Why is The Fourth of July?

It seemed like every summer as it approached July 4, one of the local television stations in Chicago would broadcast “Yankee Doodle Dandy”, Jimmy Cagney’s Oscar-winning film performance on the life of George M. Cohan. The highlight of the movie was Cagney singing “I’m a Yankee Doodle dandy ….born on the Fourth of July.” Cohan’s baptismal certificate indicates he was born a day earlier but there were other inaccuracies listed on it so maybe we should take George’s insistence on his own date of birth.

The biographical movie, as does all of that genre, exhibited some stretching of the truth. The woman he married in the cinematic version of his life was Mary portrayed by Joan Leslie, who by the way was an actress more than twenty years younger than Cagney. In real life, George married at a quite young age to an Ethel and divorced her seven years later after having a child, and then subsequently married Agnes Mary with whom he stayed until his death. Continue reading “Why is The Fourth of July?”