Monday, November 23, 2009

#98 - YANKEE DOODLE DANDY - Not just a stupid Black/White musical

As Josh and I were watching "Yankee Doodle Dandy", his roommate came home, immediately looked at the T.V. and said "This movie already sucks." Now, whether or not he was joking is up for interpretation but in my opinion, that is a common thought that goes through most young people's minds when they see a black/white film. Please don't get me wrong here though, as I am not trying to pigeon hold all people. I will be the first to admit that growing up, I thought black and white films were pointless. That there was no need for me to watch them and that they were for "old people." Well, that is why I am doing this countdown with my pal Josh. After each film, I am learning more and more how wrong I was when I was a child.

First of all, let me say that James Cagney portrayed one of the finest performances I have ever seen on camera (He did win the Oscar for Best Actor in 1942). I have never seen a person move the way that guy did. His tap dancing, singing and rhythm were absolutely perfect! Not to mention that ever song this guy, George M. Cohan, wrote was a classic! Everything from "Over There" to "Yankee Doodle Dandy" were all masterpieces!

This was honestly one of the first black & white movies I have ever seen that I watched with a blind eye. Not for one second during the film did I think of the film being in black & white. It just came across as a wonderful story about success on the big screen. The story is both heartfelt, funny and musically genius. Every time a song came on screen, Josh and I were tapping our feet and bobbing our heads. You couldn't help do that considering how catchy the film is.

I understand that many people in this day and age will look at a film like this, initially, and write it off. Trust me, I was not looking forward to watching it because of that bias that I had. But now, I just feel stupid and uneducated. This movie truly made me appreciate all types of cinema, even if it is a guy singing and tap dancing; which by the way was truly mind blowing.

If you are not familiar with the story, the film follows the "Four Cohans", which was a family that traveled all across the country in the late 1800's/early 1900's, singing and dancing. Their goal was to get picked up by a major theater circuit and make a living off of it. Their son, George M. Cohan, was always a stubborn kid. He knew he was the greatest and didn't take crap from anyone. It got to the point where he became blacklisted on the Broadway circuit. He finally found a way to get back in and then went on to become of the greatest playwright's in history.

There are a couple of scenes that I wanted to point out that really blew me away. There is a great scene where George Cohan is walking outside of one of his theaters where one of his new plays is opening. A man is standing outside criticizing the play, even though he has not seen it. The man is going on and on about how Eddie Foy (who is a competing playwright) is much better. Cohan walks up and starts talking to the man, as if he is someone else. Cohan is talking about how amazing George M. Cohan is and the mysterious man is talking about how amazing Eddie Foy is. Neither know that each of them are talking about themselves. It was a very cleverly written scene that took me by surprise. It just proved to me that the same comedy and wit we see in movies today, also happened back in the 40's.

I am so pleased that I have now seen this film and after I finish this list of the Top 100 Films, I want to go back and watch more James Cagney films.

On that note, I will end my review saying that "My mother thanks you...My father thanks you...My sister thanks you and I thank you" Goodnight!

-Kevin McCarthy

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