Posting this for Fourth of July fun.
James Cagney was one of the great actors of the golden age of film, but not many know him as a singer and dancer. At both he was excellent.
Two videos: The first is the song-and-dance number “Yankee Doodle Boy” from the movie Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) about the quintessential Broadway showman, George M. Cohan.
We could go on about Cohan and this movie, but won’t. Just enjoy the song.
(Er, you have to click to enjoy; the property rights freaks won’t allow embeds from any long scene of that film.)
Some context — The scene is a play within a play. Because Cohan was an actor, the movie contains many of his stage performances (as seen through the Hollywood lens). In this scene Cohan, played by Cagney, is an American jockey who goes to England to ride (and win) in a famous British horserace.
To spite the property rights freaks (in my totally minimalist and ineffective way), here’s another version of the same song, by Spike Jones and his orchestra:
By the way, that “cocky American” theme was everywhere in that period. For a treat, watch A Yank at Oxford (1938).
Second video: At the end of the film, Cohan, now elderly, is invited to see the president — FDR, played by a very good impersonator. It’s WWII, remember, and the president needs Cohan to do his Yankee-Doodle optimistic thing again.
In the scene, we learn they both love America, and we realize that the whole movie was Cohan’s life story, as narrated to FDR. At the end, FDR gives Cohan/Cagney the “Congressional Medal of Honor” [but see here], and Cohan leaves the Oval Office, feeling pretty good.
Here’s Cohan dancing down the staircase after the meeting. The limberness, lightness, of Cagney the dancer is a delight to watch:
For the full lead-up to this moment, play the whole scene. It’s pretty good. (Can’t embed; same control-freak reason.)
I know — the film is loaded with war fever. We’ll talk about that later. Remember this was 1942, and we weren’t winning yet.
Happy Fourth all. Long may we wave, all of us. (Except for the property rights freaks; they can rot.)
To follow or send links: @Gaius_Publius