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Dr. Vanessa Theme Ament

DAILY DOSE OF DELIGHT #5 (From Yankee Doodle Dandy)

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1. Lots of patriotic symbols: flags, portraits of prominent Americans (including 2 of George Washington) on the White House stairs; the Oval Office and FDR; stirring music in the parade proclaiming the "red, white and blue"; men in uniform.

2. Cohan says, "Yankee Doodle Dandy...always carrying a flag in a parade or following one." FDR follows by saying"I hope you haven't outgrown the habit...You carry your love of country like a flag." Cohan follows up with a few lines about his father and his combat experience in the Civil War, of which Cohan says his father was the "proudest kid in the state of Massachusetts." And FDR responds, "So you spent your life telling the other 47 states what a great country it is." What I have not noticed in this film in the past is the stereotyping of Irish Americans (by FDR) as patriotic flag-wavers and fighters. 

3. The opening with the meeting with FDR provides a contemporary backdrop for the biography and allows the film to be retrospective and analytical rather than linear, as it would have been if opened with the 1878 parade. FDR was extremely popular at the time of this film, so his use as a character provides patriotic validity. Also interesting to note is the contrast between the aristocratic FDR and the plain-spoken Cohan during the White House visit.

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Not all, or even most, musicals in the 1940's had patriotic themes. (Example: Holiday Inn, The Bells of Saint Mary's, Lady in the Dark).  And you have to remember that, before Pearl Harbor, there was a strong isolationist feeling in the US. Some sources point out that Cagney had been named as a Communist in the press in 1940, and that this film was designed to be the most patriotic picture ever made. The movie was shot mostly before Pearl Harbor. Some of the patriotism in musicals, at least before 1942, was designed as propaganda to get people to support entering the war. 

 

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1. The opening scene sets the tone...truly a salute to the United States.  The conversation with the butler's White House experiences mentioning "You're A Grand Old Flag"- making Mr. Cohan feel comfortable before his meeting with FDR.  The portraits hanging on the wall of the stairway and inside the Oval Office- pure Americana.  The ships in the oval office are perhaps a salute to the naval fleet that was lost at Pearl Harbor.  The parade was wonderful and allowed me shed a tear reminding me of my elementary school days where we were taught "for God and country."

2.  Butler: (referring to the song "You're A Grand Old Flag")... it's just as good today as it ever was.  It's touching because it was said by the African-American butler telling the audience everyone can feel patriotic.

Cohan: ...a regular Yankee Doodle Dandy; always carrying a flag or parade or following one.

FDR: I hope you haven't forgotten the habit.  That's one thing I admire about you Irish-Americans.  You carry your love of flag right out there in the open. These lines are wonderful reminding us, the audience, that we should always love our country.  Plus the fact that the president mentions an ethnic group that at one time was also victim to prejudice and discrimination.

3.  The opening scenes with FDR really set the tone and when it cuts to the parade, it re-emphasizes what FDR was talking about.  Had the film opened with the parade scene, there would be no need for the story to be told as a flashback.  It's prefect the way it is

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1)  Props and set dressing:  As the butler walks GMC up the stairs he talks about being a fan for many years, back when he was valet to Mr. Teddy--the previous President Roosevelt and FDR's cousin. As they reach the top of the stairs, they pass a portrait of George Washington.  In the Oval Office the Navy touches (ship models, a ship's clock, and several paintings) reinforce FDR's experience as TR's Secretary of the Navy and his foundation of knowledge for recovering the US's strength after the losses at Pearl Harbor. 

2)  Keeping up Morale--Quotes:  GMC:  Pretty cocky kid...always carrying a flag in a parade

FDR:  I hope you haven't outgown the habit.    GMC:  Not a chance.

Direct references of patriotism and foreshadowing the next scene (parade on his birth day) and the framing device for the conclusion after the flashbacks.

3)  Speaking of GMC's birth era, calling it ' the beginning of the Horatio Alger Era', makes reference to the 'Rags to Riches' pulp novels where poor boy makes good, in contrast to the (two) Roosevelts who were rich but had the common touch (Fireside Chats and a homely not glamorous First Lady).  And the Naval details send the  subliminal message that 'we are all in the same boat.'  As a nation must be, if it is to united during a war.

