Yankee Doodle Dandy parents guide

Yankee Doodle Dandy Parent Guide

Overall A-

In this flag-waving musical, veteran actor James Cagney portrays real life composer/performer George M. Cohan. This 1942 film received a total of eight nominations and won three Academy Awards (including an Oscar for Cagney).

Release date June 5, 1942

Violence B+
Sexual Content B+
Profanity A-
Substance Use B

Why is Yankee Doodle Dandy rated Not Rated? The MPAA rated Yankee Doodle Dandy Not Rated

Run Time: 126 minutes

Parent Movie Review

Veteran actor James Cagney won his only Oscar for his portrayal of real life composer/performer George M. Cohan in the 1942 film Yankee Doodle Dandy. The movie received a total of eight nominations and two other Academy Awards.

Cagney stepped away from his tough guy roles to tap dance across the stage in what is said to be his favorite film role. Like Cohan, Cagney had a background as a song and dance man in vaudeville. That helped Cagney cinch the part as the prolific American musical entertainer once dubbed “the man who owns Broadway”.

In the biopic as in real life, Cohan begins his career on stage as a child, performing alongside his parents (played by Walter Huston and Rosemary DeCamp who was 11 years younger than her screen son) and sister Josie (played by Cagney’s real sister Jeanne). Billed as The Four Cohans, the family has a popular vaudeville act. And at a very tender age, George becomes an integral part of their performance.

But like many child actors today, the applause goes to his head and George soon earns a reputation for being difficult. Although he is blacklisted for a while, the young showman’s talent eventually overcomes the negative press. Teaming up with Sam Harris (Richard Whorf), another aspiring Broadway writer, he begins composing numerous Broadway shows.

Born on the 4th of July, George is particularly patriotic and pens several tunes that become anthems for U.S. soldiers heading overseas. Among the crowd favorites are “The Yankee Doodle Boy”, “You’re a Grand Old Flag” and “Over There”. As he success grows, he marries Mary (Joan Leslie), a young singer and is invited to the Oval Office for a personal meeting with Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt who Cohan comes out of retirement to portray on stage.

In the production, many details of the entertainer’s life have been fictionalized. Yet autobiographical accuracy doesn’t seem too important in this rousing, flag-waving film that went into production only a few days before the attack on Pearl Harbor. Covering the history of the Broadway musical and the impact of Cohan on American theater, the film became Warner Bros. Pictures biggest box office hit up to that time and gave audiences such great tunes as “Give My Regards to Broadway.”

Directed by Michael Curtiz. Starring James Cagney, Joan Leslie, Walter Huston. Running time: 126 minutes. Theatrical release June 5, 1942. Updated

Yankee Doodle Dandy
Rating & Content Info

Why is Yankee Doodle Dandy rated Not Rated? Yankee Doodle Dandy is rated Not Rated by the MPAA

Violence: Children beat up another boy. A man spanks his child. Soldiers prepare for war and some discussion includes references to fighting. Characters engage in vaudeville entertainment rough play. Adults argue briefly.

Sexual Content: Couples kiss.

Language: A man makes a rude (but not sexual) hand gesture. Some brief name-calling is included.

Alcohol / Drug Use: Characters use alcohol, cigarettes and a cigar infrequently.

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Yankee Doodle Dandy Parents' Guide

According to TCM, Cagney’s tap dance on the steps of the White House in the closing scenes was completely ad-libbed. How do actors enhance a film by adding their own take on a scene? 

How is patriotism portrayed in this film? Why was this an especially important theme when the movie released in June 1942? Is this promotion of nationalism a good or bad thing during wartimes?

A group of teens in this film meet the retired George Cohan but do not recognize him or his music. Are you familiar with the songs in this film? What impact did Cohan have on the entertainment business? What role do Broadway musicals have in today’s culture?

A group of teens in this film meet the retired George Cohan but do not recognize him or his music. Are you familiar with the songs in this film? What impact did Cohan have on the entertainment business? What role do Broadway musicals have in today’s culture?


Home Video

The most recent home video release of Yankee Doodle Dandy movie is September 29, 2003. Here are some details…

Home Video Notes: Yankee Doodle Dandy

Release Date: 30 September 2003

Yankee Doodle Dandy releases on Blu-ray in a 2-Disc Special Edition. Bonus extras include:

- All-new transfer from restored picture and audio elements

- Warner Night at the Movies, 1942 introduced by Leonard Maltin including trailers, newsreel, musical short subject and cartoon “Bugs Bunny Gets the Boid”

- James Cagney trailer gallery

- “James Cagney: Top of the World” documentary (1992)

- “Let Freedom Sing! The Story of Yankee Doodle Dandy” documentary (2003)

- John Travolta Remembers Jimmy Cagney

- “You, John Jones” short (1943)

- Audio vault: outtakes and rehearsals, 10/19/42 Lady Esther Screen Guild Theater Radio Show

- Waving the Flag galleries: George M. Cohan sheet music, dressed set stills, scene concept stills, publicity and posters

- Looney Tunes: “Yankee Doodle Daffy,” “Yankee Doodle Bugs”

Related home video titles:

Other biopics about musical entertainers include Ray, Dreamgirls, and Walk the Line. Song and dance routines like the ones portrayed in this movie also show up in White Christmas.