The year was 1942. Once again, it was my father and I alone together attending a movie. It was an era when audiences felt the passion, one and all, applauding our American flag when it was shown on full screen before the film began. Everyone in the audience, one way or another had a direct attachment with World War II. My father had been exempt from the draft because the age limit for being drafted was thirty-eight, or being the parent of two or more children. Dad was age forty with three children. I had reached the ripe old age of nine.
So there we were, a forty-year-old and a nine-year-old, about to experience one of the great films of all time: “Yankee Doodle Dandy”. As the story reveals, it was the life and times of George M. Cohan, a famous vaudevillian song and dance man, who was also known as one of the great composers of the era. The song “Yankee Doodle Dandy” tells within its lyrics how Cohan was born on the fourth of July (in actuality his birthday was July 3rd).
George M. Cohan was one of those individuals who left his mark on society. Immigrants from everywhere imaginable fell in love with his patriotic bent. He was the king of Broadway doing his thing. My father fell right in with the immense crowd of “Cohan followers”. Like father, like son. My fire had been parentally lit.
When we walked out of the “movie house” (as my Dad referred to it) we were singing “Yankee Doodle Dandy” together, with countless others. I can’t imagine anyone other than James Cagney playing the lead role. It was lock, stock, and barrel all Irish-American!
*Lock, stock, and barrel is a merism used predominantly in the United Kingdom and North America, meaning “all”, “total” or “everything”.