 

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The paintings along the staircase feature iconic presidents in American history (Washington, Jefferson, Grant).  FDR's office is filled with ships and paintings of ships.  I suppose this is to emphasize his service as Assistant Secretary of the Navy.

The dialogue between Cohan and FDR is full of references that touches on key elements of America's greatness. 

  • A nation that welcomes immigrants/assimilation - "That's one thing I've always admired about you Irish-Americans.  You carry your love of country like a flag.  Right out in the open."
  • Patriotism/American Exceptionalism - "You spent your life telling the other 47 states what a a great country this is."
  • Community/Nationalism -  "A regular Yankee Doodle Dandy.  Always carry a flag in a parade or following one."

 The opening scene in the Oval Office establishes a sense of nation/national unity.  The White House is considered the "People's House," where anyone (like Cohan) can come in a have a chat with the President of the United States.  In a sense, FDR is speaking to the nation personified by Cohan.  It is a Fireside Chat on film.  Without the opening scene in the Oval Office, the film would be just another biography about a famous entertainer who was patriotic instead of call to action for all Americans to display their patriotism.

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1 - Many examples, when Cohen rises staircase, we see many paintings of former presidents, the pride of them to rise their flags on 4th of July.

2 - When FDR talks to Cohen about how he admires Irish Americans(like Cohen) rises their flags, it's a form of patriotism, Cohen said people was waiting people passes and rise their flangs on 4th of July Parade.

3 - I prefer in Oval Office, because gives a notion to who's watching the movie Cohen was very important to US, to the form the president talks to him.

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The location, beginning with the White House and ending with a 4th of July parade are both patriotic places and things. In the White House, there were portraits going up the wall of the staircase and I'm presuming those were patriotic portraits. In the President's office, there was a masted sailing ship on the mantle, but I don't know which ship it might have been. The most obvious, outside the patriotic march being played for the soldiers to march to was the overwhelming presence of flags being waved. 

Cohan says that the mood of the country was optimistic and expectant an Horatio Alger age. Of course, Horatio Alger could do whatever he put his mind and his heart into, so it describes a time when America was the same way. Also, when talking to the President, he says there was a time when he thought he had all the answers. Then there is a line about the Republican newspaper disagreeing with Pres. Roosevelt. These two lines together give the impression that between Cohan, and others like him, and the President, the problems that face the country can get ironed out and that spirit of optimism can return. President Roosevelt calls Cohan an Irish-American. This is the earliest time-frame that I ever heard of an hyphenated American. I had heard of slurs against you Irish, or you Italians, but not as hyphenated Americans. I think that shows an inclusiveness that can break down barriers.

I think beginning the movie in the White House with Cohan as an old man gives the film perspective. He's seen a lot and is about to narrate the film in the first person, so it is his memory we are about to see. If the story started at the parade, Cohan might have been able to narrate it, but it would have been first in a child's (baby's?) voice and having to progress. The White House beginning gives us a seamless look into his past, and our country's past without having to spend a lot of  time on his childhood. 

After reading Masscommmike, I found out who the portraits were of, and also was reminded of the service Roosevelt gave as Asst. Sec. of the Navy. Thanks!

 

Edited by Temperancegirl1971!
clarification to my post.

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1.     Describe how the scenes in today’s Daily Dose were designed to promote American values for audiences during World War II. Be specific. Refer to props, set design, settings, etc. in your answer.

The opening scene being set in the White House as Cohan is preparing to meet Roosevelt and the flashback to the July 4th celebration the year Cohan was born not only establishes the framing story that outlines Cohan’s (auto)biography but also establishes both the American values prevalent at that time and the values that the nation tried to promote during the war.  Roosevelt’s presence in this scene addresses the current war immediately.  As the Commander-in-Chief, he will make decisions determining the nation’s involvement.  (I find it interesting that they cast a Canadian actor to portray the President.)  Also, I did not realize production began the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor so I can understand the patriotic fervor, the jingoism, as well as the emotions present on the set.  The flashback takes us back to Cohan’s birth and a celebration of the nation’s independence not too long after the end of The Civil War, a huge blemish on this nation’s history.  Nonetheless, the parade acknowledges that war, perhaps even honoring veterans in that war since the year is 1878?  Seeing people dressed in these uniforms would indirectly address the audience watching the film, encouraging them to serve as well, perhaps.  

2.     Listen carefully to the dialogue in these scenes. In what ways does the dialogue and/or the screenplay work to boost American morale? Quote specific lines of dialogue in your response.

