Saturday, March 01, 2008

"Yankee Doodle Dandy" (1942) -- Initial Thoughts

My "new" musical this week was Yankee Doodle Dandy, a biopic of performer/songwriter George M. Cohan. I've wanted to see it for years now, as it was recommended to me by Cowboy's family friend Mrs. E back when Banana and The Leatherneck got married. But I never got around to seeing it until now. What a shame! I totally dug this movie. I was afraid it might be a little sugary, but all the sugar was tempered by a healthy dose of hubris in the main character. Just when you thought they were building him up as the nicest, smartest, most talented person in history, there'd be a scene where Cohan's pride and cocksure attitude caused him to make a mistake or lose a job.

I was pretty prepared for seeing James Cagney in the starring role, dancing and singing with the best of them. Although I mostly know him from mean, hard, villainous roles in things like Public Enemy and Mr. Roberts, I knew he started out as a hoofer and had seen snippets of YDD. So the big surprise for me was Walter Huston, keeping up with the rest of the cast in the dance numbers! I'm used to seeing him in stuff like Swamp Water and Treasure of the Sierra Madre, but a little digging reveals that he started out in vaudeville! Also, he was a totally nice character, not grouchy or miserly at all. No hollering or smacking people around or even glaring!

So yeah, fun movie with a lot of big stage numbers involving songs I know really well, and two "tough guys" playing nice stage entertainers! Quite cool.


  1. defective yeti watched this movie as part of his "AFI 100" project of watching all the films on the American Film Institute's top 100 that he hadn't seen.

  2. Hey, that's a cool project! I could see myself doing that.

    I've read that in real life James Cagney was one of the nicest guys (I think even a Christian? I know he was only married once), so I think that rather than "playing against type" in Dandy, it was more what he was really like. That's my impression, anyway.


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