Tags: Hollywood | james cagney | role | george cohan | iconic

James Cagney as George M. Cohan in 'Yankee Doodle Dandy': 6 Quotes About Iconic Role

By    |   Monday, 13 Apr 2015 09:48 PM

James Cagney's portrayal of George M. Cohan in “Yankee Doodle Dandy” was so memorable that it’s still being talked about to this day. Much of Cagney's career was spent portraying some of the toughest (yet sympathetic) characters on film, but this fun-filled biopic brought Cagney his first Academy Award.

From the inspiration for the film itself to the New York critics at the time of the release of the picture to modern-day film buffs, Cagney's performance continues to stimulate comments about his ability to transform into one of the greatest influences in Broadway's musical history.

Here are some quotes from James Cagney himself, as well as from people reflecting on the film.

1. “It seems whenever we get too high hat and too sophisticated for flag-waving some thug nation comes along and decides we're a pushover all ready to be blackjacked. And it isn't long before we're looking up mighty anxiously to be sure the flag is still waving over us.”
– James Cagney as George M. Cohan in Yankee Doodle Dandy”

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2. “For Cagney it’s a personal triumph, easily his top cinematic performance. He hoofs like one demented; he troupes like a lammister from the Lambs; he does Cohan like a relative. If he forgets the side-of-the-mouth droop, after the initial impress, it’s little noticed and perhaps better liked. Thus, in celluloid, Cagney has immortalized Cohan for all time. There can be no more fitting climax to any career.”
Abel Green, Variety

3.
“The picture magnificently matches the theatrical brilliance of Mr. Cohan's career, packed as it is with vigorous humor and honest sentiment. And the performance of Mr. Cagney as the one and original Song-and-Dance Man is an unbelievably faithful characterization and a piece of playing that glows with energy.”
Bosley Crowther, The New York Times

4. “When he struts across the stage in the “Yankee Doodle Dandy” number, his legs are rubber but his spine is steel, and his torso is slanted forward so steeply we're reminded of Groucho Marx.”
Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

5. “Though he was born in 1899 and is somewhat portly here, he is so cocky and sure a dancer that you feel yourself grinning with pleasure at his movements. It's quite possible that he has more electricity than Cohan himself had.”
Pauline Kael, The New Yorker

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James Cagney's portrayal of George M. Cohan in “Yankee Doodle Dandy” was so memorable that it’s still talked about today. Much of Cagney's career was built on roles portraying some of the toughest yet sympathetic characters on film, but this fun-filled biopic brought Cagney his first Oscar.
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