During the filming of Ragtime, the 81-year old Cagney talks about his career. Cagney tells us about becoming a dancer and meeting his wife, his route from Broadway to Hollywood, the emergence of his tough-guy persona, and his post-war creations of insane characters. Donald O'Connor, Pat O'Brien, Milos Forman and others also try to distill what it is Cagney brings to the screen. Clips from several of his films illustrate their points. Norman Mailer says Cagney presented a tough guy who was decent. Another says he gave a tragic dimension to the street tough. For a third, he presented the dark side of the American dream. Cagney calls himself a lucky hoofer, a fresh mutt.