Column: Watch With Me: Fourth of July Addition

By Barb Pert Templeton

Flags, fireworks, and all things red, white, and blue from Jell-O to face paint surface when July 4th rolls around, and many embrace the opportunity to share the national holiday with family and friends.

When you want to take a break from the pool, the lake, or the amusement parks and chill out on the couch in the air conditioning there are plenty of holiday-themed films to watch.

The classics include many recent additions to the Fourth of July list, over the last few decades, and include “Independence Day,” “National Treasure” and the beloved kid’s favorite, “The Sandlot.” Who doesn’t love tag team baseball in a neighborhood lot complete with misfits, unrequited love, a giant beast of a dog, and plenty of slang and tobacco chewing by the youngsters?

More serious fare falls to “Glory,” “The Patriot” and “Pearl Harbor” which depict various versions of war in different eras.

Of course, my taste always seems to revert back to the old Hollywood classics in black and white. Here are a couple of picks for this July 4, 2022.

Photo courtesy of Wikepedia.com
James Cagney starred in the classic film, “Yankee Doodle Dandy” a musical about theater icon George P. Cohen and picked up his only Oscar.

Yankee Doodle Dandy – Directed by Michael Kurtiz in 1942

Storyline: This is the story of the life of Broadway icon, George M Cohen (James Cagney), who began his stage career as a child in vaudeville. He sings and dances his way through years of entertaining and composing including getting his own family into the act. Cohen/Cagney looks back on his life in show business when he’s awarded a medal from the U.S. President in the movie’s opening scenes.

Behind the Scenes:

  • Fred Astaire was first sought for the starring role in the film but declined 
  • James Cagney won his only Oscar for best actor for this movie, the first best actor Oscar ever awarded for a musical. He usually portrayed gangsters and had been nominated for “Angels with Dirty Faces” and for “Love Me or Leave Me”
  • James Cagney broke a rib while filming a dance scene, but continued dancing until it was completed.

My take on it: Not going to lie when I think of James Cagney, I recall his many gangster roles and lines like “Awe, don’t be a sucker.” Still, this movie is entertaining and it’s fun to see the superstar singing and dancing his way across the stage in this unusual role.

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington – Directed by Frank Capra in 1939

Photo courtesy of Wikepedia.com A poster for the James Stewart classic film, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” published in 1939.

Storyline: A naïve young man, Jefferson Smith, (James Stewart), is appointed to fill a senate seat and arrives in Washington bursting with idealism only to discover the corruption there. He wants to help create a boys’ camp in a spot that’s already been earmarked for a bigger project with backing from corrupt senators and business entities that hold the purse strings. Attempts to destroy the young senator by attaching his name to scandals and attacking his character only prompt a determination by him to be heard.

Behind the Scenes:

  • The U.S. Senate room shown in the film was an extremely accurate reproduction of the real thing.
  • Frank Capra received many letters over the years from people who were inspired to take up politics after seeing the film.
  • James Stewart knew this was the role of a lifetime, took it extremely seriously, and knew it could make or break him in Hollywood.

My take on it: A great classic film to watch again and again. James Stewart was made for this role and proves it in every scene.

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