Yankee Doodle Dandy
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Yankee Doodle Dandy: Special Edition (Dbl DVD)
A nostalgic view of the golden era of show business and the man who made it glitter--George M. Cohan. His early days, triumphs, songs, musicals and romances.]]>
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
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DeCamp (1910- 2001) had a long show-biz career, starting in 1937 (after first working as a newspaper reporter) and continuing until the mid 80s. In addition to radio, films, and commercials (e.g., 20 Mule Team Borax), she was in dozens of TV shows, from The Life of Riley, Rawhide and Death Valley Days to Petticoat Junction, That Girl (Ann Marie's mother), The Partridge Family (Shirley Jones's mother), and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (Buck's mother). After Spring Byington (whose acting career began in 1908 (!) and lasted until I Dream of Jeannie and The Flying Nun in the late 60's), DeCamp is probably identified as "mom" more than anyone else in the 20th century. She was also famed for Howard Hughes crashing an experimental plane into her house in Beverly Hills. She and her husband were in bed and the wing of the plane just missed them. Anyway, no-one seems to mention her and she lent her dignity, beauty and quiet grace to the film as Cohan's mother (though curiously she was 11 years younger than Cagney).
And while I'm waxing nostalgic on trivia surrounding the film, regarding the marvelous Walter Huston (father of director John Huston, grandfather of actress Angelica), who plays the elder Cohan- in 1909, at age 26, he fell in love with one Mina Rose, age 44. He saw her on stage, and left his wife & job as the manager of a power plant to tour in Vaudeville with her. Divorced in 1924, when he was 41 & she 59, they were together for 15 years. For me his best film was Dodsworth, just wonderful.
BTW, in Yankee Doodle Dandy Josie Cohan, George's sister, is played by Cagney's real life sister Jeanne. Cagney is over the top in this film. He began as a dancer in 1919, dancing was his real love and it shows. No-one else displays such exuberance- a joy to watch (and I'm not much of fan of dance, but Cagney's in a class all his own). If you haven't seen this you MUST- perfect for the 4th of July, patriotic American schmaltz of the highest order.
Pics: Rosemary DeCamp circa 1950s, and from Yankee Doodle Dandy, from left to right- Jeanne Cagney, James Cagney, Rosemary DeCamp, Walter Huston
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This is a must see for anyone, especially when it gets to the part of War time; the inspiration of being an American and George M. Cohan's contributions to the cause.
At the end, after meeting with The President, and Cagney walks down the stairs and starts tap dancing, I've read he ad-libbed/improvised that. To me, that scene made the entire picture.
Michael Curtiz directed this fictionalized, unabashedly flag waving biopic of the first actor to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor, George M. Cohan. A delightful musical that covers his boyhood rise in late 19th Century vaudeville to national acclaim in the early 20th. There are recreations from several of George's stage hits, including LITTLE JOHNNY JONES (1904), the first American musical.
Cagney delights with singing and loose-jointed dancing, especially in the title song (from the previously mentioned "Jones"). He's outstanding in an Oscar-winning turn as the man they erected a statue to on Broadway. Highest recommendation!
Parenthetical number preceding title is a 1 to 10 IMDb viewer poll rating.
(7.6) Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) - Jimmy Cagney/Joan Leslie/Walter Huston/Richard Whorf/Irene Manning/George Tobias/Rosemary DeCamp/Jeanne Cagney/Frances Langford/Eddie Foy Jr.