(I didn’t include direct quotes, choosing to paraphrase the lines instead.)

One bit of dialogue that would boost American morale is Cohan’s reference to the Horatio Alger era, when everyone had the same opportunity to succeed, no matter his humble beginnings.  Perhaps proof of this is how America was seen as a land of opportunity then, as is shown not only in the fact that Cohan was Irish-American but also the fact that the director, Curtiz, was from Hungary. Also, as I noted in response number one, this scene shows the optimistic spirit as people celebrate their independence and acknowledge the Civil War, which would still have been fresh in their memories.  I also think that the lines about singing about the grand old flag would promote American morale and the pride people are supposed to take in that symbol, especially with “Mr. Teddy” singing the song in the bathtub. Finally, the President notes Cohan’s admirable quality of wearing his patriotism on his sleeve and sharing it with all 48 states.  Then Cohan responds by saying that his own father was proud to run away at 13 and serve in the Civil War, another reference to that war which might be an attempt to encourage citizens to join the military to serve the country during WWII?

3.     Since this is the opening of a biographical musical, how differently do you feel this film would be if it opened with the Fourth of July Parade scene in Providence, Rhode Island vs. the opening with FDR in the Oval Office? Defend your answer.

Eliminating the framing device and making the film a straight chronological biography would have downplayed the timeliness of the war that the nation was on the brink of entering.  True, the opening scene still would have included references to the Civil War and the Revolutionary War, both of which could promote American Jingoism, but there was suddenly a more immediate call to arms after the attack on Pearl Harbor.  Without the framing device, the film would have focused immediately on Cohan’s earlier years as he grew into the man he became, promoting his patriotism and sharing it with the nation.  The audience needs to see this idea at the beginning of the film, along with his respect for the President and all that the President represents as the leader of the most powerful nation in the world.  It was a time to promote patriotism, unifying the nation to support what the President decided and to support and protect each other and this nation from external threats.

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The portraits of American historical figures on  the wall as Cohan is climbing the stairs to see Roosevelt. The valet taking to Cohan about the Grand Old Flag. The scenes of flags in the parade.

How FDR talks about Irish American pride for their country waving the flag. George M. Cohan talking about how his father fought in the civil war and how he inherited that spirit from him.

I think if it opened with the parade scene it would be more of just the life of George M Cohan whereas with him talking with the President was more of inspiring Americans to be positive during the war.

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Describe how the scenes in today’s Daily Dose were designed to promote American values for audiences during World War II. Be specific. Refer to props, set design, settings, etc. in your answer.

In this opening sequence, we see American patriotism in its most overt form. Yes, we are set inside The White House. A place where the every-day American at the time could perhaps only ever dream of stepping foot into, and now they get a front-row seat through the magic of the movies. As such, we get an overly sentimentalised version of what could be inside - the line of presidential portraits leading up the staircase, the wonderfully friendly and well-dressed "butler" who also happens to be a person of colour. The clean, sturdy lines of the set decoration give us a feeling of security. Inside the Oval Office, we see portraits and sculptures of ships ("we've got the best navy in the world!") and there are flags on display - including Cohan wearing one on his chest. American vigor is depicted here in a sort of "through the ages, in all things" type of way - promoting a high morale in the present day. 

The 4th of July parade flashback sequence is no different. There are every-day folk on the streets happily waving their flags. Flags everywhere you look! As part of the parade, decorating shops and houses, and quite literally lining the street. Again, perhaps an overly sentimental representation of what a parade may actually look like, but all keeping with the promotion of loving liberty, loving the flag, loving the troops, and happily playing your part in the whole thing.

Listen carefully to the dialogue in these scenes. In what ways does the dialogue and/or the screenplay work to boost American morale? Quote specific lines of dialogue in your response.

The exchange between Cohan and FDR plays almost like a pep talk. Interestingly, before this exchange occurs we can draw connections between what the butler is saying and what is current to the political/cultural landscape of the early 40s. He is talking to Cohan about the tune "Grand Ol' Flag" from the "30 something years ago" play George Washington Jr. Of his experience with the song, Cohan quips, "It was a good ol' song in its day", to which the butler replies "yes, sir, it was, and it's just as good today as it ever was". Perhaps this dialogue is priming the audience to believe that America is also just as great today as it ever was - still the grand ol' nation of yore. 

