Unfamiliar with James Cagney’s 1942 version of this song? Hear it here.
1) The flag we currently fly, with 50 stars and 13 stripes, was designed by a high school student. When Alaska and Hawaii were added, President Eisenhower invited Americans to submit designs for how best to incorporate the two new states. Ike chose 17-year-old Robert G. Heft’s submission from more than 1500 entries. Tell us about a contest you entered and won. (Or really hoped to win.) Man, I don’t know. I don’t think I’ve entered very many, and I’m not very lucky, so I haven’t won many, either.
2) The government also has another of Mr. Heft’s designs waiting: one that incorporates a 51st star if another state is added. When you were in school, did you memorize the states and their capitals? Yep!
3) Six American flags have been planted on the surface of the moon. Those are undoubtedly the flags farthest from you this morning. Where is an American flag flying near you today? My neighbors across the street have one in their front yard.
4) This version of the song was performed by James Cagney in the 1942 classic Yankee Doodle Dandy. Have you ever seen it? I have not.
5) In that film, Cagney portrayed George M. Cohan, the composer of this week’s song. In 1940, Cohan was honored by with a Congressional Gold Medal. In presenting him with the award, President Roosevelt specifically thanked Cohan for “You’re a Grand Old Flag,” “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” and “Over There.” What’s your favorite patriotic song? I don’t know. I tend to dislike them, honestly, just because they’re often cheesy.
6) Though a performer his entire life, Cohan disliked listening to recordings of his own voice. How about you? Do you like your singing and/or speaking voice? Oh, I hate hearing my voice played back to me. I think I sound dramatically different and, like…weird, I guess?
7) James Cagney won the Oscar for Best Actor his performance as George M. Cohan. Also nominated that year was Gary Cooper, who portrayed Lou Gehrig in Pride of the Yankees. Tell us about another movie about a great American. I don’t know about this one, either!
8) As a teen, Cagney juggled high school with a variety of jobs, including bell hop and delivery boy, and gave all his earnings to his family. Looking back, Cagney was grateful that he had to begin work early, saying, “I feel sorry for the kid who has too cushy a time of it. Suddenly he has to come face-to-face with the realities of life without his mama and papa to do his thinking for him.” Do you agree? I think there’s an element of truth to it, but I also think it verges on being judgmental and hints at criticisms I’m tired of hearing as a millennial, even though he’s not talking about that group in particular at all. I think it is important to teach the value of hard work, but I think that can be done without sending a kid into the workforce or without bordering on insulting kids (or adults) who weren’t. Calling that approach “cushy” isn’t really fair.
9) Cagney had a rebellious streak. His boss, studio head Jack Warner, nicknamed Cagney, “The Professional Againster.” Cagney joked that he enjoyed earning the title. What about you? Are you rebellious? I don’t know. I’m 31 and a new mom, how rebellious can I really be?