Yankee Doodle Dandy: Special Edition (Dbl DVD)
Two 45-minute documentaries highlight the Yankee Doodle Dandy
two-DVD set. Michael J. Fox hosts James Cagney: Top of the World
, a 1992 biography of the film's star that incorporates a rare audio interview with footage and photos from his film and stage career. Let Freedom Sing! The Story of "Yankee Doodle Dandy"
is a 2003 exploration of the film itself, including George M. Cohan's tight control over the project (he wanted Fred Astaire to play him) and profiles of the cast and crew (Joan Leslie, who played Cohan's wife, is interviewed and still looks lovely over 60 years later). Of course some material overlaps both documentaries, such as how a Communist accusation compelled Cagney to pursue this ultra-patriotic project, and how news of Pearl Harbor arrived during filming. Other significant features are historian Rudy Behlmer's trivia-laden commentary track and the nightmarish 1943 short "You, John Jones," in which Cagney is forced to envision his daughter (a pre-Meet Me in St. Louis
Margaret O'Brien) suffering in wartime conditions around the world. The transfer isn't as eye-popping as on some of Warner's classics, but of course the chief reason to celebrate is that a great musical is finally available on DVD with plenty of interesting features. --David Horiuchi