Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)





Director:     Michael Curtiz.

Starring:     James Cagney (George M. Cohan), Joan Leslie (Mary), Walter Huston (Jerry Cohan), Richard Whorf (Sam Harris), Irene Manning (Fay Templeton), George Tobias (Dietz), Rosemary DeCamp (Nellie Cohan), Jeanne Cagney (Josie Cohan), S. Z. Sakall (Schwab), Walter Catlett (Theatre manager), Frances Langford (Singer), Eddie Foy, Jr. (Eddie Foy).

Oscar:  James Cagney of best actor.




The story of George M. Cohan, the former vaudeville singer-dancer who became a well-known American composer of popular tunes, such as "I'm a Yankee Doodle Dandy" and "Over There".  A lot of people, marveling at how well Cagney performed the singing and dancing, don't realize that Cagney was an old dance man, even though his talents were rarely used in this area.

Cohan was the father of the American musical comedy known as "the man who owned Broadway".



Historical background:

1878  --  George Michael Cohan was born in Providence, Rhode Island to Irish Vaudeville performers.  He was born on July 3, but the Cohan family always said he was "born on the Fourth of July!"

At an early age he joined his parents on stage, first as a prop and then as a dancer and singer, as part of a a family act called The Four Cohans.

His sister Josephine "Josie" Cohan Niblo's husband was Fred Niblo, Sr., an important director of silent films, including Ben Hur (1925).

In his teens he was a very good stage dancer.  He started writing original skits and songs for the family act.

1893  --  he sold some of his songs to a publisher. In his career he published some 1,500 songs, including "You're a Grand Old Flag," "I Want to Hear a Yankee Doodle Tune," and "Over There."

1904  --  Cohan had his first big Broadway hit, Little Johnny Jones, that included "Give My Regards to Broadway" and "The Yankee Doodle Boy."

10-5  --  Forty-five Minutes from Broadway.

1906  --  George Washington, Jr.

1907  --  The Talk of New York and The Honeymooners.

1908  --  Fifty Miles from Boston and The Yankee Prince.

1912  --  Broadway Jones.

1913  --  Seven Keys to Baldpate.

1918  --  The Cohan Revue of 1918 (co-written with Irving Berlin).

1919  --  he opposed a strike by the Actors' Equity Association, for which many in the theatrical professions never forgave him.

1920  --  The Tavern.

1923  --  The Rise of Rosie O'Reilly (featuring 13-year-old Ruby Keeler).

1923  --  The Song and Dance Man.

1925  --  American Born.

1925  -- published his autobiography.

1927  --  The Baby Cyclone (one of Spencer Tracy's early breaks).

1928  --  Elmer the Great (1928, co-written with Ring Lardner).

1933  --  Pigeons and People.

1936  --  his song "Johnny Q. Public of the U.S.A."  gave a new nickname for the average citizen. .

1940  --  his final play, The Return of the Vagabond.

1941  --President Franklin Roosevelt presented him with a Congressional Gold Medal in honor of his contributions to morale during WWI. 

1942  --  a musical film of Cohan, Yankee Doodle Dandy, released.  Actor James Cagney earned the Best Actor Academy Award. 

1942 (Nov 5)  -- he died of abdominal cancer in his home across from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  

1959  --  dedication of a bronze statue of Cohan in Times Square, Broadway and 46th Street, Manhattan, New York. 

1970  -- he was inducted into the Songwriters' Hall of Fame. 


Return To Main Page

Return to Home Page (Vernon Johns Society)