Friday, September 09, 2005

a real live nephew of my uncle sam

Save that 20-30 bucks you would spend at the movies this weekend seeing some flop or forgettable drivel that is showing at your local mega-plex. Invest that money in a true classic that will provide entertainment, spirit, and education. I'm talking about James Cagney's 1942 hit, Yankee Doodle Dandy .

Cagney was one of those irreplaceable stars, forever etched in our national memory as a tough guy. In fact, the stereotypical tough guy talk, banter, and walk that permeates our pop culture is largely due to Cagney's "presence" in the movies (with Edward G. Robinson and Bogey mixed in for good measure). Cagney had something that even Warner's toughest brother Jack couldn't contain. He had a tough, grounded spirit; an actor who liked what he did, but liked his family, people, the land and his country even more. He frequently stood up for the "little guy", even when it meant someone would try to steamroll him. Not that they succeeded. Cagney wasn't a pushover. When Warner Brothers tried to put one over on Cagney and make him work outside the bounds of his contract- Cagney stopped working. One the most popular stars in Hollywood just packed up, went to his farm in Martha's Vineyard and just worked his farm. He loved his farm. Eventually, Cagney made it back to Warner's, thankfully; which is where he made his ultimate song and dance film.

Yankee Doodle Dandy is the musical bio-pic about George M. Cohen, one of Broadway's early stars and composer of such famous songs as "Your a Grand Old Flag" and "Over There". Starring Cagney as Cohen, Joan Leslie, and Walter Huston (John's Dad), the film was a rousing, inspirational movie that gave ample opportunity for Cagney's singing, dancing, and acting talents to shine through. It will uplift you, pull at your heart strings, and make you eager for more old classics. In a bit of trivia for Old Time Radio and TV fans (like myself) the film also features Frances Langford, wonderful singer and actress from radio's "The Bickersons" and the very first Alice on the first installments of the Honeymooners on "The Jackie Gleason Show".

The DVD itself is superb. It is one of Warner Brother's best 2-disc special editions (Jack would be proud, don't ya' know). The picture and sound is fantastic, and the first disc features the movie and one of my favorite features- "Warner's Night at the Movies". The feature provides what a movie-goer might have seen when they went to see Yankee Doodle Dandy in 1942; newsreel, cartoon, and shorts - hosted by the man himself, Leonard Maltin. It is the second disc, however, that will cause DVD features fans to rejoice. Several great documentaries about Cagney and the movie, more cartoons, a special Cagney short subject, many trailers of other Cagney films, and galleries are all included. The documentary hosted by Michael J. Fox, while not complex, is very insightful and compelling. Fox is a great host, and his admiration for Cagney comes through.

Bottom line: Out of four simple choices- pass, rent, borrow, or buy and put on your shelf- Yankee Doodle Dandy deserves to be on your Shelf! Buy and enjoy. Your 20-30 bucks will thank you.

My mother thanks you, my father thanks you, my sister thanks you, and I thank you.

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