It was strange to see Keith Olbermann covering the story about an hour after I woke up to-day. But I must admit I was more interested in latest instalment of Olbermann's ongoing series about the "Nexus of Politics and Terror" which explores the many instances where the Bush administration has apparently used phoney terror threats and unrelated attacks as political leverage to combat the political successes--usually during campaigns--of the administration's adversaries.
At sovay's prodding, I last night watched Yankee Doodle Dandy, and was reminded of a time when someone could be both a Democrat and considered extremely patriotic.
As Roger Ebert said in his review, the movie is "bio by the numbers." It has the more upbeat quality of biopics from the 30s and 40s, and has about the same flavour of others I've seen, like Sister Kenny and The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle. As Ebert points out, though, Cagney's electricity really opens the movie up. Once again, Cagney's complete investment in the role elevates the material beyond what it might deserve. Apparently, Fred Astaire was offered the role originally but turned it down. Cagney wasn't half the dancer Astaire was, but fascinatingly makes you believe he's sort of great. Astaire wouldn't have been right for the role anyway, judging by his somewhat misfired attempt at playing a working class Joe in Follow the Fleet. Cagney and director Michael Curtiz give the film that Warner Brothers slightly rough-house style, although Cagney's big arms don't actually deliver any punches this time.
Walter Huston has a small role in the movie--and I was a lot more surprised to see him singing than I was to see Cagney. He wasn't very great at it, and he was a bit overqualified for the dramatic aspects of the role, though it wasn't as much a step down as The Outlaw. His presence is not a bad thing, but it the movie's quality is almost totally in Cagney, the goodness of George M. Cohen's tunes, and Michael Curtiz's lean and enthusiastic direction.