It is not the failure or mediocrity that many critics have considered it to be (including Cohan, and Rodgers and Hart). The tunes demonstrate the inventiveness of the composer and lyricist, who experimented here with their "talk - sing" dialogue in the convention sequence, in the President Picture introduction ("The Country Needs a Man"), and in the snake-oil scene. This is a dry run for the similar scenes in their Hollywood masterpieces LOVE ME TONIGHT and HALLELUJAH, I'M A BUM. The chemistry between Cohan and Claudette Colbert is actually good, as is the balance of the smooth Cohan and the explosive Durante. And there are lots of nice little bits by Durante (his election speech on the radio is marvelous), and one unexpected person: Sidney Toler as Professor Aikenhead. An advisor to the party expecting to run Blair for the Presidency, he is an early expert on spin control. Quickly he developes his own niche in the story - an underplayed, common-sensical sense of humor. He wants to see how loveable a character Blair is...a dubious proposition. He gets an apple, and tells Blair to hand it to a nearby horse. "Why?", asks a suspicious Cohan (here as Blair). Unruffled and smiling, Toler just replies, "Because you can't sell it to him!" Toler should have made more comedies, but when he does appear in comedies (like IT'S IN THE BAG) he has a good sense of timing.
But most intriguing is Cohan himself. This is his one surviving example of acting in a talkie, and he does nicely all considered. But he would not appear in another film where he had to take orders from others (in this case Taurog, a highly successful film director from the early 1930s to the 1950s). In 1935 Cohan financed a filming of his own play GAMBLING - this time being in charge of the whole production. It has not survived, and descriptions of it suggest it has little to offer us. Still, one hopes it will one day reappear, just to see Cohan at his dramatic peak. He made it just after appearing in Eugene O'Neill's AH WILDERNESS (his first appearance in a non-Cohan play), and got some of the best reviews in his career for that. GAMBLING, made just afterwards, should have been of some interest. We may never know.
After GAMBLING Cohan returned to the "legitimate" stage. Ironically it was for his last major role: playing FDR in I'D RATHER BE RIGHT, a musical comedy by Kaufman and Hart, with music by (ironically) Rodgers and Hart. If you see Jimmie Cagney in YANKEE DOODLE DANDY he does a scene from I'D RATHER BE RIGHT ("Off the Record!") which had new lyrics for the 1942 film regarding World War II. Cagney's Cohan praises Rodgers and Hart in the film - but in reality he still argued with them. He was forced to make comments against his friend Al Smith in the show, and he really disliked FDR. But the real Cohan was shown YANKEE DOODLE DANDY before he died in November 1942. The old trouper liked it.