The movie gives a musical portrait of the amazing, upwardly mobile life story of George M. Cohan, the early 20th century entertainment legend who produced, directed, wrote and starred in his own musical shows. It follows several generations of Cohan's family and features several brilliant song and dance numbers with a magnificent performance from James Cagney, full of energetic vigour, who demonstrates beyond any doubt that he was not just an actor who could play gangsters, but also a very fine dancer and singer.
As well as being loved by the critic, the film was a major box-office success for Warner Bros. becoming their most successful film up to that time. It is patriotic, understandably so as it was released just after the Pearl Harbour attack on the US Fleet.
The movie begins in 1937 with George M. Cohan visiting President Roosevelt and, with the encouragement of the President, recalling his life story. It is these flashbacks which form the core of the film.
His rising fortunes are traced during WW1 when his patriotic songs like 'Over There' became nationally famous and his fame reaches its climax when Roosevelt presents him with the Congressional Medal of Honor, and Cagney, as Cohan, does an impromptu and utterly brilliant tap dance of jubilation down the White House steps.
Main CastJames Cagney ... George Cohan
Joan Leslie ... Mary Cohan
Walter Huston ... Jerry Cohan
Richard Whorf ... Sam Harris
Irene Manning ... Fay Templeton
George Tobias ... Dietz
Rosemary DeCamp ... Nellie Cohan
Jeanne Cagney (sister of James) ... Josie Cohan
Frances Langford ... Nora Bayes
George Barbier ... Erlanger
S. Z. Sakall ... Schwab
Eddie Foy, Jr. ... his own father, Eddie Foy.
CreditsDirector ... Michael Curtiz
Producer ... Hal B. Wallis, Jack Warner, William Cagney
Writers ... Robert Buckner, Edmund Joseph
Uncredited .. Julius J. Epstein, Philip G. Epstein
Cinematography ... James Wong Howe
Music ... (Songs)George M. Cohan, (Score)Ray Heindorf, Heinz Roemheld
Release Date ... 29 May, 1942
Sound ... Mono (RCA Sound System)
New York premiere ... 29 May 1942
Distribution Company ... Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Running Time ... 126mins
Academy Awards3 Wins:
Actor ... James Cagney
Music (Scoring of a Musical Picture) ... Ray Heindorf, Heinz Roemheld
Sound Recording ... Nathan Levinson, Warner Bros. Sound Director
5 Unsuccessful Nominations:
Best Supporting Actor ... Walter Huston
Director ... Michael Curtiz
Film Editing ... George Amy
Writing (Original Motion Picture Story) ... Robert Buckner