Friday, July 3, 2015

Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)

It's almost Independence Day here at the "screening room" (and worldwide headquarters) of At The Matinee.  While the current lineup of "summer blockbusters*" mostly consisting of "endless" reboots and remakes, there's one definitive classic that outshines the competition.  And it's perfect for the July 4th weekend.

Poster for Warners' Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)
featuring James Cagney as George M. Cohan.
That definitive classic film is 1942's Yankee Doodle Dandy.  Directed by Michael Curtiz and produced by Hal B. Wallis, the film features James Cagney (as George M. Cohan), Joan Leslie (as Mary Cohan), Walter Huston (as Jerry Cohan), Richard Whorf (as Sam Harris), Irene Manning (as Fay Tempelton), George Tobias (as Dietz), Rosemary DeCamp (as Nellie Cohan), Jeanne Cagney (as Josie Cohan), Frances Langford (as Nora Bayes), S.Z. "Cuddles" Sakall (as Schwab), and Eddie Foy, Jr. (as the senior Eddie Foy).

Based off the story of real-life songwriter George M. Cohan (1878-1942), the film goes into the life, times and career of the multi-talented entertainer and songwriter, who brought such popular classic songs including Yankee Doodle Dandy, Over There, You're A Grand Old Flag, just to name a few.

When the film premiered in New York at the Hollywood Theatre in May 1942, it was tremendous hit, and was one of the top-grossing motion pictures of 1942.  According to The New York Times, the audience on opening night purchased $5,750,000 worth of war bonds to help America's war effort during the Second World War.

For Warner Bros. (who acquired the rights from Cohan for his life story, where Warners' competitors declined Cohan's story throughout the latter years of his life), it would be the studio's top-grossing film at the time (along with Warners' other popular noteworthy films released that same year, including Casablanca, Air Force, George Washington Slept Here, and Now, Voyager).

The film won three Academy Awards for Best Actor (James Cagney), Best Sound Recording (Nathan Levinson and the Warner Bros. sound department), and Best Music, Scoring of a Motion Picture (Ray Heindorf and and Heinz Romfeld).

My first experience of watching Yankee Doodle Dandy was on WETA's Saturday classic film showcase several years ago.    I was originally going to plan to attend the recent revival screening of Yankee Doodle Dandy at the Majestic Theater in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania- but could not attend due to an important family commitment.

Warners has recently released Yankee Doodle Dandy on Blu-Ray (through the studio's "Archive" line), from a new high-definition transfer (along with several extras ported over from the previous DVD release).  It is also available for streaming on Flixster and Warners' YouTube VOD service. The film will be the highlight of Turner Classic Movies' primetime lineup for the Fourth (at 8:00 PM EST).

I'm not going to give away any other additional information on this.  To my fellow readers- if you haven't seen Yankee Doodle Dandy, see it when you have the chance to.  It is an entertaining and enlightening motion picture about the life and times of George Cohan, portrayed by James Cagney (in one of his few non-gangster roles on the screen).

I feel that in recent times, we need uplifting entertainment.  And Yankee Doodle Dandy is one of the best examples of uplifting screen entertainment.  You won't be disappointed!

1958 advertisement for Associated Artists Productions (AAP),
advertising the 1942 film Yankee Doodle Dandy, one of many pre-48
Warner Bros. feature films (along with shorts and select cartoons)
that were available for syndication to local television stations.


TCM will have a schedule of movies related to America's day of independence, beginning at 11:45 AM with the 1955 film, The Scarlet Coat (featuring Cornel Wilde, Anne Francis, and George Sanders), followed by The Devil's Disciple (1959, with Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas and Lawrence Oliver) at 1:30 PM, the musical 1776 (1972, featuring William Daniels, Howard Da Silva and Ken Howard) at 3:00 PM, the modern comedy Miss Firecracker (1989, with Holly Hunter and Tim Robbins) at 6:00 PM, the 1943 Warner Bros. short subject on the United States Army Band at 7:50 PM, and the big highlight of the night- Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) at 8:00 PM.  It will be followed by The Music Man (1962, featuring Preston Foster, Shirley Jones, Buddy Hackett and Ron Howard) at 10:15 PM, and Rosalie (1937, with Nelson Eddy, Eleanor Powell and Frank Morgan) at 1:00 AM (eastern standard time).

As I've stated before, it wouldn't be the Fourth of July without the annual Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest in New York City, which will be telecast live on ESPN2 at Noon EST.  

Of course, there's always A Capitol Fourth, live from Washington, D.C. on PBS (from 8:00-9:30 PM EST).

Last but not least, it wouldn't be Saturday without Svengoolie on Me-TV, showcasing the third (and final) film in Universal's Creature From The Black Lagoon franchise, The Creature Walks Among Us (1956), which will be shown at 10:00 PM EST (for viewers from coast-to-coast, check local listings for time and channel).

WITH ALL THAT ASIDE: At The Matinee wishes everyone out there a happy (and safe) Fourth of July weekend.  Do something great and exciting during this weekend!

NOTE: Again, I'm not criticizing the recent "summer blockbusters."  I'm sure there are many (like myself) who would like more variety in the field of cinema entertainment.

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