Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) Movie Review

Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)

Movie Review by Debbie Winkler


Starring: James Cagney, Joan Leslie, Walter Huston, Richard Whorf, Irene Manning
Director: Michael Curtiz
Release Date: 6 June 1942
Language: English
Length: 126 minutes
Movie Rating: Not Rated
View Format: DVD
My Rating: 4/5 stars


James Cagney won the Best Actor Oscar for his lively portrayal of “Mr. Broadway,” George M. Cohan, in this lavish screen biography that highlights Cagney in some of his finest song-and-dance routines. Cohan, a playwright, entertainer, composer and patriot, made his mark on the vaudeville stage and penned countless memorable tunes, including “Over There,” “It’s a Grand Old Flag,” “Give My Regards to Broadway” and the film’s rousing title number.” — Netflix.com


I grew up watching this movie when I was a kid and have always enjoyed it.  This is the first time that I watched the black and white version (they always show the colorized version on TV) and I enjoyed it just as much.  The song-and-dance routines in this movie are amazing!  James Cagney moves like he doesn’t have a bone in his body and is just stunning in his dance routines.  The music is also wonderful and there is a lot of it!  I was astonished to learn that Cohan wrote “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” “You’re a Grand Old Flag,” “Over There,” “Give My Regards to Broadway,” and so many more!  I have heard these songs all my life and just assumed that they were pretty old and had been around for centuries.  If you enjoy musicals and haven’t seen this one yet, then you are in for a treat!

I am not sure how much of this movie is based on the true life of George M. Cohan, but I am hoping that he was a more likeable guy than this movie shows.  I never realized what a jerk Cohan is in this movie!  He has such an abrasive personality that he is literally standing in the way of his own career.  Sure, he was tremendously talented and could do things with music that no one else really dreamed of, but that doesn’t mean you have to be act like this.  I don’t know, maybe all really talented people are like this and they don’t usually show it, but it is a big turn off to watch this movie now that I am older and realize how Cohan treated people in this movie.

Still, this is an old-fashioned classic that is chock full of vaudeville performances, Broadway shows and the larger-than-life tale of a musical legend.  Cohan (James Cagney) tells his story as a series of flashbacks to the President of the United States (I believe he is “talking” to FDR) and so he is the one narrating and editing the story of his life.  Not only does this movie tell the tale of a great composer and performer, but it also shows what the US was like during some life-changing eras including Western expansion, the death of vaudeville, and 2 World Wars.  So this movie is entertaining, interesting and educational all at the same time!  If you like musicals or old black-and-white movies, then I think you will have a fun time watching this one.


This movie contains some drinking and cigar smoking.  George M. Cohan is a cocky jerk, but the movie is clean.  Recommended for viewers of all ages.

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Filed under Based on a Real Story Movies, Biopic Movies, Classic Movies, Musicals

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