Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) Poster


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Walking down the stairs at the White House, James Cagney goes into a tap dance. According to TCM, that was completely ad-libbed.
George M. Cohan wanted Fred Astaire to play him.
James Cagney became the first actor to win the Best Actor Academy Award for a musical performance.
According to his biography the rather stiff-legged dancing style used by James Cagney in this movie is not his own. He copied George M. Cohan's style to make the film more accurate.
This marks the first time a living US President was depicted in a film.
Many facts were changed or ignored to add to the feel of the movie. For example, the real George M. Cohan was married twice, and although his second wife's middle name was Mary, she went by her first name, Agnes. In fact, the movie deviated so far from the truth that, following the premiere, the real George M. Cohan commented, "It was a good movie. Who was it about?"
James Cagney broke a rib while filming a dance scene, but continued dancing until it was completed.
The first time James Cagney attended the premiere of one of his own movies.
The movie's line "My mother thanks you. My father thanks you. My sister thanks you. And I thank you." was voted as the #97 movie quote by the American Film Institute (out of 100).
A hugely patriotic film, production was already underway when the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor took place.
Despite failing health, the real George M. Cohan acted briefly as a consultant on the film. He lived long enough to see the finished result and approved wholeheartedly of James Cagney's depiction of himself.
James Cagney hated working with character actor S.Z. Sakall, who he felt upstaged him at every turn. He complained to director Michael Curtiz about him but Curtiz took no action, as he had great respect for Sakall, who was once Hungary's leading actor. Cagney refused to work with Sakall again.
Joan Leslie portrays Mary Cohan, aging from 18 to 57 throughout proceedings. Leslie turned 17 during the production of the film. The fact that she was still attending school during production caused numerous delays.
James Cagney trained under Johnny Boyle, George M. Cohan's real-life choreographer.
In a voice-over, James Cagney, as George M. Cohan, says "I was a good Democrat, even in those days." In reality, Cohan was a lifelong ultra-conservative Republican who despised President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Choreographer Johnny Boyle broke his ankle rehearsing the opening song-and-dance number. This effectively scuttled the rest of his career.
In the film George M. Cohan writes a drama called "Popularity", which was a failure. This is fact. Following WW I he rewrote parts of it, added music, and put it on under the title of "Little Nelly Kelly", which became a huge hit.
James Cagney's performance as George M. Cohan is ranked #6 on Premiere Magazine's 100 Greatest Performances of All Time.
Julius J. Epstein and Philip G. Epstein did an uncredited rewrite on the script at the personal request of James Cagney.
Carl Jules Weyl's theater stage set took up a whole sound stage and was specifically constructed so that it could replicate the proscenium design of any given theater, from the traditional 19th-century stylings of the Liberty (now Madame Tusseud's Wax Museum, where "Little Johnny Jones" opened in 1904) and Herald Square (demolished in 1915, where "George Washington Junior" opened in 1906) Theaters, to the Art Deco design of the Alvin (now the Neil Simon, where "I'd Rather Be Right" opened in 1937) Theater.
The film was released on June 6, 1942. George M. Cohan died exactly five months later on November 6, 1942, at the age of 64. He had been battling a serious intestinal problem for almost a year.
Future director Don Siegel was responsible for putting together the numerous montages that appear throughout the film.
James Cagney won his first and only Oscar for this movie.
The film began production without a completed script and was continually requiring rewrites.
Although 'Josie Cohan Niblo' did predecease Jerry Cohan, dying of a diagnosed heart condition in 1916 at the age of 40 (her then 13-year-old son, future screenwriter Fred Niblo Jr., discovered her body in an upstairs hallway), his wife, Helen Costigan "Nellie" Cohan, actually survived him by 11 years, dying in 1928. In the film it is stated that both Jerry Cohan's daughter and wife predeceased him.
James Cagney had previously only shown off his song-and-dance abilities once before in Footlight Parade (1933). He was better known for playing gangsters.
Fred Astaire was first offered the leading role but turned it down.
This was the very first black and white movie to be colorized using a controversial computer-applied process. Despite widespread opposition to the practice by many film aficionados, stars and directors, the movie won over a sizeable section of the public on its re-release.
Warner Bros.' second highest-grossing film of 1942 ($4.8 million). The top grossing film was MGM's Mrs. Miniver, starring Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon.
Among the opening credits is one that states "Music and Lyrics by George M. Cohan." However, the come-back musical "I'd Rather Be Right" has a score by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, including the romp, "Off the Record", one song decidedly NOT by Mr. Cohan. The stylized Central Park set depicted on the stage is, in fact, a recreation of the original Broadway set as seen in historical photographs.
