Sunday, August 24, 2014

Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)

Director: Michael Curtiz

Writers: Robert Buckner, Edmund Joseph, Julius J. Epstein, Philip G. Epstein

Composer: George M. Cohan, Ray Heindorf, Heinz Roemheld

Starring: James Cagney, Joan Leslie, Walter Huston, Richard Whorf, Irene Manning, George Tobias, Rosemary DeCamp, Jeanne Cagney, Frances Langford, George Barbier, S.Z. Sakall, Walter Catlett, Douglas Croft, Eddie Foy Jr., Minor Watson, Chester Clute, Odette Myrtil, Patsy Parsons, Jack Young

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Based on the story of GEORGE M. COHAN with the Greatest of all his Great Music

Plot: A musical portrait of composer/singer/dancer George M. Cohan. From his early days as a child-star in his family's vaudeville show up to the time of his comeback at which he received a medal from the president for his special contributions to the US, this is the life- story of George M. Cohan, who produced, directed, wrote and starred in his own musical shows for which he composed his famous songs.

My rating: 10/10

Will I watch it again? YES!!!!!!

This was already one of my favorite movies of all time and Cagney IS my favorite actor but seeing this in a gorgeous 1920s theater up there on the big screen changes everything.  It was an emotional cinematic experience that further solidifies that movies are meant to be seen that way and you should take every opportunity to see them projected larger than life.  I was in tears throughout the entire film...not of sadness but joy.  Cagney is a presence to behold.  What a powerhouse of a performance!  The dancing alone is astounding.  It's one of the all-time great performances and there's no arguing that.  He'll make you laugh and cry within the same scene, without edits, and he does it so effortlessly that it's uncanny.  I could go on for pages about the merits of this picture.  There's only one minor grievance I have and that's Jack Young's performance of the President which sounds like he's giving a speech to the nation rather than a one-on-one with Cohan.  Outside of that this movie is utterly flawless in every department.  There's a wonderful scene where Cohan (Cagney) wrote a song for his wife, Mary (Leslie), but was forced to give to a top Broadway performer as enticement to be in his musical, something he desperately needed at the time. It kills him that he had to do it and he has to break it to Mary.  As a viewer, you're guts are all torn up because you feel just as horrible about it and you don't want to see Mary hurt but the scene plays out so masterfully that you're laughing with joy at the end of it. 

The actors hit all the right notes, the choreography (LeRoy Prinz, Seymour Felix, Jack Boyle) is top notch, the cinematography (James Wong Howe), editing (George Amy), costumes (Milo Anderson) and everything but Young goes to show what a large group of incredibly talented people can do.  If this picture has this kind of effect on me seventy years after, I can only imagine what it would have done coming out just a few months after the country had entered WWII.  One of the biggest stars, of course, is the music by George M. Cohan.  "Over There", "Give My Regards to Broadway", "The Yankee Doodle Boy", "You're a Grand Old Flag" are just a few of the songs he wrote and are featured prominently in this picture.  Then there's the beautiful song "Mary's a Grand Old Name" and the fun "Forty-Five Minutes from Broadway".  I don't care how inaccurate this picture might be.  It's a damn fine picture and one of the best.  The Warner Bros. 2-disc DVD set is loaded with extras including a great 47 minute documentary on Cagney's movie career.  It's by all means just the tip of the iceberg but it's a great introduction to one hell of a guy that happened by make great pictures.

No comments:

Post a Comment