When Cohan enters FDR's office, we are met with a big, booming, confident, and secure voice. We don't actually ever see FDR's face as the actor playing him is only ever filmed from behind. But this is perhaps a purposeful move. As the audience, we need only hear the inspiring voice of our leader to be called to action. The two joke for a moment about Cohan being a "better president" in I'd Rather be Right than he is, with Cohan responding to "remember it's a Republican newspaper" that wrote that (FDR was a Democrat, after all). Then we get into the more apparent overtones of community, coming together, and patriotism, even for one's adopted nation. A great example of this includes Cohan's line, "I was...a regular Yankee Doodle Dandy, always carrying a flag in a parade or following one", to which FDR responds that he "hopes he hasn't outgrown the habit" and this kind of love for one's country is something he has "always admired about Irish-Americans...you carry your love of country like a flag, right out in the open...it's a great quality". 

But with all these serious calls to patriotism, we get some funny lines about it, too. For example, in the flashback parade sequence when Cohan's father, Jerry, is wanting to leave the theatre in order to catch his wife giving birth to George, he is dressed in a stereotypically "Irish" stage costume. As he is running out the door, a stage hand jokes that he "can't run through the streets in that outfit. They'll put you in jail!". The 4th of July is some serious business!

Since this is the opening of a biographical musical, how differently do you feel this film would be if it opened with the Fourth of July Parade scene in Providence, Rhode Island vs. the opening with FDR in the Oval Office? Defend your answer.

I think the decision to frame the movie as a flashback about Cohan's life makes all the difference here. The opening sequence with an older Cohan essentially telling his whole story to the current president sets a tone of sentimentality, remembrance, and honouring of the past. The dialogue presented in the opening scene is somewhat serious with its call for keeping America at the forefront of one's thoughts and actions, but because this is about the life of a Vaudevillian song-and-dance man it is immediately followed up with more light-hearted action - as seen in the Rhode Island parade. Had we started with the parade, this somewhat maudlin framework would have been lost and the film would come across as being much more of a typical musical about the life of an important American figure, with some undertones of nationalism and ideals coming through. By starting us in the Oval Office, Michael Curtiz is sending a very direct message about the importance of patriotism and keeping one's head up when faced with a trying time. And he tells us about this through the life of a man who was essential in that regard when America was faced with war in a previous era.

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FDR was a popular president and one most Americans could unite around. Since the film is really set against WW1, FDR's presence brings it into the present for audiences at the time.

Plus his conversation with Cohan gives what audiences are about to see FDR's "seal of approval" if you will, keeping in mind they're trying to sell war bonds for a current war.

So, starting off with FDR gives it a better context for a 1942 audience

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In opening scene you can see the reverence with which Cohan views the White House and the portraits on the wall of various presidents (including George Washington).  He speaks of the love he has for the country learned from his dad who "ran to fight in the Civil War". 

He also speaks of the great life Americans enjoyed as a way to spur citizens to rally to the WW II fight and protect what they have. His songs helped Americans fight WW I and are resurrected in this film to again muster the troops.

 

Roosevelt mentions Irish American patriotism, highlighting how the generations closest to immigration, often are more appreciative of the freedom they found in America.

 

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1.  As Cohen is being escorted to FDR the servent speaks of how he had seen him years earlier because Teddie Roosevelt had gotten him a seat in the balcony. The pictures on the stairway were of past presidents. The pictures in the office are of ships as well on FDR’s desk. Cohen kept glancing around to take it all in as a member of the public would in such a place. Also flags were everywhere. 

2.  Cohen spoke of how his parents were proud Irish American and his dad served in the Cival War. He had enter at the age of 13. 

3.  Knowing the time frame that that it was being filmed and released it works much better staring with FDR and the White House. If it had not worked if it started with his birth. 

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Describe how the scenes in today’s Daily Dose were designed to promote American values for audiences during World War II. Be specific. Refer to props, set design, settings, etc. in your answer.

Cohan is climbing the stairs, past portraits of former presidents, then enters FDR's office to a host of portraits on the wall, depicting ships in battle, into one of the more iconic places of the US, the White House. 

