Yankee Doodle Dandy

Yankee Doodle Dandy

5.0 5
Director: Michael Curtiz, Hugh MacMullan

Cast: James Cagney, Joan Leslie


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Michael Curtiz's Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) never had a significant history on video, apart from the dubious honor of being the first Warner Bros. title to be released in a colorized version on VHS tape and television. This DVD makes up for that neglect, with about two weeks' worth of viewing and listening material, covering a lot more than the movie YankeeSee more details below

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Michael Curtiz's Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) never had a significant history on video, apart from the dubious honor of being the first Warner Bros. title to be released in a colorized version on VHS tape and television. This DVD makes up for that neglect, with about two weeks' worth of viewing and listening material, covering a lot more than the movie Yankee Doodle Dandy, though that is a handy jumping off point. The first and most obvious virtue of this disc is the sparkling new transfer (in glorious black-and-white), looking and sounding better than existing theatrical prints. The contrast and density have been adjusted and balanced within and between each shot from an extraordinarily clean source print. The 125-minute movie has also been given a very generous 38 chapters, with each major plot development and performance number labeled. The real beauty of this release, however, are the bonus materials. The wall-to-wall commentary track by Rudy Behlmer is one of the finest ever done, crediting every relevant player and walking us through the shoot day-by-day and shot-by-shot. Behlmer even credits future director Don Siegel for his montage work in the movie, which is among the film's oft-unheralded virtues, and delineates the uncredited contributions of writers Julius J. Epstein and Philip G. Epstein. There's barely a bit player missed, or too many details of James Cagney's career overlooked in Behlmer's narration, or much about George M. Cohan that's not here. The big challenge with this movie, in terms of commentary, is keeping up with the unusually large number of memorable moments that were improvised on the spot, leaving one even more impressed with the results. Behlmer's commentary is like a movie in itself, and a delightful one, carrying the viewer into the two bygone entertainment worlds that produced Cohan and which produced Cagney and Yankee Doodle Dandy. The other special visual feature on disc one is the most easily overlooked: "A Night at the Movies," which describes what a full evening's entertainment at the movies was like in 1942, with excerpts from trailers, newsreels, cartoons, and a patriotic short, all hosted by Leonard Maltin. It is accompanied by a list of Academy Awards won by Yankee Doodle Dandy and a list of cast and crew. Disc two is highlighted by the biographical featurette, "James Cagney: Top of the World," hosted by Michael J. Fox, which includes interviews with friends and colleagues such as David Huddleston, Mae Clarke, Joan Leslie, Virginia Mayo, Jack Lemmon, producer A.C. Lyles, screenwriter Julius J. Epstein, and Cagney's daughter Casey Cagney Thomas, as well as audio interview material with Cagney. The featurette doesn't slight Cagney's personal life or his politics, which led him to co-found the Screen Actor's Guild, and even mentions his successful lawsuit against Warners in 1936. The early Cagney movies excerpted for this documentary are fairly rare and look so good that one hopes that Warner Bros. is thinking about releasing them on DVD as well. The account of Cagney Productions is a little too brief, as well as slightly inaccurate (the company made more than three movies), although it does explain the connection between that company and the making of White Heat -- but then it jumps to Mr. Roberts from White Heat, instead of delving into the relationship between White Heat and Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye, his personally produced answer to the earlier movie. Despite its minor flaws, the documentary by itself is almost worth the price of this double-disc set. "Let Freedom Sing: The Story of Yankee Doodle Dandy" is equally fine, with film historians Bob Thomas and John McCabe leading off an account of the production that starts with George M. Cohan's life and career. It fills in any holes in Behlmer's commentary track, and adds visuals to the narrative account, including a tribute to Cagney's brother William, who handled the business side of the actor's career, and also to Joan Leslie (who appears) and Frances Langford, though the best part is the account of Cohan's later life and his reaction to the movie. There's a serious remembrance of Cagney by John Travolta, and then the disc gets to the delightful peripheral influences of the movie, a pair of classic Looney Tunes cartoons, Yankee Doodle Daffy and Yankee Doodle Bugs. The former is a stitch, with a manic Daffy Duck tormenting studio chief Porky Pig in his pitching of a new acting talent, which allows the lunatic waterfowl to do musical excerpts from the Warner library, even from musical numbers that were never produced. A patriotic wartime Warner Bros. short, You, John Jones, presenting Cagney in an unusually low-key, reflective role, rounds out the visual library supplements. There are also song rehearsals and audio-only outtakes, mostly featuring Cagney with piano accompaniment, and a radio presentation of highlights from Yankee Doodle Dandy presented on the Lady Esther Screen Guild Theater show of October 19, 1942, with James Cagney, Walter Huston, Joan Leslie, and Jeanne Cagney, plus images of Cohan sheet music and production stills, and poster and publicity art from the movie. All of these supplements are easy to access, through multi-layered menus that pop up automatically and are well-delineated. The internal menus are similarly easy to use, and the selections advance automatically with each choice as it concludes. The whole release is an embarrassment of riches, the biggest problem of which will be finding the time to enjoy all of it.

