For his first independently-produced starring effort, James Cagney chose the sentimental drama Johnny Come Lately. Cagney plays itinerant newspaperman Tom Richards, who wanders into a small corruption-ridden town. Striking up a friendship with elderly Vinnie McLeod (Grace George in her only movie appearance), the editor of the local newspaper, Tom tries to help Vinnie exposed the community's crooked politicians. He is thwarted in his efforts until Gashouse Mary (Marjorie Main), a wealthy dowager with a shady past, exposes the machinations behind a phony Orphan's Fund. At the insistence of star Cagney, the cast of Johnny Come Lately was filled with familiar character actors (Hattie McDaniel, Edward McNamara, George Cleveland, Margaret Hamilton, Lucien Littlefield) who are herein offered a lot more screen time than was customary. Based on the Louis Bromfield novel McLeod's Folly, Johnny Come Lately was produced by Cagney's brother William; the film garnered an Oscar nomination for Leigh Harline's nostalgic musical score.