Movie Reviews by Edwin Jahiel

YANKEE DOODLE DANDY (1942). By Michael Curtiz. Photographed by James Wong Howe. James Cagney stars in a musical biography of George M. Cohan (1878-1942), who did just about everything in popular entertainment, starting out with the vaudeville team of his parents (later augmented by his sister, played here by Cagney's real sister, Jeanne). Cohan sang, danced, wrote musical revues,"regular" musicals and stageplays. He produced (notably with Sam Harris) a host of works on Broadway --so many that they sometimes ran simultaneously. Cagney does not look at all like Cohan, does not imitate Cohan off stage, but uses all sorts of Cohan mannerisms on stage. The movie has its usual share of Hollywood liberties and hokum. Cohan saw it and soon after died. There is no correlation here, as Cohan had given it his blessing. The film's cast is good, but it's a Cagney movie all the way. He had already established his famous tough guy image in gangster movies. YDD, a personal triumph, gave him an additional, almost diametrically opposed persona --which was not really new as he had been a singer-hoofer in vaudeville, Broadway plays, two minor films, and in the excellent movie musical "Footlight Parade." Cagney's achievement was quite unorthodox. When Fred Astaire first tried out for films, the verdict was: "Can't act, can't sing, can dance a little." Cagney can't really dance or sing by Hollywood standards, but he acts so vigorously that it creates an illusion , and for dance-steps he substitutes a patented brand of robust, jerky walks, runs and other motions. The film was made during World War II with an out-and-out patriotic slant that was appropriate, since Cohan had been the flag-waving composer of "Over There", the American World War I song. It's a corny movie, sentimental, rousing (especially in the Grand Old Flag number) and with no hint of negative characters. After all, in 1942 we were gung ho and closing ranks, like chorus lines. YDD received 8 Oscar nominations, won for Best Actor, sound, and scoring. (Edwin Jahiel)