I was maybe eight or nine when my sisters, brother and I watched this every single night for a week. Stations did that back then. Call it cheap baby-sitting. But we were riveted. I’d never seen a man dance like that. Especially a man I’d seen so many times as a tough-guy gangster type. I think it was my first notion of…”Oh yeah…he’s an actor.”
Watching it again, lo these many years later, I was struck by several new observations. First – what a patriot George M. Cohan was! (And, as is common knowledge, so was Cagney.) Though Cohan maintained, “I was a good Democrat even [as a child]”… he didn’t feel the modern leftist compulsion to extend the sympathetic lilt of empathy towards one’s avowed enemies. He knew which side he was on – and said so, in no unequivocal terms.
Cohan wasn’t politically correct — he and his family put on Minstrel shows! Innocent, good-natured entertainment back then, offending no one, delighting all; black, white or variegated paisley. It wasn’t until the class-envy of Marxist political correctness that we insisted on being horrified by such a thing.
When young George misbehaved, his father – oh shock – turned him over his knee and whooped his butt. Men treated women with genteel deference and women modestly comported themselves with style, sweetness and class. Youth respected the wisdom of age…or…they got their butts whooped.
Life-long business deals (Cohan and partner Sam H. Harris) were sealed with a handshake. My word is my bond. And if you failed, you didn’t turn to government for a bailout…you just squared your jaw and tried again.
Being patriotic was hip. The flag was revered. People sang stirring songs about love of country and teared up – unapologetically.
George M. Cohan…James Cagney…man, that’s what America is about.