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James Cagney married Frances Willard "Billie" Vernon on September 28, 1922. They met on the chorus line of 'Pitter Patter'. In 1941, they adopted a boy and named him James Cagney Jr. They had a daughter, Cathleen "Casey" Cagney. While Cagney was willing to give press interviews, he still remain a private man. He also remained out of the public eye during his private times.
When Cagney was a young man became interested in farming, do to a soil conservation he attended. During his first walk out from Warner Brothers, he bought a farm in Martha's Vineyard. The house on the farm was run down but Cagney loved it but Billie was reluctant at first to live in the house. As time moved on, Billie grew to love the place. Cagney began to spread a rumor that he was going to hire a gunman after he got inundated by movie fans. The ruse was so good that when Spencer Tracy came to visit, the cab driver wouldn't go up the drive way to the house. The cab driver told Tracy. "I hear they shoot!" Tracy ended up walking up the driveway.
In 1955, Cagney bought a farm in Duchess County, New York. He named the farm Verney Farm, taking the first syllable from Billie's maiden name and the second syllable from his own surname. Cagney turned the farm back into working order. He expanded the farm over the years to a 750 acre site. Cagney's enthusiasm for farming got him an honorary degree from Rollins College. He surprised the staff by writing a paper on soil conservation because he didn't want to "turning up with Ava Gardner on my arm" was the way Cagney put it.
Cagney was a sailor. He own boats on both the east and west coast of the U.S.A. Cagney enjoyed painting. Cagney only sold one of his paintings which was to Johnny Carson to benefit a charity.