Listen carefully to the dialogue in these scenes. In what ways does the dialogue and/or the screenplay work to boost American morale? Quote specific lines of dialogue in your response.   FDR wastes no time in congratulating Cohan on the patriotism of Irish Americans.  Cohan reminisces about his 13 year old grandfather running off to the Civil War, and how proud Massachusetts was of him.  These pieces of dialogue are pulled together with the advent of  the parade to aid in morale building.

Since this is the opening of a biographical musical, how differently do you feel this film would be if it opened with the Fourth of July Parade scene in Providence, Rhode Island vs. the opening with FDR in the Oval Office? Defend your answer.

Given that the film went into production with the onset of Pearl Harbor on everyone's mind, it is fitting to start viewers thinking of a "great" America, by opening with the Chief Executive of the United States, the face of war-time America.

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1. This first scene promotes patriotism as the viewer climbs up the staircase with Cohan and the butler while observing all the president's portraits hanging on the wall.  The viewer gets to listen  to the men's conversation ,as they discuss the patriotic performances of the past with Cohan and his family.  Next inside the President's office, Cohan has a flag pin on his lapel, an American flag in the back corner is seen, and we hear patriotic marches played as background music while F.D.R. and Cohan also reminisce about past American parades and patriotic shows. 

2.  F.D.R. states to Cohan "There was a time you knew all the answers", and Cohan humbly replies " Yes, there was a time I did, but wish I did now", F.D.R. replies "yes, so do I".  The President sees Cohan as not only physically similar to his appearance, but that they are both very similar in thinking, habits and American values.

3.  I think the present day scene when Cohan and F.D.R. are older, foreshadows that a successful and satisfying career was had by both men.  This shows that their lives intertwined through out the decades and helps the movie bring an upbeat, American pride type feeling to begin the story line.. Movie goers in the early 40's had limited exposure to news and happenings and might not have been aware of the many experiences the men had gone through to make them where they are  today in their careers and lives.

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Easily one of my favorite musicals and one of my favorite movies in general of all time. I watch it at least once a year, every 4th of July of course! Eager to watch it again as part of this course and look at it in a different light or notice something that I haven't in previous viewings. I have always felt a strong connection to George M. Cohan and his story as portrayed by this movie as I am also a descended Irish American and my birthday is right before the 4th of July, so similarly growing up I often thought the fireworks and celebrations were for me too!

As the previous entries have stated, they made an absolute effort to have American flags in every shot of the parade scene as the parade itself is a 4th of July parade, that scene screams American Patriotism throughout, but we also see the portraits of the presidents along the staircase in the opening scene and other subtle, and not so subtle, nods to patriotism throughout these two scenes and throughout the entirety of the movie which will make you come away proud to be an American and want to do a little flag waving yourself, and, as they intended, eager to donate to the war effort in some way.

The opening sequence and initial dialogue at the White House shows us that this movie is intended for all Americans and promotes unity by specifically stating how Cohan's music had influence on President's ("Mr. Teddy used to sing it in his bathtub" and "I can remember you and your family well ..."), African Americans ("I was supposed to be off tonight ..." and "It's just as good today as it ever was."), and emphasizing that Cohan is an Irish-American (“That’s what I like about you Irish Americans, you carry your love for your country around with you like a flag.”), but none the less he and his family are as rooted in American history and as patriotic as any other American. 

Through starting with this scene rather than the parade scene we see that Cohan's music has transcended the ages and unified all Americans of many backgrounds. By then looping back to witness the events that got him to this point of meeting the president we also come to agree that his contributions to American Patriotism and the war efforts warrant the praise he will receive and begin to also look at him as an American hero in his own right. We too feel nostalgic about his contributions by the time we circle back to the scene with FDR at the end of the movie, which perhaps wouldn't have been accomplished as successfully if we had not started with the scene at the White House at the beginning.

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  1. Describe how the scenes in today’s Daily Dose were designed to promote American values for audiences during World War II. Be specific. Refer to props, set design, settings, etc. in your answer.

There are portraits of presidents as he's walking up the stairs to see FDR in the beginning. Then, when it switches to the past, there are American flags everywhere. 

  1. Listen carefully to the dialogue in these scenes. In what ways does the dialogue and/or the screenplay work to boost American morale? Quote specific lines of dialogue in your response.

They talk at the beginning about it being a great country and how Cohan was always telling people how great it was. Cohan says he was, "always carrying a flag." FDR says, "You carry your love of country like a flag, right out in the open."

