Saturday, June 5, 2010

No. 100: Yankee Doodle Dandy

Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)

Director: Michael Curtiz

Starring: James Cagney, Joan Leslie, Walter Huston

Awards/Honors: Four Oscars, including Best Actor for Cagney

I saw Yankee Doodle Dandy for the first time when I was around nine. I was in my obsessed-with-musicals phase, especially musicals with ridiculously elaborate tap dance numbers, so it fit right in. After working my way through a foot-high stack of tap-dance movies, I'd convinced myself that I was going to be the new dance star, and was going to be ten times better then Fred Astaire.

I was in a delusional state of tap-dancery. I spent months tapping my feet, everywhere from school to the grocery store. About six months after seeing Yankee Doodle Dandy, we happened to go on vacation. It was there that my dancing dreams were fulfilled. Slightly.

Our hotel had a gigantic marble staircase, just like the one in the famous White House ending scene in Yankee Doodle Dandy. Inspiration! Before my parents could discourage me from an undoubtedly horrible idea, I climbed up the many steps. I stood for a moment at the top, then proceeded to noisily tap my way down the staircase, just like James Cagney. Except he actually knew what he was doing. That escapade was the last hurrah for my would-be tap dancing career. My ardor died after I realized I was really, really terrible.

So, I have always loved this movie. It’s got everything: a quadruple dose of patriotism, Cagney’s marionette-ish tap dancing and a really heartwarming family story. Oh, and did I mention that it has great music?

Goodness. It is so hard to pick a favorite part of that movie. One part that always stands out is when Cagney’s character, George M. Cohan, puts on his first Broadway show, a musical play called "Little Johnny Jones." That's where he sings "Yankee Doodle Dandy," one of my favorite songs in the movie, and does some of my favorite dance numbers, too. I also love parts where they showcase the wonderful supporting cast, like Walter Huston, Joan Leslie, and James Cagney’s real-life sister Jeanne Cagney, playing Cohan's dancing sister Josie. (Josie!)

In short, if you like...

* America

* James Cagney

* Lots of dancing

* Tunes that will get stuck in your head forever

* Family drama that makes you sniffle

* Underdogs

...then you will most definitely like Yankee Doodle Dandy. And if you don’t like any of the above you should watch it anyway, because I guarantee there’s something in this movie for everyone.

Next movie coming up…drum roll… Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner, starring Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. I’m excited, because I like Tracy and Hepburn, and because I've never seen the whole thing. Stick around for movie number 99!


  1. Great little story about the power of movies to inspire us. And great idea for a blog, Josie. Keep it up!

  2. Welcome to Blogland, Josie. Stick around--you have a strong voice and a sharp eye. That's more than I can say for quite a few so-called grownup writers. Here's to the next 98 posts.

  3. I think I'm going to love this blog. Great writing.

    Miss W x

  4. Thanks for the info!
    Can't wait to see what you think about "Guess Who's Coming To Dinner" -- one of my favorites!