Yankee Doodle Dandy was one of the best World War II-era patriotic propaganda films, and it has proven itself enduringly popular in the decades following its release. The film succeeds almost entirely on the performance of James Cagney as legendary song-and-dance performer George M. Cohan, although significant credit should also be given to director Michael Curtiz, who expertly stages each scene to display the talents of his star. The film features an over-the-top framing device in which Cohan tells his life's story in flashback to President Franklin Roosevelt. The story is effectively fiction, using only the outline of Cohan's life and some of his songs as reference points. The musical sequences are among the best in any film of the era. The film was nominated for eight Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director, and won three, including Best Actor for Cagney. The real-life Cohan died shortly after the film's release, living long enough to see it and like it despite, or perhaps because of, its lack of accuracy about his life.
by Richard Gilliam review