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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Karen Backstein
The most patriotic, red-white-and-blue musical ever made, Yankee Doodle Dandy celebrates a true American original, composer and entertainer George M. Cohan, and features one of James Cagney's best-ever performances. Made just after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, as nationalism was running high, this flag-waving biography of Cohan’s life has a warmly nostalgic feel. Told in flashbacks as Cohan prepares for an upcoming visit to the White House to receive the Medal of Honor, the story hearkens back to simpler, happier times. We see Cohan’s childhood beginnings in a family vaudeville act, his glory days of fame on Broadway, his comeback, and his romances. In the lead role, former song-and-dance man Cagney brings a uniquely dynamic presence to the screen. Never was there a more perfect match between actor and part -- Cagney even imitated Cohan’s stiff-bodied, Irish style of hoofing to a tee -- and he took home an Oscar for his performance. Especially memorable are the soundtrack’s many songs: Cohan wrote more than 1,000, and the favorites here include "Give My Regards to Broadway," "Over There," "You’re a Grand Old Flag," and "Harrigan," in addition to the title tune, of course. Joyful, fast-moving, and entertaining, Yankee Doodle Dandy is the perfect movie to brighten even the darkest day.
All Movie Guide - Richard Gilliam
Yankee Doodle Dandy was one of the best World War II-era patriotic propaganda films, and it has proven itself enduringly popular in the decades following its release. The film succeeds almost entirely on the performance of James Cagney as legendary song-and-dance performer George M. Cohan, although significant credit should also be given to director Michael Curtiz, who expertly stages each scene to display the talents of his star. The film features an over-the-top framing device in which Cohan tells his life's story in flashback to President Franklin Roosevelt. The story is effectively fiction, using only the outline of Cohan's life and some of his songs as reference points. The musical sequences are among the best in any film of the era. The film was nominated for eight Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director, and won three, including Best Actor for Cagney. The real-life Cohan died shortly after the film's release, living long enough to see it and like it despite, or perhaps because of, its lack of accuracy about his life.

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Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Warner Home Video
Region Code:
[Dolby Digital Mono]
Sales rank:

Special Features

Closed Caption; All-new digital transfer from restored picture and audio elements; Rousing documentaries chronicling the movie's making and James Cagney's career; Audio commentary; "John Travolta Remembers James Cagney"; Leonard Maltin hosts Warner Night at the Movies 1942 with trailer, newsreel, dramatic short, cartoon and Cagney in wartime short "You, John Jones"; More vintage cartoons; Galleries of art/photo/publicity materials and James Cagney trailers; Audio-only extras: Radio show and pre-recording session outtakes/rehearsals

