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Film: Yankee Doodle Dandy
Yankee Doodle Dandy is a 1942 film starring James Cagney and telling the life story of Broadway song-and-dance man George M. Cohan, the composer of songs such as "Over There", "You're a Grand Old Flag", and "Give My Regards To Broadway". Cohan's life is depicted from his beginnings with his family's vaudeville act, to fame and fortune as a Broadway composer and American patriot.

The acutally starts after Cohan has come out of retirment to play President Roosevelt in his best friends new musical "I'd Rather Be Right". After the show, he's summoned to meet the real President. Cohan chats with Roosevelt, recalling his early days on the stage. The story then flashes back to his youth, starting with his birth.

The Four Cohans perform successfully. Later, in partnership with another struggling writer, Sam Harris, they finally interest a producer and they are on the road to success. He also marries Mary, a young singer and dancer.

As his star ascends, he persuades his now struggling parents to join his act, eventually vesting some of his valuable theatrical properties in their name.

Yankee Doodle Dandy was inducted into the National Film Registry in 1993.


This work provides examples of:

  • Academy Award: Won three Oscars, including Best Actor for Cagney.
  • Bio Pic
  • Call Back: We see Cohan composing the melody to "Over There", followed by the song being performed at a rally as America enters World War I. 25 years later, as America enters World War II, the song is sung again.
  • Eagleland: One of the most unapologetic Flavor 1 examples ever made.
  • Happily Married: George and Mary (played by Joan Leslie).
  • History Marches On: Cagney as a dancing Franklin D. Roosevelt comes off as odd to a modern viewer, but back in the day Roosevelt's paralysis was carefully concealed from the public.
  • Invisible President: FDR's face is never shown.
  • Meaningful Echo: When "The 4 Cohans" perform together, George M. Cohan thanks the audience by saying, "My mother thanks you, my father thanks you, my sister thanks you and I thank you." At the end of the movie when President Franklin Roosevelt presents him with the Medal of Freedom, Cohen thanked the President with those same words.
  • The Musical Musical: The presentation of Cohan's music and Cagney's recreation of Cohan's performances are far more accurate than the portrayal of Cohan's life story.
  • Off the Record: "Off the Record" from the musical I'd Rather Be Right is prominently featured.
  • Playing Against Type: Cagney actually had quite a bit of experience in musical theater. However, his film career had typecast him as a tough guy after he starred in hit gangster films like The Public Enemy and Angels with Dirty Faces.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: Production on this film started just a few days before the attack on Pearl Harbor. After the attack, Warner Brothers then decided to make the most over-the-top patriotic film ever, and they did.
  • Significant Birth Date: The hero of this super-patriotic film was born on the 4th of July.
  • Throw It In: The most famous scene in the film, where Cohan tap-dances down a White House staircase, was ad-libbed by Cagney and done without any rehearsal.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: The version of Cohan's life presented in the film is mostly fictional.
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The Magnificent AmbersonsAcademy AwardCasablanca
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