- Yankee Doodle Dandy
name = Yankee Doodle Dandy
image_size = 214px
caption = theatrical poster
Julius J. Epstein Philip G. Epstein
James Cagney Joan Leslie Walter Huston Richard Whorf
Hal B. Wallis Jack L. Warner
music = Songs:
George M. Cohan
Ray Heindorf Heinz Roemheld
James Wong Howe
released = 6 June fy|1942
runtime = 126 minutes
country = FilmUS
language = English
imdb_id = 0035575 |
"Yankee Doodle Dandy" (fy|1942) is a biographical film about
George M. Cohan, the actor-singer-dancer-playwright-songwriter-producer-theatre owner-director-choreographer known as "The Man Who Owns Broadway", [ibdb name|5829|George M. Cohan] starring James Cagney, Joan Leslie, Walter Hustonand Richard Whorf, and featuring Irene Manning, George Tobias, Rosemary DeCampand Jeanne Cagney.
The movie was written by
Robert Bucknerand Edmund Joseph, and directed by Michael Curtiz. According to the special edition DVD, significant and uncredited improvements were made to the script by the famous "script doctors" twin brothers Julius J. Epsteinand Philip G. Epstein.
Background and production
The song "
The Yankee Doodle Boy" (a.k.a. "Yankee Doodle Dandy") was Cohan's trademark piece, a patriotic pastichedrawing from the lyrics and melody of the old Revolutionary War number, " Yankee Doodle". Other Cohan tunes in the movie include " Give My Regards to Broadway", "Harrigan", "Mary's a Grand Old Name", " You're a Grand Old Flag" and " Over There".
Cagney was a fitting choice for the role, as a fellow Irish-American who had been a song-and-dance man himself early in his career. His unique and seemingly odd presentation style, of half-singing and half-reciting the songs, reflected the style that Cohan himself used. His natural dance style and physique were also a good match for Cohan. Newspapers at the time reported that Cagney intended to consciously imitate Cohan's song-and-dance style, but to play the normal part of the acting in his own style. Although director Curtiz was famous for being a taskmaster, he also gave his actors some latitude. Cagney and other players improvised a number of "bits of business", as Cagney called them.
Although a number of the biographical particulars of the movie are
Hollywood-ized fiction (omitting the fact that Cohan divorced and remarried, for example, and taking some liberties with the chronology of Cohan's life), care was taken to make the sets, costumes and dance steps match the original stage presentations. This effort was aided significantly by a former associate of Cohan's, Jack Boyle, who knew the original productions well. Boyle also appeared in the film in some of the dancing groups.
*James Cagney reprised the role of George M. Cohan in the movie "
The Seven Little Foys", but agreed only on the condition that he receive no money – he did the film as a tribute to Eddie Foy. In "Yankee Doodle Dandy", Eddie Foy, Jr.played the role of his own father.
*Actress Jeanne Cagney, who played the part of Cohan's sister, was Jimmy Cagney's real-life sister. [imdb name|0128573|Jeanne Cagney] Cagney's brother, William Cagney, was the Associate Producer of the film. [imdb name|0128581|William Cagney]
*Rosemary DeCamp, who played Cagney's mother, was 11 years younger than Cagney. [imdb name|0213619|Rosemary DeCamp]
Franklin Delano Rooseveltwas played by Captain Jack Young, a lookalike who is seen only from the back. An impressionist, Art Gilmore, provided the voice of Roosevelt, uncredited. [imdb title|0035575]
Awards and honors
The film won
Academy Awardsfor Best Actor in a Leading Role (James Cagney), Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture and Best Sound, Recording. It was nominated for Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Walter Huston), Best Director, Best Film Editing for George Amy, Best Picture and Best Writing, Original Story. In 1993, "Yankee Doodle Dandy" was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registryby the Library of Congressas being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".
In 1998, this film ranked #100 on the
American Film Institute's 100 Years... 100 Movies list. In 2006 it was ranked #18 on AFI's 100 Years of Musicals. The 2005 AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movie Quotesalso voted James Cagney's line of "My mother thanks you. My father thanks you. My sister thanks you. And I thank you." number 97 on its list.
A popular myth about this movie, or at least a stretching of the truth, was that it was written in response to accusations that
James Cagneywas a communist. Supposedly, Cagney learned that he was in danger of being blacklistedfor having communist sympathies, so he decided to make the most jingoisticmovie he possibly could, and thus clear his name. This myth has its chronology a bit askew, as the McCarthy Era did not begin until the early 1950s. Also the Second Red Scaredid not begin until the late 1940s, well after the film was made. In other versions of this legend, either Robert Buckneror Edmund Joseph were the accused.
The DVD specials discuss this story in some detail. A Congressman named Martin Dies was investigating possible communist influence in Hollywood in 1940; he in fact had a cordial meeting with Cagney. The actor reassured him that, although he was a liberal and supported Roosevelt's
New Deal, he was also a patriot who had nothing to do with communism. That was the end of it, except that James' producer-brother William saw the Cohan story as a good "opportunity" to dispel any possible concerns about Cagney's loyalty. It was not written in response to the Dies investigation, as Cohan himself had been shopping his own story around for a while before Jack L. Warnerbought the rights, and Cohan retained final approval on all aspects of the film.
As the DVD also points out, production on the film was just a few days old when the
Attack on Pearl Harboroccurred. The film's cast and crew resolved to make an uplifting, patriotic film. It was timed to open around Memorial Dayin 1942, and was regarded as having achieved its goal in grand fashion.
In 1986, "Yankee Doodle Dandy" was the first computer-colorized film released by entrepreneur
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