The Seven Little Foys
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The Seven Little Foys is a 1955 film starring Bob Hope as Eddie Foy. James Cagney reprises his role as George M. Cohan for an energetic tabletop dance showdown sequence. In addition to the famous film, the story of Eddie Foy, Sr. and the Seven Little Foys also inspired a TV version in 1964 and a stage musical version, which premiered in 2007.
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Jimmy Cagney appears briefly as George Cohan. In a testimonial dinner highlight, he mounts a long, shiny black table top and performs his famous "Yankee Doodle Boy" steps from YANKEE DOODLE DANDY (1942). Although 13 years older and clearly heavier, Cagney has lost only a little of that loose-jointed flexibility. Hope (as Eddie Foy) follows him and delivers a vigorously impressive tap routine. They conclude with a precision softshoe duet.
In typical Hollywood fashion, all this frivolity unfolds while Foy, who's just returned to NY, is unaware that Madeleine (Milly Vitale), beloved wife and mother of his seven children, has died from a lengthy illness that she kept hidden from him.
Angela Clarke is Aunt Clara, the deceased's meddling older sister who, incensed that they must play the Palace during Christmas week, tries to wrest the kids away from Eddie by getting the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children involved (this organization's actual name was the Gerry Society). Foy has his brood do their pathetic stage specialties for the presiding judge and he rules that they aren't performers. Although defeated, Aunt Clara decides not to return to Italy and on one auspicious Sunday, Eddie actually makes it to church with the family! Bells all across New Rochelle announce the miraculous news. Finis.
(Watch for a priestly cameo by Joe Flynn, best known as Capt. Binghamton on TV's MCHALE'S NAVY.)
Bob Hope is fine in a real acting role and one of the best scenes is between Hope and Jimmy Cagney. Cagney reprises his
role as George M. Cohan and the two do a tap dancing number on top of a table at the Friar's club roast of Foy Sr. The movie is worth buying just for that.
I was surprized that the movie began in 1898 because I knew that Eddie Foy had what must have been an interesting career before that. In a biography I had read of Wyatt Earp, I was surprized to discover that Eddie Foy was an entertainer in the Dodge City of Earp's era. Couldn't there have been 5-10 minutes on what that part of Foy's life must have been like?
I would have rated this movie "3 Stars" but for the scene that I had been waiting for. James Cagney won the Best Actor Oscar for his role as George M. Cohan in "Yankee Doodle Dandy"; one of my favorite movies. I would have thought that the Cagney of ganster movie fame would have been miscast in "YDD" but he was quite a hoofer then as well as his encore preformance in "The Seven Little Foys". What I really appreciated, along with the top-notch bantering between Hope and Cagney, was that the duo was given three songs to strut their stuff. Both Hope and Cagney are very adept at tap dancing as well as "the old soft shoe". Cagney's stiff-legged style is worth the price of admission to (or purchase of) any movie he dances in and I got more than my money's worth in this one. The scene with Hope and Cagney is one of the great lesser-known moments in American cinema.