Parents' Guide to

Yankee Doodle Dandy

By Brian Costello, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 8+

Patriotic '40s classic charms, but some dated behaviors.

Movie NR 1942 126 minutes
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This film is a testament to the power of entertainment during a time when people needed the escape. The song-and-dance of James Cagney as "The Man Who Owned Broadway," George M. Cohan, is timeless cinema. Yankee Doodle Dandy shows a time when talent was the most important "lowest common denominator" rather than sex, violence, CGI bombast, etc. It shows a time when Americans were capable of setting aside their ideological differences for the democratic ideal. A time when Cohan, upon receiving a telegram from FDR after performing in what is by today's standards a tame parody of FDR, is worried that he has offended the President. It should give for many, during the ups and downs of a showbiz life spanning roughly six decades, a sense of what seems now lost in a 21st century of entertainment saturation, infotainment bubbles, and uncivil discourse.

However, this movie also shows a time when minstrelsy was not only accepted, but also quite popular. It also skirts the line between patriotism and jingoism. The horrors of World War I are glossed over at best, and war is seen as a romantic endeavor, not coincidentally at a time when the United States was getting into the Second World War. One can't help but wonder what Cohan's views on war would be if he had actually served in the military and witnessed the carnage of World War I. Still, it's easy to still feel transported to a place away from the concerns of everyday life even today during the movie's most spectacular performances, and feel a thrill and wonder at a time when talent alone kept audiences in their seats.

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