GEORGE MICHAEL COHAN (July 3, 1878 – November 5, 1942), known professionally as GEORGE M. COHAN, was an American entertainer, playwright, composer, lyricist, actor, singer, dancer and producer .
Cohan began his career as a child, performing with his parents and sister in a vaudeville act known as "The Four Cohans." Beginning with Little Johnny Jones in 1904, he wrote, composed, produced, and appeared in more than three dozen Broadway musicals . Cohan published more than 300 songs during his lifetime, including the standards "Over There ", " Give My Regards to Broadway ", " The Yankee Doodle Boy " and "You\'re a Grand Old Flag ". As a composer, he was one of the early members of the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP ). He displayed remarkable theatrical longevity, appearing in films until the 1930s, and continuing to perform as a headline artist until 1940.
Known in the decade before
World War I
* 1 Early life and education
* 2 Career
* 2.1 Early career * 2.2 Later career
* 3 Legacy * 4 Personal life and death * 5 In popular culture * 6 Filmography * 7 Gallery * 8 Notes * 9 References * 10 External links
EARLY LIFE AND EDUCATION
Cohan was born in 1878 in Providence , Rhode Island, to Irish Catholic parents. A baptismal certificate from St. Joseph\'s Roman Catholic Church (which gave the wrong first name for his mother) indicated that he was born on July 3, but Cohan and his family always insisted that George had been "born on the Fourth of July!" George's parents were traveling vaudeville performers, and he joined them on stage while still an infant, first as a prop , learning to dance and sing soon after he could walk and talk. Cohan and his sister Josie in the 1890s
Cohan started as a child performer at age 8, first on the violin and then as a dancer. He was the fourth member of the family vaudeville act called The Four Cohans , which included his father Jeremiah "Jere" (Keohane) Cohan (1848–1917), mother Helen "Nellie" Costigan Cohan (1854–1928) and sister Josephine "Josie" Cohan Niblo (1876–1916). In 1890, he toured as the star of a show called Peck's Bad Boy and then joined the family act; The Four Cohans mostly toured together from 1890 to 1901. He and his sister made their Broadway debut in 1893 in a sketch called The Lively Bootblack. Temperamental in his early years, Cohan later learned to control his frustrations. During these years, Cohan originated his famous curtain speech: "My mother thanks you, my father thanks you, my sister thanks you, and I thank you."
As a child, Cohan and his family toured most of the year and spent summer vacations from the vaudeville circuit at his grandmother's home in North Brookfield , Massachusetts, where Cohan befriended baseball player Connie Mack . The family generally gave a performance at the town hall there each summer, and Cohan had a chance to gain some more normal childhood experiences, like riding his bike and playing sandlot baseball. Cohan's memories of those happy summers inspired his 1907 musical 50 Miles from Boston, which is set in North Brookfield and contains one of his most famous songs, “Harrigan ". As Cohan matured through his teens, he used the quiet summers there to write. When he returned to the town in the cast of Ah, Wilderness! in 1934, he told a reporter, "I've knocked around everywhere, but there's no place like North Brookfield."
Sam H. Harris (1928)
Cohan began writing original skits (over 150 of them) and songs for the family act in both vaudeville and minstrel shows while in his teens. Soon he was writing professionally, selling his first songs to a national publisher in 1893. In 1901 he wrote, directed and produced his first Broadway musical, The Governor's Son, for The Four Cohans. His first big Broadway hit in 1904 was the show Little Johnny Jones , which introduced his tunes " Give My Regards to Broadway " and "The Yankee Doodle Boy ."
Cohan became one of the leading Tin Pan Alley songwriters, publishing upwards of 300 original songs noted for their catchy melodies and clever lyrics. His major hit songs included "You\'re a Grand Old Flag ," " Forty-Five Minutes from Broadway ," "Mary Is a Grand Old Name ," "The Warmest Baby in the Bunch," "Life's a Funny Proposition After All," "I Want To Hear a Yankee Doodle Tune," "You Won't Do Any Business If You Haven't Got a Band," "The Small Town Gal," "I'm Mighty Glad I'm Living, That's All," "That Haunting Melody," "Always Leave Them Laughing When You Say Goodbye", and America's most popular World War I song " Over There ", which was recorded by Enrico Caruso among others. The latter song reached such currency among troops and shipyard workers that a ship was named "Costigan" after Cohan's grandfather, Dennis Costigan. During the christening, "Over There" was played.
