Jeanne Cagney, James Cagney, Joan Leslie, Walter Huston and Rosemary De Camp in Yankee Doodle Dandy, 1942
printed in 1996
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Yankee Doodle Dandy is a 1942 American biographical musical film about renowned musical composer, playwright, actor, dancer and singer George M. Cohan, known as "The Man Who Owns Broadway".
Cagney was a fitting choice for the role of Cohan since, like Cohan, he was an Irish-American who had been a song-and-dance man early in his career. His unique and seemingly odd presentation style, of half-singing and half-reciting the songs, reflected the style that Cohan himself used. His natural dance style and physique were also a good match for Cohan.
Cohan is shown performing as a singing and dancing version of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The reality of Roosevelt's confinement to a wheelchair due to polio was kept from the general public at the time. In the film, Roosevelt never leaves his chair when meeting Cohan.
Cohan himself served as a consultant during the production of the film. Due to his failing health, his actual involvement in the film was rather limited. However, Cohan did see the film before he died (from cancer) and approved of Cagney's portrayal.