Writer: Robert Buckner, Edmund Joseph, Julius J. Epstein, Philip G. Epstein
Composer: George M. Cohan, Leo F. Forbstein, Ray Heindorf & Heinz Roemheld
AFI Rank: 100 (1998) 98 (2007)
BFI Rank: -
Ok. This is going to be a tough sell. A black and white musical that is nearly seventy years old and is also probably the most patriotic American film ever made. It was the next movie on my combined AFI and BFI top 100 lists and I had committed to myself to watch them all in order. I really enjoy musicals so that was not to be a handicap, and the timing couldn't be better. I decided to watch it the same day as my US citizenship swearing in ceremony. The rampant patriotism of the ceremony itself would help prepare me for the red, white and blue extravaganza that is Yankee Doodle Dandy.
I had never seen it before, especially growing up in England. In fact even today it has not seen a UK DVD release. To be honest I hadn't even heard of the film before I had set myself the challenge, which of course was the point of the exercise. I was familiar with George M. Cohan's music but not the man himself. I basically did not know what to expect, my favorite way of seeing a movie.
This was also the movie that Michael Curtiz directed right before Casablanca. He was nominated for the Oscar for Yankee but won it for Casablanca the following year.
Is it a truly great film? I am still on the fence to be honest. It doesn't have worldwide appeal for one thing. But put into context alongside the first world war, the McCarthy witch hunts, the attack on Pearl Harbor and the escalation of the war, this is truly a great American film. The 2-disc special edition comes with a nice bonus, the well put together Warner Night at the Movies, 1942 introduced by Leonard Maltin including trailers, a newsreel, musical short subject and "Bugs Bunny Gets the Boid". I'm very glad I watched it and it brought me a new found respect for James Cagney, but I don't expect to wear out the DVD anytime soon.