy," a film biography of George M. Cohan, with Jimmy Cagney in the title role and co-starring Jeanne Cagney, who died in 1984.

William and Jimmy formed Cagney Productions Inc. in the early 1940s and brought to the screen such James Cagney feature vehicles as "The Time of Your Life," "Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye" and "A Lion Is in the Street."

"He managed his brother Jim's career. Bill was the business brains of the family," Morrison said.

The other Cagney siblings, Harry and Edward, were doctors. Harry remained a doctor until his death but Edward retired from the profession to go into business with William and Jimmy at Cagney Productions. Jimmy Cagney died in 1986.

William Cagney retired from the film industry in 1965 to spend his final years as a real estate investor.

He is survived by a daughter and two sons.

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