(Review originally written at 17 January 2009)

James Cagney is of course best known for his tough gangster roles but he has also done his fair share of musical roles throughout his career. It was also how he started out his career and the theater was perhaps also were truly his heart really was. This was also the movie which earned Cagney his only Oscar win and he really deserved it. It's a kind of role I have never seen him playing before and it's perhaps not only the best role out of his career, it's also one of the best movie performances I have ever seen.

Cagney is especially great as the older George M. Cohan. The movie is based on the real life of musical composer, playwright, actor, dancer and singer George Micheal Cohan, who made many famous musical shows and songs throughout his career. Cagney plays him with a lot of heart and really becomes the character, from a young man till the old aging, gray Cohan.

It's a quite patriotic movie, after all Cohan's plays featured a lot of flag waving and stuff like that but in this case it doesn't work out distracting or annoying since the movie doesn't lay its emphasis on it. It's a movie that tells the story of a man and it concentrates on that, rather than focusing on the things and life surrounding him, at least not until the end, when WW I kicks in and George's parents start to age. A true biography, that just gets better by the minute.

It's also not a movie you would expect from director Michael Curtiz, who mostly made swashbucklers and early thrillers and action flicks throughout his career. But just like James Cagney he has done his fair share of musicals. Just like Cagney as well, he just isn't best known for that type work.

The musical moments are all grand looking and besides feature some good songs. And I'm normally speaking not even a fan of the musical genre in general. Watching this is however a real treat. You can also tell Cagney is really in his element during those musical moments.

A real triumph and a pinnacle within its genre, not in the least thanks to a magnificent acting, singing and dancing James Cagney.


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About Frank Veenstra

Watches movies...writes about them...and that's it for now.
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