#100: Yankee Doodle Dandy

What better place to start on my film journey than with the worst of the best: Yankee Doodle Dandy at #100.

Yankee_Doodle_Dandy_posterJust hearing the name, I assumed this film was some kind of epic, feel good Revolutionary War story.  Turns out I was wrong.  Unbeknownst to me, Yankee Doodle Dandy is one of those mega classic cornerstones of American cinema.  Apparently the film was too mainstream for my artsy, state university in southern Missouri.

Yankee Doodle Dandy showcases the life and times of George M. Cohan, an Irish-American Broadway playwright and actor (or so Wikipedia says).  Played by James Cagney, Cohan scores Broadway hit after hit with his rousing flag waving musicals.  We’re talking productions dripping with so much patriotism, Glen Beck would be bawling in the aisle.

Cohan is summoned by President FDR to appear at the White House over “urgent matters” (Cohan is freaked at this point).  During his meeting in the Oval Office, George feels comfortable blabbing his entire life story.  But the patient FDR (played by George Steinbrenner from Seinfeld) listens attentively as we enter a plot device/flashback.

FDR as Steinbrenner

FDR as Steinbrenner

Let me paint a picture of my movie watching vicinity at this point.  Upon finding out the film I was watching, my mom shrieked with excitement, shoved me off the couch and watched the entire movie with me.  My dad followed suit (though he eventually fell asleep facedown on the floor after an hour).  So we had a “gay old” family movie night against my will.  We even popped popcorn!

Not exactly what I had in mind for a relaxing evening.  After trying hard to conjure up a productive day, I looked forward to putting my feet up and watching this movie…ALONE.  The morning started off rotten when I found out that one of my professors passed away the previous day.  Though I only had two classes with him in college, his passing definitely shook me up.  Finding all my school e-mails completely gone and tweaking my resume for the billionth time didn’t help either.  It left me with what those in the psychological community call an “ooky feeling.”

But I was enjoying the movie, despite an uneventful day.  Thankfully my dad wasn’t snoring…yet.

The Cohan 4 in one of their politically correct musical numbers

The Cohan 4 in one of their politically correct musical numbers

Back in movie world, we meet Young George (comparable to a vaudeville Zac Efron).  His performing family, “The Cohan 4,” puts on song and dance shows that are only sometimes racist.  Eventually, George takes on Broadway alone.  He writes show tunes such as “Over There,” “Mary’s a Grand Old Name” and other songs only my grandparents would know.

Basically, the movie is a series of unbridled successful events with little conflict (Except one moment.  SPOILER ALERT: his dad dies).  The prosperity of Cohan’s life left me both inspired and bored.  At the end, we find out that FDR invited Cohan not to blacklist him,  but to award him the Congressional Medal of Honor for songwriting (an honor I didn’t know existed).

Yankee Doodle Dandy was released during the height of WWII.  This leads me to believe that the film’s main purpose was to rally Americans and urge them to buy war bonds or something.  Thus, peace was restored.  All thanks to James Cagney’s tap-dancing feet.  And I guess that’s something worth saluting.

brett headbrett headbrett head3 out of 5 Brett Heads


1 Response to “#100: Yankee Doodle Dandy”

  1. August 15, 2009 at 3:41 pm

    all those heads creep me out.
    but i loved this post.

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