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Welcome Home, Bobby (1986)
Were we more open-minded in 1986?
It's been almost two decades since I watched the film on CBS-TV one Saturday night, but I remember it vividly. Certainly not the greatest film on the subject of coming out, but it is memorable for many reasons among them:
The LOL absurdity: We see Bobby tickling his little brother just before bedtime. In walks dad, shocked and angry at the innocent horseplay. He then says something like, "Don't ever touch him again!" As soon as he leaves the room, Bobby's little brother says to a saddened Bobby, "You can play with me anytime." My friends roared with laughter when I recounted this supposedly touching (oooh, bad pun!) scene.
The positive message: It's okay to be gay (if that's what you want to be after watching all of poor Bobby's trails and tribulations). Quite refreshing during the Reagan years when Rock Hudson's death from AIDS shocked the world. In other films dealing with the subject of homosexuality the protagonist suddenly turned straight (as in "Tea and Sympathy') or died a tragic death (e.g. the 1961 film, "The Children's Hour).
In our current social/political climate "Welcome Home, Bobby" would be to controversial for network TV. It amazes me that "WH,B" aired in 1986. Were we more open-minded then? Of course I don't recall the film ever in reruns on TV.
Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)
Cagney is brilliant in W.W. II-era Hollywood Musical
In the early 1940s Warner Bros. was known for it's gangster films rather than musicals (that was M-G-M's domain), but with 'Yankee Doodle Dandy' they scored a hit with wartime audiences and the Academy Awards.
'Dandy' is a sentimental, albeit fictitious biography of prolific Broadway producer, composer, actor, George M. Cohan. Although largely forgotten today (there is a statue of Cohan right in the heart of Broadway near the discount TKTS. booth), his songs, 'Give My Regards to Broadway' and 'You're A Grand Old Flag' are still being sung today.
The film's patriotic message may seem a bit over the top to some in the 21st century, but for the era in which it was created it clearly expressed the feelings of the majority of Americans involved in the war effort.
The real reason to enjoy this classic showbiz musical is the stellar performance by James Cagney. Better known for his suave, tough- guy roles, Cagney's energetic take on George M. Cohan earned him Oscar in the best Actor category. And well-deserved as Cagney is a one-of-a-kind performer who inspired many of today's young actors. Like Fred Astaire, Marilyn Monroe, Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, Jack Nicholson, Jodie Foster and Robert De Niro, Cagney truly possesses that screen presence and 'aura' that defines a true Hollywood star.
One of the most interesting numbers is Cagney as Cohan performing 'Off the Record,' in a recreation of the 1937 Broadway musical 'I'd Rather Be Right.' Cagney/Cohan portrays a singing, dancing Franklin Delano Roosevelt delivering a press conference to a group of reporters in Central Park (trust me, it's more convincing when you see it on screen). This politically satirical tune which mildly pokes fun at F.D.R. was written by none other than composer Richard Rodgers and lyricist Lorenz Hart, who penned new lyrics for the 1942 'Dandy' to reflect the nation at war.
If you love Hollywood musicals about Broadway, 'Yankee Doodle Dandy' is one to watch, especially on the 4th of July.