This movie, roughly based on a true story, is about American playwright, composer, actor, dancer, and singer, George M. Cohan (James Cagney). Born into a vaudeville family, Cohan was singing and dancing with his folks in no time at all, quickly becoming a star. However, Cohan let the fame get to his head and soon started causing trouble because of it. Then, after everything has gone wrong he catches a lucky break, and one of his musicals is put into production. Boom! It’s a smash hit, and now Cohan’s life will never be the same. By the end of his life he had left us with such memorable songs as “Give My Regards to Broadway,” “Over There,” and of course the song the movie was named for “Yankee Doodle Dandy.”
This film was a typical World War II movie. Flying flags and happily marching troops, that would make anyone feel patriotic, took over. I can’t say that the patriotic character wasn’t an accurate depiction of Cohan’s plays, having made his career writing patriotic songs that rallied the hearts of even the least interested of souls. And there’s no doubt that he waved around that red, white, and blue a few times as well. Cagney won an Oscar for his role in this film as Best Actor, the first and only he would ever win. His acting was tremendous and his dancing even more so. He dazzled us all with a chaotic kind of tap, that worked so well it sometimes looked like he was on wires. Of course he didn’t so much sing the lyrics, as he did say them in a louder voice, but the music was catchy otherwise. Unfortunately, I think he was the best part of this movie. The plot was slow, and there are only so many times you can see a flag waving before you start to wonder when the plot is going to develop. The movie seemed to hide behind its American spirit rather than to use it to it’s advantage, and I just kept waiting for something exciting to happen. It may have been an affective tool during a World War, but now it just seems to drown itself in a sea of flashy, Broadway nationalism.
This movie did have its moments, and I could certainly see why others might enjoy it. But I found it hard to grow attached to any of the characters, and the plot was soon worn out. However, if you were ever in a “high flying flag” kind of mood, or if you happen to have been born on the 4th of July, this movie would be able to satisfy your craving for a dose of Uncle Sam.