Wednesday, June 6, 2012

156. Yankee Doodle Dandy

Yankee Doodle Dandy
Directed by Michael Curtiz

Well, the US had officially entered World War II at this time so you can expect that there is going to be a bunch of propaganda films like this.  I did not expect, however, for the book to include movies like this.  I guess it is historically significant?

James Cagney sings and dances.  Yep, you read that correctly.  The man that starred in all those gangsters films is performing cheesy musical numbers.  I had a similar reaction when I saw Hugh Jackman perform.  I mean, there is nothing wrong with pursuing your musical dreams if you are so inclined but it is just vaguely unsettling after they have been acting like such bad asses.  Anyway, this is the story of George Cohan and it is over two hours long.

I believe that it takes a special kind of director to direct musicals and I am not sure Michael Curtiz had the experience or expertise to pull it off. It just comes across as a middle school production of Yankee Doodle Dandy for veterans' day or something.  Not impressed.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Fred Astaire turned down the role of George.

Not a very accurate portrayal of George Cohan's life.

Ranked #98 in AFI's top 100 movies.  Oh come on.

James Cagney's performance was ranked #6 in Greatest Performances of all time by Premiere magazine.


  1. Cagney was a competent singer and actor and we saw that already in Footlight Parade. The musical as a whole is too flag waving for my taste, but Cagney is pretty awesome.

    1. It was just so strange that he was in this. Definitely didn't fit with the rest of his films.

    2. Cagney (like Christopher Walken - another gangster) came from a song 'n' dance background. As I recall it, he disliked being typecast as gangsters so he would have regarded it as natural to do this and strange to have done all the tough-guy stuff in other films.

      My eyes popped out of my head when I read you report that a list had rated this the 6th greatest performance ever, but further reading reveals that it was a brilliant impersonation of Cohan, right down to the singing and dancing style. Not that I'd be able to know either way. If they say so, I suppose.

      I note that the actress playing his mother was 11 years younger than him - not unreasonable as they both had to play from early adulthood through to wobbly pensioners and it's easier to add make-up to look older than younger. But, recalling the scene where the young Cohan is on stage as the elderly father of a character played by his mother, that means he was an older man playing a younger man playing an older man. A bit like the stoning scene in Life of Brian where it's men playing (deliberately unconvincing) women playing (deliberately unconvincing) men.