Article

‘A Great American Service’

Elizabeth Titrington Craft

in The Oxford Handbook of Musical Theatre Screen Adaptations

Published in print August 2019 | ISBN: 9780190469993
Published online July 2019 | e-ISBN: 9780190490010 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780190469993.013.22

Series: Oxford Handbooks

‘A Great American Service’

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This chapter looks at the musical biopic Yankee Doodle Dandy. George M. Cohan was still alive when the movie about his life was made and his influence is seen on how it depicts aspects of his life to suit his own account of it. But the chapter also explores how the movie is a self-reflexive backstage musical and how its attention to theatrical authenticity served to deflect scrutiny from the lack of veracity in Cohan’s biography. Examples include the changing of details in scenes from the stage musicals George Washington, Jr and I’d Rather Be Right to serve the movie’s hagiographic depiction of Cohan’s life, as memorably played by James Cagney. But on the whole, the chapter reveals that fidelity was the byword in the treatment of Cohan’s musical oeuvre and the staging of musical numbers. James Cagney also took great care to capture Cohan’s renowned, distinctive dancing style; his instructor Johnny Boyle had even performed in Cohan shows and staged dances for Cohan.

Keywords: Yankee Doodle Dandy; George M. Cohan; George Washington; Jr; James Cagney; I’d Rather Be Right

Article.  10021 words. 

Subjects: Musicology and Music History ; Music and Media

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