The Time of Your Life (film)

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The Time of Your Life
Original film poster
Directed by H. C. Potter
Written byNathaniel Curtis
Based on The Time of Your Life
1939 play
by William Saroyan
Produced by William Cagney
Starring James Cagney
William Bendix
Wayne Morris
Jeanne Cagney
Cinematography James Wong Howe
Edited by Walter Hannemann
Truman K. Wood
Music by Carmen Dragon
William Cagney Productions
Distributed by United Artists
Release dates
  • May 26, 1948 (1948-05-26)(New York City)
  • September 3, 1948 (1948-09-03)(United States)
Running time
109 minutes
105 minutes
(Turner library print)
CountryUnited States
Budget$2 million [1]
Box office$1.5 million [2] [3]

The Time of Your Life is a 1948 American comedy drama film directed by H. C. Potter and starring James Cagney, William Bendix, Wayne Morris and Jeanne Cagney. A Cagney Production, The Time of Your Life was produced by Cagney's brother William and adapted by Nathaniel Curtis from the 1939 William Saroyan play of the same name. Cinematography was by James Wong Howe.



The film is set, with a few exceptions, entirely at Nick's 'Pacific Street Saloon, Restaurant and Entertainment Palace' in San Francisco, where a sign in the window announces "Come in and be yourself," signed "Nick" (William Bendix). Joe (James Cagney) sits at one of the saloon's tables much of the time, observing people coming and going. He is unemployed but apparently well-off, constantly ordering champagne and giving advice or money to others. (It is implied that he has a knack for choosing winning horses at races.) He desires to live "a civilized life" without hurting anyone and believes the real truth in people is found in their dreams of themselves, not the hard facts of their actual existence. [4]

Joe's best friend and "stooge," Tom (Wayne Morris), believes that he owes his life to Joe and runs peculiar errands for him without any apparent desire to make a life for himself. Other major characters include Kitty Duval (Jeanne Cagney), a supposed burlesque actress whose real name is Katerina Kornovsky. It is implied that she has actually been a prostitute. Tom is innocently infatuated with her, but he only gets the nerve to ask her out and to pursue his courtship with Joe's urging and help. One young man, Willie (Richard Erdmann), is a "marble game [ pinball machine] maniac." Another, Dudley Raoul Bostwick (Jimmy Lydon), keeps trying to get up the nerve to call his girlfriend, Elsie Mandelspiegel (Nanette Parks). At one point, he mistakenly calls a different, older woman (Renie Riano) and asks her to meet him at Nick's but pretends to be someone else when she arrives. Harry (Paul Draper), a "natural-born tap dancing comedian" who cannot make people laugh, is hired by Nick and dances often during the film. A young Black man (Reginald Beane) enters looking for any kind of work and is hired to wash dishes, but when he notices Nick's piano, he shows his talent and is amazed that Nick will hire him simply to play.

Among the other characters who come to Nick's, two of the most significant are Freddie Blick (Tom Powers), who extorts money from Nick and later harasses Kitty, and an older man dressed like a cowboy who refers to himself as "Kit Carson" (James Barton). By the end of the film, Blick's attempt to humiliate and coerce Kitty is foiled by the efforts of Kit Carson, Joe, and Tom; Willie finally wins his game; Dudley and Elsie are reunited; and Joe sends Tom and Kitty off to be married, with Tom now having an independent job as a truck driver. As Joe and Kit sit down to continue telling each other tall tales, Nick takes his sign advising customers to be themselves and rips it up, proclaiming "Enough is enough!"


James Cagney, Jeanne Cagney and Wayne Morris in The Time of Your Life. The Time Of Your Life (1948) 1.jpg
James Cagney, Jeanne Cagney and Wayne Morris in The Time of Your Life.
James Cagney and James Barton James Cagney-James Barton in The Time of Your Life.jpg
James Cagney and James Barton
Gale Page and James Cagney Gale Page-James Cagney in The Time of Your Life.jpg
Gale Page and James Cagney


The Cagneys admired the play and acquired its film rights on the condition that theirs not be in release longer than seven years. They gave their director and cinematographer two weeks for blocking, but changed their minds once filming began, spending freely and breaking their budget. [5] The film was shot mostly on one set

The film was shot using Saroyan's original ending where Kit shot and killed Blick offstage, whom the Production Code Administration had forced the producers to change from a police detective into an informer and blackmailer. [6] The audience heard the shots and saw Kit walk in relating the event as one of his stories "I shot a man once. In San Francisco. Shot him two times...Fellow named Blick or Glick or something. Couldn't stand the way he talked to ladies".

Preview audiences reacted unfavourably. [7] Cagney asked Saroyan to write a more acceptable ending but Saroyan priced his work out of Cagney's reach. [8] A new action-packed climax was substituted with Joe knocking him unconscious, leading Kit to think he had shot him dead, and Nick later throwing him out onto the street as Kitty and Tom state their intent to get married.


Box office

The film was a failure at the box office.[ citation needed ]


A Playhouse 90 television version ten years later starring Jackie Gleason as Joe earned critical acclaim, with Jack Klugman as Nick, Dick York as Tom, Betsy Palmer as Kitty, and James Barton reprising his role as Kit Carson.

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  1. THOMAS F. BRADY (Feb 1, 1948). "HOLLYWOOD DEALS: Prospects Brighten for United Artists -Budget Runs Wild and Other Matters". New York Times. p. X5.
  2. Balio, Tino (2009). United Artists: The Company Built by the Stars. University of Wisconsin Press. ISBN   978-0-299-23004-3. p217
  3. "Top Grossers of 1948", Variety 5 January 1949 p 46
  4. LIFE. Time Inc. 14 June 1948. p. 51. ISSN   0024-3019 . Retrieved 2015-08-21.
  5. p.145 Schickle, Richard James Cagney 1985 Applause Books
  6. p.1045 American Film Institute With Our Gates: Ethnicity in American Films 1911–1960 1997 University of California Press
  7. Hal Erickson (2012). "The-Time-of-Your-Life – Trailer – Cast – Showtimes –". Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times . Archived from the original on 2012-10-20. Retrieved 2015-08-21.
  8. pp. 141-142 Lee, Lawrence & Gifford, Barry Saroyan: A Biography University of California Press