Johnny Come Lately is like one of Cagney's best Warner Brothers movies, only he didn't make it for Warner Bros. His character has the charm, drive and smarts that you saw in his Oscar-winning Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) performance and the underdog spunk of Biff Grimes in The Strawberry Blonde (1941). He's a good guy who can be tough, knows how to handle a gun and throws more than a few punches to take down an opponent. Exactly what you'd expect from a Cagney character.
One of the best things about Johnny Come Lately is seeing Cagney in scenes with fellow movie pros who know how to nail a supporting role. Cagney seems to be having so much fun in this role. Like he's on a two-week vacation...with pay. That sense of fun carries over to his scenes with Hattie McDaniel as the McLeod housekeeper and cook. She knows the town and knows who the reporter needs to talk to. I loved their playful scenes.
Also getting laughs in a scene with Cagney is Margaret Hamilton as a prune-faced co-worker at the newspaper. Few women in 1930s and '40s films could work a bun in their hair the way actress Margaret Hamilton could.