Today is America’s birthday, the day where we said “to hell” with tyranny and monarchies and created a land where anyone can be anyone, do anything, and worship as they please without a bewigged snob telling them “no, you can’t do that without my permission.”
In light of all the depressing hatred of this beautiful country (look no further than the flag burning, George Washington statue tearing down rioters currently throwing hissy fits across this nation), I thought it would be mood lifting to return to a time where every American–be they Democrat, Republican, atheist, Christian, politician or Hollywood director–put aside their differences and celebrated, protected, and loved America side by side.
Back in 1942, America was at war. Initially, when WWII began, Americans wanted nothing to do with it; we still were recovering from the first great war, which ended only 25 years before. Yet after we were ambushed by Japan at Pearl Harbor December 1941, we altered our tune pretty quickly, declaring war less than 24 hours after we were hit.
Every citizen changed what they were doing to participate in the war efforts, including Hollywood.
Hollywood knew what sway it held over public opinion, and instead of using it to turn citizens against their leaders and against their country, they created stories that roused the American spirit, that moved the love of country in one’s soul, and encouraged the movie-going public to celebrate and stand by their country through thick and thin.
Enter Yankee Doodle Dandy.
This film was released on June 6, 1942. Directed by Michael Curtiz, Yankee Doodle Dandy retells the story of an unlikely American hero by the name of George M. Cohan, brilliantly played by the one and only James Cagney.
Cohan was a Broadway sensation, rising to the top of the theater world with his wit, genius, and indefatigable persistence. As a character in the movie describes him: ” he is the whole darn country squeezed into one pair of pants.”
Yankee Doodle Dandy is a superb classic with witty dialogue, effortless acting, the sweetest romance, and most of all, rousing, soul-stirring music sequences written by Cohan himself which brings a tear in the eye and love of country in the heart. American classics such as Grand Old Flag, Over There, and of course, Yankee Doodle Boy have their spotlight moments in this movie of their author’s life, and the film is worth watching just for those sequences alone.
I have had this movie in my life for as long as I can remember, and I have never been more grateful for Hollywood celebrating Cohan’s life by immortalizing his pursuit of the American dream than I am now, when it seems that the majority of this country puts politics over patriotism.
If you need further persuasion to watch this black-and-white but magnificent film, I ask you to watch this scene from the movie when young Mr. Cohan meets a stage-struck teenager.
I hope you have a wonderful day celebrating the birthday of the greatest nation on God’s green earth by eating pie, waving Old Glory, and blowing up as many fireworks as humanly possible, and I hope you enrich your movie library with the great classic of Yankee Doodle Dandy