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
James Cagney George M. Cohan
Joan Leslie Mary Cohan
Walter Huston Jerry Cohan
Richard Whorf Sam Harris
Irene Manning Fay Templeton
Jeanne Cagney Josie Cohan
George Tobias Dietz
Rosemary de Camp Nellie Cohan
Frances Langford Nora Bayes
George Barbier Erlanger
S.Z. Sakall Schwab
Walter Catlett Manager
Douglas Croft George M. Cohan, Age 13
Eddie Foy Eddie Foy
Minor Watson Ed Albee
Chester Clute Harold Goff
Odette Myrtil Mme. Bartholdi
Patsy Lee Parsons Josie Cohan, age 12
Vivian Austin Pianist
Wallis Clark Theodore Roosevelt
Michael Curtiz Actor
Mari Jo James Sister Act
Jack Young The President
Eddie Acuff Reporter
Murray Alper Wise Guy
Leon Belasco Magician
Henry Blair George M. Cohari, Age 7
Walter Brooke Reporter
Leslie Brooks Chorus Girls in "Little Johnny Jones" Number
Georgia Carroll Betsy Ross
Dick Chandlee Teenager
Spencer Charters Stage Manager
William B. Davidson New York Stage Manager
Ann Doran Receptionist
Tom Dugan Actor at Railway Station
Frank Faylen Sergeant
Pat Flaherty White House guard
James Flavin Union Army Veteran
Creighton Hale Telegraph operator
John Hamilton Recruiting officer
Harry Hayden Dr. Lewellyn
William Hopper Reporter
Joyce Horne Teenager
Thomas E. Jackson Stage manager
Edward Keane Critic
Dorothy Kelly Sister act
Fred Kelsey Irish Cop in "Peck's Bad Boy"
Phyllis Kennedy Fanny
Audrey Long Receptionist
Jo Ann Marlowe Josie Cohan, age 6
Frank Mayo Hotel clerk
George Meeker Hotel Clerk
Dolores Moran Girl
Lee Murray Jockey
Garry Owen Army clerk
Francis Pierlot Dr. Anderson
Joyce Reynolds Teenager
Ruth Robinson Nurse
Clinton Rosemond White House butler
Charles B. Smith Teenager
Sailor Vincent Schultz in "Peck's Bad Boy"
Dick Wessel Union Army veteran
Poppy Wilde Chorus girl "Little Johnny Jones"
Joan Winfield Sally
Bill Edwards Reporter
William Forrest 1st critic
Sid Saylor Star Boarder
Lon McCallister Actor

Technical Credits
Michael Curtiz Director
Hugh MacMullan Director
George J. Amy Editor
Milo Anderson Costumes/Costume Designer
John Boyle Choreography
Robert Buckner Screenwriter
William Cagney Associate Producer
George M. Cohan Score Composer
William Collier Consultant/advisor
Seymour Felix Choreography
Leo F. Forbstein Musical Direction/Supervision
James Wong Howe Cinematographer
Edmund Joseph Screenwriter
LeRoy J. Prinz Choreography
Heinz Roemheld Score Composer
Hal B. Wallis Producer
Jack L. Warner Producer
Perc Westmore Makeup
Carl Jules Weyl Art Director

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Scene Index

Side #1 -- The Movie
1. Credits [1:11]
2. White House Summons [3:11]
3. F.D.R. [2:31]
4. It's a Boy [4:21]
5. Peck's Bad Boy [5:11]
6. A Place Without Talent [4:42]
7. Four of a Kind [1:57]
8. Old Man's Visitor [4:44]
9. I Was Born in Virginia [2:44]
10. The Warmest Baby in the Bunch [4:03]
11. Harrigan [4:25]
12. Splitting Up [3:10]
13. Partners [3:58]
14. The Yankee Doodle Boy [3:12]
15. Little Johnny Jones #2 [2:58]
16. Give My Regards to Broadway [4:40]
17. Family Reunion [2:03]
18. Mary's a Grand Old Name [3:02]
19. Fay Templeton [4:19]
20. Forty-Five Minutes From Broadway [3:12]
21. Mary Knew [2:43]
22. Templeton Medley [5:01]
23. Cohan Meets Foy [2:18]
24. You're a Grand Old Flag [5:24]
25. Just George Alone [4:32]
26. A Son's Gift [2:38]
27. Popularity... Lacking [4:03]
28. Needed More Here [2:47]
29. Over There [3:51]
30. Postwar Medley [2:10]
31. Dad's Final Curtain [3:22]
32. Just a Handshake [3:27]
33. What Was Your Name? [2:06]
34. Stage-Struck Again [2:52]
35. Off the Record [3:19]
36. Medal of Honor [2:30]
37. In Step [1:57]
38. Cast List [:39]
Side #2 -- Bonus Material
1. Nothing From Nobody (Credits) [1:34]
2. Early Years; Billie [3:16]
3. Hollywood; The Public Enemy [5:34]
4. Screen Actors Guild [2:57]
5. Song-and-Dance Man [2:51]
6. Pat O'Brien; the Bard [3:02]
7. Break From Warner [1:48]
8. Angels With Dirty Faces [2:42]
9. Cowboy; Red Scare [3:11]
10. Yankee Doodle Dandy [4:57]
11. White Heat [4:16]
12. Mister Roberts; The Seven Little Foys [1:58]
13. One, Two, Three... Retired [2:05]
14. AFI Award [2:41]
15. Strong Grip [2:03]
16. End Credits [1:29]

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