Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)

DailyView: Day 67, Movie 116

One more DailyView film for the Fourth of July, once again playing on TCM, is Yankee Doodle Dandy, the biopic on the life of George M. Cohan.

Yankee Doodle Dandy followed the life of George M. Cohan (James Cagney) from his early days as a child star working with his father Jerry (Walter Huston) and mother Nellie (Rosemary DeCamp) to his comeback playing President Roosevelt.

This movie has two main attractions: the amazing music from Cohan and an Oscar winning performance from James Cagney. This certainly is the heavy focus of the movie. There is not as much about Cohan’s life outside of his theater work in this movie. In fact, most of the negative parts of Cohan’s life have been removed or ignored in this biopic.

There have been plenty of movies that are elevated by a profound lead performance from an actor, and Yankee Doodle Dandy feels as if this is one of those.

However, that is enough for an entertaining movie. The music alone is tremendous and shows how talented George M. Cohan was as a songwriter. Cagney’s performance brought the arrogance of the total package performer to light. He seemed to be tough to put up with at times, but people wanted to hook their wagon to his talent.

There were a few moments in this movie that do not play well today. For example, showing the 4 Cohans act in Vaudeville in blackface was a bit shocking. I know in 1942 when this was released, things were seen differently, but it was still an unexpected shock to see it.

A great performance can carry a movie and James Cagney’s performance here did that here. Yankee Doodle Dandy was a good movie for the 4th.

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