  1. Since this is the opening of a biographical musical, how differently do you feel this film would be if it opened with the Fourth of July Parade scene in Providence, Rhode Island vs. the opening with FDR in the Oval Office? Defend your answer.

By starting with the scene with the president, it helps us have an interest in who this man was. He must have done something important with his life to gain this kind of honor. It inspires us to want to watch more of the movie to find out why. It gives additional detail about this man. If we started with the parade scene, you would have no idea really what was going on.

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These are good questions. For the first time, I am putting this film is a wider context: usually I just wait for Cagney to dance up the side of the proscenium in one of my favorite movie scenes. Obviously, any movie that features Yankee Doodle Dandy is focusing on the symbols of national patriotism, but this movie has a more subtle subtext of national and historical values and unity. In the opening scene, we see the present connected to heroic American history represented by the portraits on the staircase, but we also see a white man and a black man speaking intelligently together in s spirit of mutual respect. This theme continues as a man known for song and dance speaks comfortably with the president. All men are created equal in these scenes. Part of their conversation addresses Irish-Americans as loyal Americans. One might see these scenes as patriotic cliches, but the country really did need to put aside its prejudices (to some extent) and pull together to fight the war. The flashback scenes are once again rife with patriotic imagery, particularly flags, but also with band music. We do see an argument here that music has a role to play in the effort to keep Americans enthusiastic about their patriotic mission. In light of current hostility to the idea of immigration, this film, both in front of and behind the camera shows immigrants and minorities as part of the nation and fully accepted as such by President Roosevelt. The final scene of the elder Cohan promising to be back from his wife's bedside for the next show leaves us with the theme that Americans (and hyphenated Americans at that) will care for their families but give their all for the greater good, whether it's a show or a world war.

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I saw this film a number of years ago with my Mother.  It was great than and I am sure it will be even better this time.  I love the patriotism in this film especially when James Cagney says to the President that he has always been a flag waver and altways will be.  Perhaps we could stand a little bit more of that patriotism in Hollywood today.

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I'm so glad that there was a Daily Dose for Yankee Doodle Dandy. I discovered the movie last year on TCM and it is now one of my top 10 favorite films.

1) The opening scenes are at the White House, America's house. I feel that that in itself is promoting American ideals. It also goes over the fact that Cohan got his start with his family and it shows the importance that starting a family had for his father. He also spoke of his love of country steaming from his father, who ran off to join the Civil War because he loved his country so much. This was right at the time men were either enlisting or being drafted to fight for their country so this idea would have been very personal to many. The country was also trying to promote patriotism, so having a film that shows parades where flags are waving and telling the story about the man who wrote the song "You're a Grand Old Flag," really helps bring that to the forefront. 

2) The part that stood out to me the most was the point where Cohan is discussing his birth. He speaks about how America was full of hope for the future and anticipating the growth of the country. In the dawning of a world war, the American people needed hope that America would be victorious and continue to grow as a nation, so reminding them of how the people before them had that hope might inspire them to have it as well.

3) One of the things that I love about this film is the narration of the story by Cohan. By opening with him telling his story on the verge of WW2 to the President gives it an incredible sense of patriotism right out of the gate and then movie into the parade on the 4th just adds to that feeling. If they had started with the parade, without the context of why that day was important, not only to the nation, but to the family, it would have not had nearly the push that it did. I thought it was a great move on the writers and director's part.

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1. Flags are everywhere in the first scene. Also, as Cagney climbs the stairs, there are several portraits of former American presidents. The parade and flags at the end of the clip also help to promote American values.

2.  I think the conversation between Cohen and the butler (talking about the "Grand Old Flag" as they climb the stairs) is the best example. The parade scene also no doubt boosted American morale.

3.  The Oval Office scene is a better introduction.  The audience can see the pictures of former presidents on the wall, which helped foster a sense of nationalism.  The parade scene, with marching bands and flags, fits better after the introduction. Again, national pride is the main focus.

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Holy cow. There were tons of ways that this movie emphasized how great our country was at that time. We were very patriotic and believed that we were the greatest country in the world. Examples of how “Yankee Doodle Dandy” shows this is: Cohan walking up a stairway past pictures of past presidents, sitting down to talk to FDR, the presence of our flag in his office, and the abundance of them during the Fourth of July parade in Rhode Island. People were standing on either side of the parade and waving flags and cheering as the parade wound its way through the town.  They knew what the day represented. Our freedom from England. 

