Yankee Doodle Dandy

AFI Rank: #100
Year Released: 1942
Director: Michael Curtiz
Actors: James Cagney

Based on the true story of self-made composer, actor, and dancer George M. Cohen, James Cagney has to show off a wide range of talents to pull this off. His sister is played by his real life sister, and a number of other talents are featured here.

The movie certainly is strong in its patriotism, but again this isn't an artificial bent of the movie - this is an authentic telling of the character in question. They don't try to gloss over his issues, either. George is brash and wild as a child, and loses the family quite a lot of business. As much as they're frustrated, they stick by him, showing him that loyalty to the family is more important than anything else.

There's a number of song and dance routines here of all shapes, sizes, and styles. So for people who enjoy live musicals, it's like seeing a whole medley of them.

Also, there are a number of strong female characters here, which is rare for movies in the top 100. It even passes the Bechdel test.

It's hard to complain about the plot of the movie, since it's based on real life. This is what happened. But in terms of what I personally relate well to, I don't like the "obnoxious" behavior and the lie-cheat-steal push in it. George's family sticks by his side and he treats them poorly, driving them into awful situations with his lack of tact. I'm just not fond of watching that.

I ended up watching this back to back with Bringing Up Baby - also set in this time frame - and it had the same issue for me. Tons of lying and hurting others, treated as if it was fine as long as the end result was good.

AFI Top 100 Film Listing
Male vs Female Actors in the AFI Top 100
The Bechdel Test in the AFI Top 100