I am a big fan of various types of lists. The 100 best athletes ever, the 50 most interesting things to do with string cheese, my 25 favorite cats.... you get the idea.
I recently stumbled across the American Film Institute's 100 best movies list. It was originally done in 1998 and then redone in 2007, and I have to say I agree with a number of the choices. I thought it might be fun to blog them all and see what you think; whether you agree with their choices of the 100 best AMERICAN films ever.
Without further ado; #100.
Yankee Doodle Dandy
Yankee Doodle Dandy (Two-Disc Special Edition)
Yankee Doodle Dandy is a 1942 American biographical musical film about George M. Cohan, known as "The Man Who Owns Broadway". It stars James Cagney, Joan Leslie, Walter Huston, and Richard Whorf, and features Irene Manning, George Tobias, Rosemary DeCamp and Jeanne Cagney.
The movie was written by Robert Buckner and Edmund Joseph, and directed by Michael Curtiz. According to the special edition DVD, significant and uncredited improvements were made to the script by the famous "script doctors," twin brothers Julius J. Epstein and Philip G. Epstein.
The song "The Yankee Doodle Boy" (a.k.a. "Yankee Doodle Dandy") was Cohan's trademark piece, a patriotic pastiche drawing from the lyrics and melody of the old Revolutionary War number, "Yankee Doodle". Other Cohan tunes in the movie include "Give My Regards to Broadway", "Harrigan", "Mary's a Grand Old Name", "You're a Grand Old Flag" and "Over There".
Cagney was a fitting choice for the role of Cohan since, like Cohan, he was an Irish-American who had been a song-and-dance man early in his career. His unique and seemingly odd presentation style, of half-singing and half-reciting the songs, reflected the style that Cohan himself used. His natural dance style and physique were also a good match for Cohan. Newspapers at the time reported that Cagney intended to consciously imitate Cohan's song-and-dance style, but to play the normal part of the acting in his own style. Although director Curtiz was famous for being a taskmaster, he also gave his actors some latitude, and Cagney and other players improvised a number of "bits of business," as Cagney called them.
Although a number of the biographical particulars of the movie are Hollywood-ized fiction (omitting the fact that Cohan divorced and remarried, for example, and taking some liberties with the chronology of Cohan's life), care was taken to make the sets, costumes and dance steps match the original stage presentations. This effort was aided significantly by a former associate of Cohan's, Jack Boyle, who knew the original productions well. Boyle also appeared in the film in some of the dancing groups.
Cohan is shown performing as a singing and dancing version of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The reality of Roosevelt's confinement to a wheelchair due to polio was kept from the general public at the time. In the film, Roosevelt never leaves his chair when meeting Cohan.
The movie poster for this film was the first ever produced by noted poster designer Bill Gold. This movie also has an inside joke about movies: when Cohan "retires" in the 1930s and several teenagers (who know nothing about his career) ask him if he had ever been in the movies, he remarks that he had been an actor in the "legitimate theater."
Cohan himself served as a consultant during the production of the film. Due to his failing health, his actual involvement in the film was rather limited. However, Cohan did see the film before he died (from cancer) and approved of Cagney's portrayal