James Cagney was 11 years older than his screen mother Rosemary DeCamp.
In 2007, the American Film Institute ranked this as the #98 Greatest Movie of All Time.
According to James Cagney's autobiography his brother William Cagney (who was also his manager) actively pursued the role of ultra-patriotic George M. Cohan for James as a way of removing the taint of James' political activities in the 1930s, when he was a strong, somewhat radical supporter of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. When Cohan himself learned about Cagney's background as a song-and-dance man in vaudeville, he approved him for the project.
George Barbier (Erlanger) appeared with the actual George M. Cohan in The Phantom President (1932), one of Cohan's only two talking pictures.
The film is included on Roger Ebert's "Great Movies" list.
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Frances Langford is listed in the credits simply as "Singer". In the film, Cagney calls her "Nora", so this character is probably the real-life Nora Bayes (1880-1928). Bayes was a popular performer who recorded many Cohan songs and entertained the troops with Cohan during World War I. Bayes wrote the song "Shine on Harvest Moon" and was the subject of the Warner Brothers biopic Shine on Harvest Moon (1944). In "Yankee Doodle Dandy", Langford also sings the medley "In a Kingdom of Our Own" / "Love Nest" / "Nellie Kelly, I Love You" / "The Man Who Owns Broadway" / "Molly Malone"/ "Billie" that backs up one of Don Siegel's great montage sequences. Langford sang "Over There" to WW II American troops and toured with Bob Hope to entertain American troops in WW II, Korea and Viet Nam.
George M. Cohan died of cancer shortly before the film was released. However, he got a private screening. His comment on the film (and James Cagney playing him) was "I wouldn't want to follow that act."
George Tobias, who played Dietz of the theatrical production team of Dietz and Goff later played Abner Kravitz, husband of nosy neighbor Gladys Kravitz in the 1960's television sitcom series Bewitched.
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"The Screen Guild Theater" broadcast a 30 minute radio adaptation of the movie on October 19, 1942 with James Cagney reprising his film role.
Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider.
The car the college kids are driving is a 1933 Chevrolet Phaeton "Jalopy". Graffiti from back to front reads: "Exit Here" (arrow pointing to door handle), "Open Here", "Will Stop Quick if a Wheel Brakes", "For Sale", "Frankie & Johnnie", "But Good", "In Case of Fire Scream".
Fred Astaire was the first choice to play George M. Cohan.
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Second unit director Seymour Felix was removed from the production because he didn't get on with lead director Michael Curtiz. He was replaced by LeRoy Prinz.
Joan Leslie played the wife of Gary Cooper in Sergeant York, and of James Cagney in Yankee Doodle Dandy. Both actors won the Best Actor Oscar in 1942 and 1943, respectively.
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Cagney reprized his role as Cohan in the 1955 biopic "the Seven Little Foys". He shared a memorable dance routine with Bob Hope.
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Selected by John Travolta as his favorite film in an AFI poll.
George M. Cohan was awarded the Congessional Gold Medal by Act of Congress (not the Congressional Medal of Honor as stated in the film). He was as said in the film the first member of the entertainment profession to receive this award. Subsequent entertainers to receive the medal are: Irving Berlin, Walt Disney, Bob Hope, Danny Thomas, John Wayne, Marion Anderson, Frank Sinatra, Harry Chapin, Fred Waring, and Aaron Copeland.
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The Yankee Doodle Dandy number in the movie was from Cohan's first Broadway production, "Little Johnny Jones", reputed to be the first American musical. It was based on events in the life of the American jockey Tod Sloan, who in 1903 went to London to ride in the English Derby and was accused of throwing the race.
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In 1993, Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) was added to the National Film Registry by the United States Library of Congress.
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A life size bronze statue (from the waist up) of George M. Cohan is located on the corner of Wickenden and Governor Streets in the Fox Point neighborhood near where he was born in Providence, Rhode Island. A bronze plaque on the front of the base is inscribed: Son of Providence, Born July 3, 1878 on Wickenden Street, Father of the American Musical Comedy
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Included among the American Film Institute's 1998 list of the Top 100 Greatest American Movies.
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The only Best Picture Oscar nominee that year to be also nominated for Best Scoring of a Musical Picture.
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Counting write-in nominations, this is the first year that the Best Actor Oscar winner, in this case James Cagney for his role in this film, was up against competitors who were all nominated for performances in Best Picture nominated films.
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The trivia item below may give away important plot points.

James Cagney's tearful death scene by the side of dying screen father Walter Huston so moved director Michael Curtiz that he cried uncontrollably while the scene was being shot.

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