Yankee Doodle Dandy

It’s the 4th of July. Happy Birthday America!

Hurricane Arthur (spirit of Arthur Fiedler?) changed the schedule. With the hurricane heading up the coast and thunder and lightning racing in from the west, the festivities were moved up by 24 hours. The fireworks went on early, barely ahead of the weather. WBZ didn’t have all their cameras ready and had to show the first half of the display from the helicopter cams. After a while, the rest of the cameras came on and it was even better than last year.

The live 1812 Overture was preempted by a massive lightning storm. Instead, WBZ broadcast a taped version (dress rehearsal?). Which was fine.

For the historically challenged, our Guv (Deval Patrick) offered up some history, what the music is about. NOT our War of 1812. The war going on across the pond. Napoleon. Russia. I think this was the first time I’ve seen them do that, so everyone got a bit of remedial European history.

No place does Independence Day like Boston. It’s our holiday. The rest of the country is a Johnny-Come-Lately. It happened here. The Declaration of Independence. The battles of Lexington and Concord.

Boston knows how to hold a party … and let’s not forget the howitzers, the most important instruments in the 1812 Overture. Nothing says independence day like artillery.


When we lived in Boston, we could see the fireworks and hear the concert from our balcony in Charles River Park. It was one of the perks of living in Boston. If we wanted to get closer, we could stroll a few hundred yards west enjoy the party from the Arthur Fiedler footbridge over the Charles.

It was the best view in town. Watching it on television is okay too, now that we live in the country and getting into town is out of the question. Still, being there was the best.


Boston has had a pretty good year. Nothing awful — other than the appalling collapse of our World Champion Red Sox — happened. Even more reason for us to get together and have a gigantic party to celebrate America’s birthday. The rain has put (ahem) a bit of a damper on it, but we’re adaptable.

1997 fireworks on the charles

Now it’s time to watch Yankee Doodle Dandy again. We always watch it. It’s part of our personal celebration of being American.

When Garry and I were growing up in New York, the old Channel 9 had Million Dollar Movie. It was on not only every day, but several times a day and it played the same movies for a full week. The theme for the show was “Tara’s Theme” from Gone With the Wind. I had never seen GWTW, so when I saw it for the first time, I said “Hey, that’s the theme for Million Dollar Movie.”

I wasn’t allowed to watch TV on school nights and even then, only for a couple of hours on Friday and Saturday night. But, if I was home sick, I got to watch all the television I wanted. Better yet, I got to watch upstairs in my parents bedroom. The television was black and white (as were all televisions then). I don’t know if color TVs had been invented, but if they had been, no one I knew had one.

Channel 9 with its Million Dollar Movie was the movie channel, so whatever they were playing, I saw it a lot. They didn’t have a large repertoire. Odds were good if you got sick twice, you’d see the same movie both weeks.

Thus “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” the great James Cagney docu-musical was engraved in my brain. I believe that during at least three sick weeks (tonsillitis was my nemesis), I watched it repeatedly until I knew every word, every move, every song — except for the pieces the station randomly removed to make room for commercials.

No one danced like Cagney. No one had that special energy! Believe it or not, I never saw any other Cagney movie until One, Two, Three came out many years later.

Tonight, we’ll watch James Cagney dance down the steps in the White House. We always replay it half a dozen times. Can’t get enough of it.

In case you feel the same way, I’ve included it so you can replay it as many times as you want. Cagney won his only Oscar for this performance. I never knew he played gangsters until many years later. Million Dollar Movie didn’t play gangster movies.

Only one questions remains unanswered through the years. How come they didn’t film it in color? Does anyone have a sensible answer to that?

Categories: celebration, film, Holidays, Movies, Music, Patriotism, Reviews, Show Business, Television

Tags: , , , , , ,

25 replies

  1. You mean it was one of your ancestors that kicked some of my ancestors out, may even have fought man-to-man on the battlefield? Oh dear! But blogging heals all wounds.


  2. I love Yankee Doodle Dandy and only watch it in black and white.


  3. Happy 4th of July, my dear friend. I wish I could someday see all those fireworks and lights up close. Puts Topeka to shame!


  4. We just had Canada Day here … July 1 .. and I was shocked how little was done. At my workplace: Not a flag, a balloon .. a popsicle … NOTHING !!! Shameful. I’m not a flag waver … but nothing is nothing.


  5. Being such a family oriented holiday everyone remembers the family gathering on the 4th. I remember casually floating in my 25′ above ground swimming pool in my backyard as we watched the fireworks over the arch in St. Louis. I also watched them from my home near Augusta, GA when the held their fireworks extravaganza along the Savannah river banks. I always seem to pick homes within viewing distance of metropolitan fireworks displays. Now it’s Portland, OR that is that same 5-10 mile distance, easily viewable from my porch. Limited small fireworks are legal in Oregon and the big stuff is legal just across the river in Washington. All fireworks are stupid in an area where brush/forest fire are so ready to explode. If you want to burn your house to the ground celebrating the 4th go ahead. Just leave my house alone.


    • Everything but sparklers are technically illegal in Massachusetts … but everything is legal next door in New Hampshire and the cops just ignore. At least around here, there just around enough police to deal with it. So far, nothing has been burned down but it’s pouring rain out there, so I’m not expecting much.


  6. Million Dollar Movie- the moment I read your words the theme popped into my head-how is it some things are so indelibly ingrained in our brains? Thanks for the clips- Cagney is one of my favorites.


  7. “Yankee Doodle Dandy” is a favorite of mine and has been since the very first time I saw it. I don’t know why it wasn’t filmed in color, but there is a colorized version of it that was made in 1986. I don’t think I’ve seen it in color, though. Just the B&W version.


    • The colorized version is very miss-able. If it were colorized WELL, it might have been an improvement. There’s no logical reason for it having been made in B&W. Even my movie maven husband doesn’t understand it. We watch this movie often … Cagney at his best.


    • We had the colorized version of “Dandy” back in the “old days” of VHS tapes. What a wonderful collection of films we had. It was the size of a small video store. Then technology reared its head again.


  8. I can’t believe he explained the 1812 Overture after we talked about it.



  1. A Birthday to End All Birthdays | My Own Champion

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