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?”

Swimming In Lies

Everyone hates being lied to, right? As a kid all those years watching entertaining biographical films – I took it for granted that what I saw actually happened that way. George M. Cohan, played by James Cagney in Yankee Doodle Dandy, yankee doodle dandywas a swell dancer who gracefully slid into retirement. The Von Trapp family in The Sound of Music adroitly outmaneuvered the Nazis and climbed the Alps mountain to safety. General George Custer, plated by the gallant Errol Flynn in They Died With Their Boots On, was tricked by Sitting Bull and his cutthroats and died a heroic death. The list goes on and on.
Continue reading “Swimming In Lies”