Yes, it’s the Fourth of July again. And, yes, Yankee Doodle Dandy is a fine, classic film (see below) which highlights patriotism. But aren’t there others?
Happy Fourth, everybody. Your classic movie guys, Joe Morella and Frank Segers, scratching our heads today to come up with suitable movie fare in honor of our nation’s birthday. (If you have any suggestions, please don’t be shy about informing us.)
If you want to watch a classic film about the American Revolution may we suggest two. John Ford’s version of Drums Along the Mohawk and Disney’s Johnny Tremain.
These are tales of ordinary people facing war on the home front. One of Joe’s favorite character actresses, Edna May Oliver, gives an outstanding performance in 1939’s Drums Along the Mohawk starring Henry Fonda and Claudette Colbert.
Born Edna May Nutter in Massachusetts in 1883, Oliver was an established supporting player by the time she was cast by John Ford — the woman with an oblong face that could stop a clock, perfect for roles in such costume fare as 1935’s David Copperfield and A Tale of Two Cities and 1933’s Little Women.
She shone as a sympathetic “Mrs. McKlennar” in Ford’s period film, and her portrayal won her an Academy Award nomination. She made two more movies after Drums Along The Mohawk before succumbing to a fatal intestinal ailment in 1942 at age 59.
Johnny Tremain is the story of a young lad in Boston in the colonial times leading up to the Revolution war. Although there are no major stars in the 1957 Disney version of the 1944 award winning novel, it’s another gripping tale of ordinary people caught up in events of the day. Hal Stalmaster portrays Johnny.
If you’re searching for classic films to celebrate our country’s birthday these two are great choices.
Last year, we celebrated Yankee Doodle Dandy, the 1942 movie biography starring James Cagney of that flag waving showman, George M. Cohan.
Born in 1878 to Irish parents in Providence, Rhode Island, Cohan’s career began in 1908. He quickly displayed his considerable abilities as an actor, singer and dancer and then as a playwright, composer and lyricist. He wrote hundreds of songs during his long career (he died in 1942) including such standards as Over There, Give My Regards To Broadway, You’re a Grand Old Flag and The Yankee Doodle Boy.
Repeatedly asked about his personal favorite movie role, Cagney responded this way:
The answer is simple, and it derives from George M. Cohan’s comment about himself: once a song-and-dance man, always a song-and-dance man.
In that brief statement, you have my life story; those few words tell us as much about me professionally as there is to tell. I didn’t have to pretend to be a song-and-dance man. I was one, Jimmy wrote in his 1976 autobiography, Cagney By Cagney.
The musical biography of Cohan was directed by Michael Curtiz, and costarred, among others, Walter Huston, Rosemary De Camp and Cagney’s sister, Jeanne. Cagney’s leading lady was Joan Leslie. The film was a huge hit, nominated in five Academy Award categories and won for Cagney 1943’s best actor Oscar.