There was so much dialogue in that short clip that I replayed certain parts over and over to try and write down as much as I could  Cohan says, “ I was a pretty cocky kid in those days, pretty cocky kid.  A regular Yankee Doodle dandy.  Always carrying a flag in a parade or following one.”  He states that he got his love of  this country from his dad; FDR has stated that he saw their act more than 30 years ago when he went to school in Boston-a town rich in American history  FDR replies:”That is one thing I have always admired about you Irish Americans.  You carry your love of country like a flag, right out in the open.  It’s a great quality.”

i think it is right that the visit with  the president is the opening scene.  It sets up the story of this famous family  of entertainers, especially George M. Cohan.  Someone said it was used in foreshadowing, but I do not sgree with that.  The president saying that he remembers The Four Cohans let’s the story go back to the beginning of this famous man’s life.  It is a natural lead in to Cohan reminiscing about his life.

 

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The set and set decorations are critical to setting a patriotic tone in the clip. When Cohan ascends the stairs, we see presidential portraits. We know we are in the Oval Office when the camera follows Cohan as he approaches the President's desk. We see the American flag near the fireplace, which would remind Americans of the President's fireside talks at the height of the Great Depression. The ship models, ship's wheel desk clock, and nautical paintings remind us that the President was previously Assistant Secretary of the Navy under Woodrow Wilson and, more importantly, during World War I. Later in the clip, the 4th of July celebration features flags of all sizes, bunting-draped businesses, a band, a parade featuring veterans of previous wars,and many people gathered together, demonstrating unity of spirit. A plaque on the building where the boys are perched (a church? the town hall?) is in the shield shape often used to represent Columbia.  

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Honestly, I couldn't make out the paintings lining the wall by the staircase, other than George Washington at the top, nor what was on the walls of FDR's office. I had never really paid much attention in previous viewings but even when I made it a point to observe them, they were very difficult to see.

The last time Yankee Doodle Dandy was on TCM, Ben Mankiewicz was speaking with someone who mentioned the fact that shooting started the day after Pearl Harbor, and when everyone had arrived at the studio, James Cagney called for a moment of prayer. If the motivation of the movie was to stir up patriotism in the viewers, the timing of it surely enlarged the same feeling with the cast and crew.

The opening scene is an old trick that I have seen in many books, plays, movies, and TV shows. You start with the end of the story and then go back to the beginning as a retrospective telling. Instead of the normal "He was born and then he did this, this, and this" The end-at the-beginning method has the audience curious as to how he got to that point so the movie has their full attention from the outset.

The lines that stuck out to me were:

The butler to George M. Cohan "I was supposed to be off tonight, but when I heard you were coming I decided to stay." He had seen the 4 Cohans in his younger days and he wasn't about to pass up an opportunity to see this living legend and escort him to one of the most most powerful and influential men in the world.

George M. Cohan: Mrs. Cohan was busy working on a smaller production of her own." (Cohan's birth)

And the gem of FDR: The Herald-Tribune says you make a better president in I'd Rather Be Right than I am. Cohan: Don't forget it's a Republican newspaper.

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Since this is the opening of a biographical musical, how differently do you feel this film would be if it opened with the Fourth of July Parade scene in Providence, Rhode Island vs. the opening with FDR in the Oval Office? Defend your answer.

I believe that opening with the Fourth of July Parade would have weakened the promotion  of patriotism in the film. By beginning with the Cohan's visit to the President's office, the audience of the 40's would be reminded that the American dream is still coming true; at the time of the parade scene, we do not see people of  color in the crowd, the Irish would not often be welcomed in the President's office, and a black man would not likely not speak so familiarly as Cohan and the President's valet do as they come up the stairs. The message is, not only is this a good country, it is becoming a better country, a more inclusive country with opportunities for all. This was an important  message coming on the heels of the Great Depression. Remember that during World War I, Irish-Americans were generally more supportive of Germany and its allies than they were the British and their allies, including the U.S. If the film began with the parade, viewers might miss this entirely (things look great at the parade, after all, unless you are looking for those who are not there or who are marginalized), while the retrospection in Cohan's talk with the President reminds the viewer of how far we have come as a country. For modern viewers, I think it also reminds us of how far we have come since the film was made. The President's remarks about Cohan's Irish heritage would be pretty offensive in our present.

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