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Yankee Doodle Dandy
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For the 18th-century song, see Yankee Doodle. For the 20th-century song, see The Yankee Doodle Boy.
Yankee Doodle Dandy (film)
Theatrical release poster by Bill Gold
Directed by Michael Curtiz
Written by Robert Buckner Edmund Joseph Produced by Hal B. Wallis Jack L. Warner Starring James Cagney Joan Leslie Walter Huston Richard Whorf
Cinematography James Wong Howe
Edited by George Amy
Music by Score and Songs
George M. CohanScore Adaptation:
Ray Heindorf Heinz Roemheld
Distributed by Warner Bros.
May 29, 1942 (New York City)
June 6, 1942 (United States)
Running time 126 minutes
Country United States
Budget $1.5 million
Box office $6.5 million
is a 1942 American biographical musical film about George M. Cohan, known as "The Man Who Owned Broadway". It stars James Cagney, Joan Leslie, Walter Huston, and Richard Whorf, and features Irene Manning, George Tobias, Rosemary DeCamp, Jeanne Cagney, and Vera Lewis. Joan Leslie's singing voice was partially dubbed by Sally Sweetland.
The film was written by Robert Buckner and Edmund Joseph, and directed by Michael Curtiz. According to the special edition DVD, significant and uncredited improvements were made to the script by the twin brothers Julius J. Epstein and Philip G. Epstein. The film was a major hit for Warner Brothers, and was nominated for eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture, winning three.
In 1993, 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 1998, the film was included on the American Film Institute's list, a compilation of the 100 greatest films in American cinema.
1 Plot 2 Cast
3 Background and production
4 Musical numbers 5 Production 6 Reception 6.1 Box office
6.2 Critical response
6.3 Awards and honors
7 See also 8 Adaptations 9 References 10 External links
In the early days of World War II, Cohan comes out of retirement to star as President Roosevelt in the Rodgers and Hart musical On the first night, he is summoned to meet the president at the White House, who presents him with a Congressional Gold Medal (though the Cohan character on screen incorrectly identifies the award as the Congressional Medal of Honor). Cohan is overcome and chats with Roosevelt, recalling his early days on the stage. The film flashes back to his supposed birth on July 4, whilst his father is performing on the vaudeville stage.
Cohan and his sister join the family act as soon as they can learn to dance, and soon The Four Cohans are performing successfully. But George gets too cocky as he grows up and is blacklisted by theatrical producers for being troublesome. He leaves the act and hawks his songs unsuccessfully around to producers. In partnership with Sam Harris, another struggling writer, he finally interests a producer and they are on the road to success. He also marries Mary, a young singer/dancer.
As his star ascends, he persuades his now struggling parents to join his act, eventually vesting some of his valuable theatrical properties in their name.
Cohan retires, but returns to the stage several times, culminating in the role of the U.S. president. As he leaves the White House, after receiving the Congressional Gold Medal from the president, he descends a set of stairs while performing a tap dance (which Cagney thought up before the scene was filmed and undertook without rehearsal). Outside, he joins a military parade, where the soldiers are singing "Over There", and, at first, he isn't singing. Not knowing that Cohan is the song's composer, one of them asks if he knows the words. Cohan's response is a smile before joining in to sing too.
James Cagney as George M. Cohan
Joan Leslie as Mary Cohan
Walter Huston as Jerry Cohan
Richard Whorf as Sam Harris
Irene Manning as Fay Templeton
George Tobias as Dietz
Rosemary DeCamp as Nellie Cohan
Jeanne Cagney as Josie Cohan
Eddie Foy, Jr. as Eddie Foy, Sr.
Frances Langford as Nora Bayes
George Barbier as Erlanger
S. Z. Sakall as Schwab
Walter Catlett as Theatre Manager
Minor Watson as Ed Albee
Chester Clute as Harold Goff
Odette Myrtil as Madame Bartholdi
Douglas Croft as George M. Cohan (age 13)
Patsy Lee Parsons as Josie Cohan (age 12)
Captain Jack Young as President Franklin D. RooseveltUncredited Roles
Audrey Long as Dietz and Goff's Receptionist
Clinton Rosemond as White House Butler
Spencer Charters as Stage Manager in Providence
Dorothy Kelly and Marijo James as Sister Act
Henry Blair as George M. Cohan (age 7)
Jo Ann Marlowe as Josie Cohan (age 6)
Thomas E. Jackson as Stage Manager
Ernest Anderson as George M. Cohan's Valet
Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)
Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) Trivia on IMDb: Cameos, Mistakes, Spoilers and more...
Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)
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James Cagney became the first actor to win the Best Actor Academy Award for a musical performance.
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Many facts were changed or ignored to add to the feel of the movie. For example, the real George M. Cohan was married twice, and although his second wife's middle name was Mary, she went by her first name, Agnes. In fact, the movie deviated from the truth to such a degree that Cohan's daughter Georgette commented, "That's the kind of life Daddy would have liked to have lived."
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This marks the first time a living U.S. President was depicted in a sound film.
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The movie's line "My mother thanks you. My father thanks you. My sister thanks you. And I thank you." was voted as the #97 movie quote by the American Film Institute (out of 100).
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Walking down the stairs at the White House, James Cagney goes into a tap dance. According to TCM, that was completely ad-libbed.
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James Cagney broke a rib while filming a dance scene, but continued dancing until it was completed.
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According to his biography the rather stiff-legged dancing style used by James Cagney in this movie is not his own. He copied George M. Cohan's style to make the film more accurate.
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The first time James Cagney attended the premiere of one of his own movies.
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Despite failing health, the real George M. Cohan acted briefly as a consultant on the film. He lived long enough to see the finished result and approved wholeheartedly of James Cagney's depiction of himself.
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Although a hugely patriotic film, production was already underway before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor took place.
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The film was released on June 6, 1942. George M. Cohan died exactly five months later on November 6, 1942, at the age of 64. He had been battling a serious intestinal problems for almost a year. He died of cancer.
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In the film George M. Cohan writes a drama called "Popularity", which was a failure in 1906. This is fact. Three years later, in 1909, he rewrote parts of it, added music, and put it on under the title of "The Man Who Owns Broadway", which became a popular hit (128 performances).
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James Cagney trained under Johnny Boyle, George M. Cohan's real-life choreographer. Boyle had appeared in "The Cohan Revue of 1916", where he worked with Cohan directly.
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In a voice-over, James Cagney, as George M. Cohan, says "I was a good Democrat, even in those days." In reality, Cohan was a lifelong ultra-conservative Republican who despised President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Initially, Cohan was a supporter of Roosevelt, but became disenchanted with him and his New Deal policies. Cohan's dislike for the President was such that, although awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 1936, he put off meeting with Roosevelt until 1940 to receive it. This occurred when the White House staff noted that Cohan would be in Washington, D.C. for the out-of-town tryout of his play THE RETURN OF THE VAGABOND. It seemed an opportune time to arrange the meeting, and Cohan agreed. It was fortunate timing: that play turned out to be Cohan's last, and he never appeared onstage again - in Washington or New York.
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James Cagney's performance as George M. Cohan is ranked #6 on Premiere Magazine's 100 Greatest Performances of All Time.
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Joan Leslie portrays Mary Cohan, aging from 18 to 57 throughout proceedings. Leslie turned 17 during the production of the film. The fact that she was still attending school during production caused numerous delays.
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Choreographer Johnny Boyle broke his ankle rehearsing the opening song-and-dance number. This effectively scuttled the rest of his career.
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Future director Don Siegel was responsible for putting together the numerous montages that appear throughout the film.
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Julius J. Epstein and Philip G. Epstein did an uncredited rewrite on the script at the personal request of James Cagney.
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Carl Jules Weyl's theater stage set took up a whole sound stage and was specifically constructed so that it could replicate the proscenium design of any given theater, from the traditional 19th-century stylings of the Liberty (now Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum, where "Little Johnny Jones" opened in 1904) and Herald Square (demolished in 1915, where "George Washington, Jr." opened in 1906) Theaters, to the Art Deco design of the Alvin (now the Neil Simon, where "I'd Rather Be Right" opened in 1937) Theater.