From 1904 to 1920, Cohan created and produced over 50 musicals, plays and revues on Broadway together with his friend Sam H. Harris , including Give My Regards to Broadway and the successful Going Up in 1917, which became a smash hit in London the following year. His shows ran simultaneously in as many as five theatres. One of Cohan's most innovative plays was a dramatization of the mystery Seven Keys to Baldpate in 1913, which baffled some audiences and critics but became a hit. Cohan further adapted it as a film in 1917, and it was adapted for film six more times, as well as for TV and radio. He dropped out of acting for some years after his 1919 dispute with Actors\' Equity Association .
In 1925, he published his autobiography , Twenty Years on Broadway and the Years It Took To Get There.
Cohan, in a 1933 photograph by
Carl Van Vechten
Cohan appeared in 1930 in a revival of his tribute to vaudeville and
his father, The Song and Dance Man. In 1932, Cohan starred in a dual
role as a cold, corrupt politician and his charming, idealistic
campaign double in the
Cohan earned acclaim as a serious actor in Eugene O\'Neill 's only comedy, Ah, Wilderness! (1933), and in the role of a song-and-dance President Franklin D. Roosevelt in Rodgers and Hart 's musical I\'d Rather Be Right (1937). The same year, he reunited with Harris to produce a play called Fulton of Oak Falls, starring Cohan. His final play, The Return of the Vagabond (1940), featured a young Celeste Holm in the cast.
Although Cohan is mostly remembered for his songs, he became an early
pioneer in the development of the "book musical ", using his engaging
libretti to bridge the gaps between drama and music. More than three
Agnes de Mille choreographed
Oklahoma! , Cohan used
dance not merely as razzle-dazzle, but to advance the plot. Cohan's
main characters were "average Joes and Janes" that appealed to a wide
American audience. 1908 sheet music cover depicting Cohan
Irving Berlin ), The Tavern (1920), The Rise of Rosie
O'Reilly (1923, featuring a 13-year-old
Ruby Keeler among the chorus
girls), The Song and Dance Man (1923), Molly Malone, The Miracle Man,
Hello Broadway, American Born (1925), The Baby Cyclone (1927, one of
Spencer Tracy 's early breaks), Elmer the Great (1928, co-written with
Ring Lardner ), and Pigeons and People (1933). At this point in his
life, he walked in and out of retirement. Cohan's "Give My
Regards to Broadway" statue in
Cohan was called "the greatest single figure the American theatre
ever produced – as a player, playwright, actor, composer and
producer." On June 29, 1936, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt
presented him with the
Congressional Gold Medal
In 1959, at the behest of lyricist
Oscar Hammerstein II
United States Postal Service issued a 15-cent commemorative stamp
honoring Cohan on the anniversary of his centenary, July 3, 1978. The
stamp depicts both the older Cohan and his younger self as a dancer,
along with the tag line "Yankee Doodle Dandy." It was designed by Jim
Sharpe. On July 3, 2009, a bronze bust of Cohan, by artist Robert
Shure, was unveiled at the corner of Wickenden and Governor Streets in
Fox Point , Providence, a few blocks from his birthplace. The city
renamed the corner the
George M. Cohan
From 1899 to 1907, Cohan was married to Ethel Levey (1881–1955; born Grace Ethelia Fowler ), a musical comedy actress and dancer. Levey and Cohan had a daughter, actress Georgette Cohan Souther Rowse (1900–1988). Levey joined the Four Cohans when Josie married, and she starred in Little Johnny Jones and other Cohan works. In 1907, Levey divorced Cohan on grounds of adultery.
In 1908 Cohan married Agnes Mary Nolan (1883–1972), who had been a
dancer in his early shows; they remained married until his death. They
had two daughters and a son. The eldest was
Mary Cohan Ronkin , a
cabaret singer in the 1930s, who composed incidental music for her
father's play The Tavern. In 1968, Mary supervised musical and lyric
revisions for the musical
George M! . Their second daughter was
Helen Cohan Carola , a film actress, who performed on Broadway with
her father in Friendship in 1931. Their youngest child was George
Michael Cohan, Jr. (1914–2000), who graduated from Georgetown
University and served in the entertainment corps during World War II.
In the 1950s, George Jr. reinterpreted his father's songs on
recordings, in a nightclub act, and in television appearances on the
Cohan was a devoted baseball fan, regularly attending games of the former New York Giants .
He died of cancer at the age of 64 on November 5, 1942, at his
IN POPULAR CULTURE
Cohan acted in the following films:
"Over There" sheet music cover *
Poster for Seven Keys to Baldpate (1917)
* ^ A B C Kenrick, John. "George M. Cohan: A Biography".
Musicals101.com (2004), retrieved April 15, 2010
* ^ A B C Benjamin, Rick. "The Music of George M. Cohan". Liner
notes to You're a Grand Old Rag – The Music of George M. Cohan. New
* ^ Heroux, Gerard H. "George M. Cohan, 2013 Inductee: The Rhody