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Yankee Doodle Dandy, A Cagney Classic
One of the great classic films of all time.
Yankee Doodle Dandy was made in 1942, a great year for films, and still won 3 Oscars. In 1993, it was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" and in 2006 it was ranked #18 on AFI's 100 Years of Musicals. It is a 'feel good' film, both nostalgic and unashamedly patriotic, released as it was just after the Pearl Harbour attack on the US Fleet.
The film tells the musical rags-to-riches life story and times of early 20th century entertainment legend George M. Cohan, following several generations of his family and showcases several exciting song and dance numbers. It contains a tour de force performance by an high energy James Cagney who shows beyond any doubt that he was not just a gangster-portrayer but also a very fine song and dance man.
As well as being critically well-received, the film was also a major box-office success for Warner Bros. It became the top box-office hit of the year, and Warners' most successful film up to that time.
The Original Trailer
Basic Story Line
The movie tells the story of American showbiz legend George M. Cohan (1878-1942), and begins in 1937 with Cohan visiting President Roosevelt and, encouraged by the President, recalls his life, which is told in flashback and forms the backbone of the film.
The flashback begins on July 4, 1878, in Providence, Rhode Island where Cohan was born to a struggling vaudeville family, Jerry Cohan (Walter Huston) and Nellie (Rosemary DeCamp), and performed with them and his younger sister Josie (Jeanne Cagney, the star's sister) as a youngster. They were billed as the Four Cohans. The film follows the Cohan's barnstorming around the country as vaudeville troupers and their first big break as little Georgie stars in Peck's Bad Boy. By the time George was an adolescent, it was clear that he was the star of the show, but also a bit full of himself as well. This led to him later taking his act solo as his sister became married and his parents too old to perform. Cohan did it all, though, being an actor/director/producer/writer and so on, the immense talent is only hinted upon in the movie
The movie moves on to Cohan's fortunate partnership with Sam H. Harris and their hit play Little Johnny Jones, and it traces his rising fame and fortune during WW1 when his patriotic songs like Over There became nationally famous. It reaches its climax when FDR presents Cohan with the Congressional Medal of Honor, and Cagney, as Cohan, does an impromptu jubilant tap dance down the White House steps.
James Cagney - George Cohan
Born in 1899 Cagney entered show buisness just after World War 1 and after 3 decades of stardom had risen to be one of the pre-eminent actors of his generation. Yankee Doodle Dandy was far from Cagney's first musical; he previously starred in such other tuners as Footlight Parade and Something to Sing About, among others. Furthermore, he would again play Cohan in The Seven Little Foys. Although remembered as a portrayer of gangsters, his first love was dancing and he always considered himself a 'hoofer' rather than an actor.
Joan Leslie - Mary Cohan
Born Joan Agnes Brodel in 1925, she began performing with her two sisters whilst still a child. Leslie got her first major role in High Sierra (1941) with Humphrey Bogart and starred in many more movies until her marriage in 1950.
Walter Huston - Jerry Cohan
Walter Huston became one of America's most distinguished actors during the 1930's and 40's and won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in 1948 for his role in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, which was directed by his son, John Huston.
Richard Whorf - Sam Harris
Irene Manning - Fay Templeton
George Tobias - Dietz
Rosemary DeCamp - Nellie Cohan
Jeanne Cagney (sister of James)- Josie Cohan
Frances Langford - Nora Bayes
George Barbier - Erlanger
S. Z. Sakall - Schwab
Eddie Foy, Jr. - his own father, Eddie Foy.
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Title Number and Quality Cagney Dancing
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