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YANKEE DOODLE DANDY: In Context
In Context: Cagney and Cohanby Felicia Elliott, May 31, 2017
It is no surprise that Yankee Doodle Dandy was hugely popular upon it’s release in late May/early June 1942. Filming had begun before the attack on Pearl Harbor and the United States was still trying to stay out of the world war, but it’s not like filmmakers didn’t know war might be coming and that a patriotic picture might be a good bet. Still, the timing could not have been better for the newfound patriotic fervor of audiences, for star James Cagney’s career, and, ultimately, for the time left before subject George M. Cohen’s death.
Yankee Doodle Dandy is a biopic of George M. Cohan, who was sort of the Lin-Manuel Miranda of his time. He was a vaudevillian from a traveling vaudeville family known as "The Four Cohans" who grew up to be one of Broadway’s most enduring and famous writer, actor, singer, and director. But just how accurate is Yankee Doodle Dandy?
Origination of the Film
In his autobiography, Cagney by Cagney, James Cagney says that Cohan wanted his life story filmed, and the idea was to have Fred Astaire play him. The two do bear a passing resemblance, but Astaire passed on the part, reportedly because Cohan’s stiff-legged dancing style was too different from his own.
According to Cagney’s autobiography, at the same time that Cohan was shopping his life story around, Cagney and his producer-brother, Bill, were looking for an ultra-patriotic movie for Jimmy Cagney. Cagney, a very vocal and visible liberal had been pegged for possible ties to communism, as had nearly all vocal and visible Hollywood liberals at that time. He wanted a project that would prove beyond doubt that he was an American patriot.
After Astaire turned the Cohan part down, Jack Warner showed interest in the part, and he mentioned to Cohan that Cagney could be suitable. There must have been some skepticism because Cagney was largely known for doing gritty gangster flicks, but the fact is Cagney, like Cohan, was a vaudevillian at heart. He could sing and dance and, eventually, he was cast.
Who Was George M. Cohan?
Most of the basic facts portrayed in Yankee Doodle Dandy are accurate. He and his family really did travel and perform as The Four Cohans [bonus fact: little sister Josie Cohan is played by Jeanne Cagney, Jimmy’s Cagney’s real-life little sister]. He really did play in “Peck’s Bad Boy” and he really did have a hot temper and a large ego as a boy and young man. It’s also true that he and his family insisted that he was born on the Fourth of July, but in reality his birth records show he was born on July 3rd.
Every song in Yankee Doodle Dandy is an original Cohan with one exception: “Off the Record” which comes near the end of the film. But while he did not write that song, the set shown for that production is based off of authentic photos from the set of the stage production.
Cohan wrote and produced many musicals that were every bit as flashy and patriotic as portrayed in the film, and is remembered as one of the most important people in Broadway history.
Accuracy of Yankee Doodle Dandy
Mary and Marriage
Of course, like most biopics, not everything in Yankee Doodle Dandy is exactly accurate. The departure from fact that is probably most talked about is the fact that Cohan was actually married twice, rather than just the once as portrayed in the film. Mary, his wife in the film played by Joan Leslie, is basically a fictional character who is a combination of both of Cohan’s wives. His second wife was named Agnes Mary, but she never went by Mary.
While—as far as I can tell—Cohan was much more vocal about his love of baseball than politics, he was probably not as liberal as portrayed in the film. The film’s narrative is structured on Cohan being summoned to the White House to be awarded the Congressional Gold Medal because his songs did so much to boost morale during World War I and when he meets President Franklin Roosevelt, he chats with him amicably telling his life story. The film, then, is flashbacks based on his conversations with FDR. Cagney-as-Cohan also makes a comment about being a good Democrat, even as a youngster. In real life, an-increasingly conservative Cohan was no great lover of Roosevelt and his socially and economically liberal policies.
Cagney and Cohan
The similarities between Jimmy Cagney and George M. Cohan are striking. Both were Irish [Cagney was ¾ Irish and ¼ Norwegian] and Catholic. Both were inherent performers and song-and-dance men. Both fought for the rights of show business people.
Cagney was a very professional actor, and he took this role very seriously. For one, if you’ve watched this movie and thought, like I did, that there must have been two writers, you would be mostly right. Cagney read the script and realized that it wasn’t even a little bit funny, which didn’t make sense for a biopic of a light-hearted entertainer like Cohan. He had the script revised by his friends and well-respected script doctors Julius and Phil Epstein to add some comedy and snappy dialogue.