In Lady Killer (1933) Dan Quigley (Jimmy Cagney) a movie theater usher, gets fired and drifts into a life of petty crime with a gang of con men and their slinky, hardboiled gun moll, Myra, played by the incomparable Mae Clarke. On the lam from the police and the gang who betrays him, Dan flees to California where he ends up as an extra in the movies, and then, presto, he’s a high-living movie star.
Cagney and Clarke seem to be having a swell time making this movie, building on their partnership which started in The Public Enemy (1931) when Cagney smashed a grapefruit into Mae’s face, 41 seconds that, for better or worse, has given Mae, a great but emotionally fragile actress, Hollywood immortality.
Growing up on the tough streets of New York, Cagney’s friends were Jewish kids who taught the Irish lad their mother tongue. Thus, in this wonderful little comedy, Cagney unexpectedly tosses off some Yiddish which roughly translates as: “My ass is killing me.”