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Yankee Doodle Dandy Details


Yankee Doodle Dandy is no more the true-life story of George M. Cohan than George M. Cohan was the unvarnished truth about Al Jolson -- but who the heck cares? Dandy has song, dance, pathos, pageantry, uproarious comedy, and, best of all, James Cagney at his Oscar-winning best. After several failed attempts to bring the life of legendary, flag-waving song-and-dance man Cohan to the screen, Warners scenarist Robert Buckner opted for the anecdotal approach, unifying the film's largely unrelated episodes with a flashback framework. Summoned to the White House by President Roosevelt, the aging Cohan is encouraged to relate the events leading up to this momentous occasion. He recalls his birth on the Fourth of July, 1878; his early years as a cocky child performer in his family's vaudeville act; his decision to go out as a "single"; his sealed-with-a-handshake partnership with writer/producer Sam Harris (Richard Whorf); his first Broadway success, 1903's Little Johnny Jones; his blissful marriage to winsome wife Mary (a fictional amalgam of Cohan's two wives, played by Joan Leslie -- who, incredibly, was only 17 at the time); his patriotic civilian activities during World War I, culminating with his writing of that conflict's unofficial anthem "Over There" (performed by Nora Bayes, as played by Frances Langford); the deaths of his sister, Josie (played by Cagney's real-life sister Jeanne), his mother, Nellie (Rosemary DeCamp), and his father, Jerry (Walter Huston); his abortive attempt to retire; and his triumphant return to Broadway in Rodgers & Hart's I'd Rather Be Right. His story told, Cohan is surprised -- and profoundly moved -- when FDR presents him with the Congressional Medal of Honor, the first such honor bestowed upon an entertainer. His eyes welling up with tears, Cohan expresses his gratitude by invoking his old vaudeville curtain speech: "My mother thanks you, my father thanks you, my sister thanks you, and I thank you." Glossing over such unsavory moments in Cohan's life as his bitter opposition of the formation of Actor's Equity -- not to mention George M.'s intense hatred of FDR! -- Yankee Doodle Dandy offers the George M. Cohan that people in 1942 wanted to see (proof of the pudding was the film's five-million-dollar gross). And besides, the plot and its fabrications were secondary to those marvelous Cohan melodies -- "Give My Regards to Broadway," "Harrigan," "Mary," "You're a Grand Old Flag," "45 Minutes from Broadway," and the title tune -- performed with brio by Cagney (who modifies his own loose-limbed dancing style in order to imitate Cohan's inimitable stiff-legged technique) and the rest of the spirited cast. Beyond its leading players, movie buffs will have a ball spotting the myriad of familiar character actors parading before the screen: S.Z. Sakall, George Tobias, Walter Catlett, George Barbier, Eddie Foy Jr. (playing his own father), Frank Faylen, Minor Watson, Tom Dugan, John Hamilton, and on and on and on. In addition to Cagney, music directors Ray Heindorf and Heinz Roemheld also won Oscars for their efforts. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

  • Release date:June 6, 1942


Awarded by
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Nathan Levinson Best Sound 1942 Winner
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Heinz Roemheld Best Score - Musical 1942 Winner
National Board of Review James Cagney Best Acting 1942 Winner
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences James Cagney Best Actor 1942 Winner
New York Film Critics Circle James Cagney Best Actor 1942 Winner
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Michael Curtiz Best Director 1942 Nominee
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Robert Buckner Best Original Story 1942 Nominee
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Ray Heindorf Best Score - Musical 1942 Winner
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Walter Huston Best Supporting Actor 1942 Nominee
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences George J. Amy Best Editing 1942 Nominee


James Cagney
as George M. Cohan
Joan Leslie
as Mary Cohan
Walter Huston
as Jerry Cohan
Richard Whorf
as Sam Harris
Jeanne Cagney
as Josie Cohan
George Tobias
as Dietz
Rosemary de Camp
as Nellie Cohan
Frances Langford
as Nora Bayes
George Barbier
as Erlanger
S.Z. Sakall
as Schwab
Walter Catlett
as Manager
Douglas Croft
as George M. Cohan, Age 13
Eddie Foy, Jr.
as Eddie Foy
Minor Watson
as Ed Albee
Chester Clute
as Harold Goff
Odette Myrtil
as Mme. Bartholdi
Wallis Clark
as Theodore Roosevelt
Tom Dugan
as Actor at Railway Station
Phyllis Kennedy
as Fanny
Sid Saylor
as Star Boarder
Creighton Hale
as Telegraph operator
George Meeker
as Hotel Clerk
Frank Faylen
as Sergeant
Francis Pierlot
as Dr. Anderson
Audrey Long
as Receptionist
Joan Winfield
as Sally
Murray Alper
as Wise Guy
Lee Murray
as Jockey
Ann Doran
as Receptionist
Georgia Carroll
as Betsy Ross
James Flavin
as Union Army Veteran
Ruth Robinson
as Nurse
Harry Hayden
as Dr. Lewellyn
Dolores Moran
as Girl
Walter Brooke
as Reporter
Clinton Rosemond
as White House butler
Dick Wessel
as Union Army veteran
Pat Flaherty
as White House guard
William B. Davidson
as New York Stage Manager
William Hopper
as Reporter
Spencer Charters
as Stage Manager
Garry Owen
as Army clerk
Fred Kelsey
as Irish Cop in "Peck's Bad Boy"
Poppy Wilde
as Chorus girl "Little Johnny Jones"
Frank Mayo
as Hotel clerk
Lon McCallister
John Hamilton
as Recruiting officer
Charles B. Smith
as Teenager
William Forrest
as 1st critic
Joyce Reynolds
as Teenager
Leon Belasco
as Magician
Eddie Acuff
as Reporter
Edward Keane
as Critic
Michael Curtiz


Michael Curtiz
Hal B. Wallis
Jack L. Warner
Robert Buckner
Edmund Joseph
James Wong Howe
Heinz Roemheld
Composer (Music Score)
Leo F. Forbstein
Musical Direction/Supervision
George J. Amy
William Cagney
Associate Producer
Milo Anderson
Costume Designer
LeRoy J. Prinz
Perc Westmore
Nathan Levinson
Sound Recordist