LOVE this movie, James Cagney, his dancing, and the marvelous Walter Huston. But my main reason for leaving a review is to mention Rosemary DeCamp, the wonderful actress who played George M. Cohan's mother. I started out as a film major way back when, and it irks me that for some reason she gets like 6th billing- why, Irene Manning, who played Fay Templeton and was lesser known than DeCamp, had just a few minutes of screen time, and got higher billing. Mystifying. DeKamp was a Hollywood mainstay, much loved (a favorite of mine), and next to James Cagney probably the most recognizable person in the film.
DeCamp (1910- 2001) had a long show-biz career, starting in 1937 (after first working as a newspaper reporter) and continuing until the mid 80s. In addition to radio, films, and commercials (e.g., 20 Mule Team Borax), she was in dozens of TV shows, from The Life of Riley, Rawhide and Death Valley Days to Petticoat Junction, That Girl (Ann Marie's mother), The Partridge Family (Shirley Jones's mother), and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (Buck's mother). After Spring Byington (whose acting career began in 1908 (!) and lasted until I Dream of Jeannie and The Flying Nun in the late 60's), DeCamp is probably identified as "mom" more than anyone else in the 20th century. She was also famed for Howard Hughes crashing an experimental plane into her house in Beverly Hills. She and her husband were in bed and the wing of the plane just missed them. Anyway, no-one seems to mention her and she lent her dignity, beauty and quiet grace to the film as Cohan's mother (though curiously she was 11 years younger than Cagney).
And while I'm waxing nostalgic on trivia surrounding the film, regarding the marvelous Walter Huston (father of director John Huston, grandfather of actress Angelica), who plays the elder Cohan- in 1909, at age 26, he fell in love with one Mina Rose, age 44. He saw her on stage, and left his wife & job as the manager of a power plant to tour in Vaudeville with her. Divorced in 1924, when he was 41 & she 59, they were together for 15 years. For me his best film was [[ASIN:B01DBCOA4K Dodsworth]], just wonderful.
BTW, in Yankee Doodle Dandy Josie Cohan, George's sister, is played by Cagney's real life sister Jeanne. Cagney is over the top in this film. He began as a dancer in 1919, dancing was his real love and it shows. No-one else displays such exuberance- a joy to watch (and I'm not much of fan of dance, but Cagney's in a class all his own). If you haven't seen this you MUST- perfect for the 4th of July, patriotic American schmaltz of the highest order.
Pics: Rosemary DeCamp circa 1950s, and from Yankee Doodle Dandy, from left to right- Jeanne Cagney, James Cagney, Rosemary DeCamp, Walter Huston