Saturday, August 3, 2013
Yankee Doodle Dandy. B+
This classic American musical biography about George Cohan isn't especially great, but James Cagney's performance most definitely is, and as a whole the film's a great entertainment. It opens with Cohan giving a performance at the end of his career, after which he gets a call to visit the White House. There he tells the president his whole life story as the movie flashes back and gives us a two hour rundown of Cohan's youth, glory days, and old age. By today's standards it's a completely formulaic biopic, which is maybe one reason it feels a little stale watching it. That said, the Hollywood biopic didn't actually become a prevalent thing till later on, so one can't entirely accuse the movie of following a formula that didn't really exist. Ultimately this is Cagney's film. He's a a great dramatic actor, and he's given plenty of chances to show it here, but it's his dancing, the way in which he glides across the floor, that really seals his performance. It's one of the most complete, impressive pieces of acting I've seen. Interesting to note that Michael Curtiz released this and Casablanca in this same year.