Yankee Doodle Dandy is the spirited tale of George M. Cohan, a song-and-dance man who wrote so many of America’s patriotic and stage hits that he became known as ‘the man who owned Broadway”. Directed by Michael Curtiz (in the same year he would direct Casablanca) and starring James Cagney, this is yet another musical that makes the list, but this one is properly framed thanks to the natural Broadway sensibility of its biographical narrative.
I have to admit, this was one that I wasn’t too keen on trying to like; my taste for musicals has just about run thin at this late point in my quest, but the songs were charming enough that it ended up winning me over. However, the film falls into the typical pitfall that musicals tend to – keeping the focus on the songs too much over the story. This is a bit of an atypical example because it may have been deliberate; there really isn’t much story here for the film to focus on (which the man’s real life is somewhat to blame here, as it was perfectly ordinary according to this film), so it attempts to make up for it with the musical numbers and presentation. It generally works, though this is mostly if you are willing to buy into it; if you’re not, you’ll see through the thin veneer of this one quite easily. I have yet to bring up James Cagney’s lead performance, which is a bit of a shame, because he delivers quite the accomplished turn in his role; aside from the songs, Cagney’s performance was the other shining star of the film that I latched on to.
This is all a somewhat long-winded way of saying, the film is very thin in content and excessively flashy in its attempts to dazzle, and it’s only when you let yourself go to the music and dance sequences that you’ll enjoy this one. I was able to, rather thankfully, but I can see how many won’t, so big disclaimer attached to this one. The musical numbers are very aplenty, so if you indeed are watching this for that quality, you’ll walk away fully sated. Otherwise, this won’t do much to change your opinions about musicals, if you have one.
Arbitrary Rating: 7/10