Yankee Doodle Dandy (Two-Disc Special Edition)
Amazon.com essential video
James Cagney thrills in a rare (and limber) song-and-dance performance as composer-entertainer George M. Cohan. This nostalgic biography is told in flashbacks, covering Cohan's formative years becoming Broadway's brightest star and touching upon his loves, musicals, and artistic triumphs. Director Michael Curtiz (The Adventures of Robin Hood) offers Cagney ample opportunities to invent an utterly charming performance in what is practically a one-man show. If you've never seen Cagney as a hoofer, you're in for a treat: his dancing is as dynamic as anything else he's ever done on screen. --Tom Keogh
Two 45-minute documentaries highlight the Yankee Doodle Dandy two-DVD set. Michael J. Fox hosts James Cagney: Top of the World, a 1992 biography of the film's star that incorporates a rare audio interview with footage and photos from his film and stage career. Let Freedom Sing! The Story of "Yankee Doodle Dandy" is a 2003 exploration of the film itself, including George M. Cohan's tight control over the project (he wanted Fred Astaire to play him) and profiles of the cast and crew (Joan Leslie, who played Cohan's wife, is interviewed and still looks lovely over 60 years later). Of course some material overlaps both documentaries, such as how a Communist accusation compelled Cagney to pursue this ultra-patriotic project, and how news of Pearl Harbor arrived during filming. Other significant features are historian Rudy Behlmer's trivia-laden commentary track and the nightmarish 1943 short "You, John Jones," in which Cagney is forced to envision his daughter (a pre-Meet Me in St. Louis Margaret O'Brien) suffering in wartime conditions around the world. The transfer isn't as eye-popping as on some of Warner's classics, but of course the chief reason to celebrate is that a great musical is finally available on DVD with plenty of interesting features. --David Horiuchi
A nostalgic view of the golden era of show business and the man who made it glitter--George M. Cohan. His early days, triumphs, songs, musicals and romances.