Last year on the Fourth of July I raved about 1776 and wondered if there were any other great movies to watch on the Fourth of July and Yankee Doodle Dandy was suggested. I said that I’d watch it the next time I caught it on TCM, and as it happened that was on Independence Day.
Yankee Doodle Dandy is a film biography of George M. Cohan from 1942 staring James Cagney. First off it’s not really a truly biographical film as there are some changes to the story to simplify and make a better story. However I am sure that this is what happens with most of the bio-pics that come out. The movie has uses a pretty cool device at the film is presented at Cohan telling his life story to the President, who has summoned Cohan to present a Congressional Gold Medal or something. I didn’t know much about Cohan before seeing the movie. George Cohan was a member of The Four Cohans with his parents and sister, they were a vaudeville act in the 1890s. George would eventually make it to Broadway. In 1904 his first musical Little Johnny Jones debuted on Broadway. From then on he became a producer and continued to write his own music, from 1904-20 he had over 50 shows on Broadway and at some times as many as five shows running at the same time. This is what earned him the nickname as “the man who owned Broadway”. Besides musicals Cohan was one of the big Tin Pan Alley composers publishing about 300 songs and wrote the song “Over There” which was a rallying song during the World Wars.
The biggest surprises for me with the film was James Cagney, who is best known for playing mobsters in movies but this was the film that Cagney won his Best Actor Oscar. Many critics call Yankee Doodle Dandy Cagney’s best film. It’s a great film and full of laughs and at time I found myself going Cohan wrote that song, many times during the movie. If you haven’t seen it next time it’s on take some time to watch it and enjoy a trip of nostalgia.