Continental Lithograph Corporation (founded 1926)
Color photolithographic halftone poster, 1942
In the 1930s, James Cagney was Warner Bros.’ highest-grossing star. He mainly played gangsters, but appeared as a hoofer in Footlight Parade and Something to Sing About. Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942), a patriotic film biography of Broadway great George M. Cohan, allowed Cagney to dance full-throttle. He also adjusted his own Irish clog to incorporate Cohan’s idiosyncratic, strutting tap style. The film’s premiere in May 1942 came in the early days of America at war, and reviewers raved about “the spirit of Americanism” that Cohan’s flag-waving music embodied. Cagney’s performance “glowed with energy,” and the film was said to convey “both superb entertainment and inescapable inspiration.” In the final scene, Cagney/Cohan—emerging from a conversation with President Franklin Roosevelt—taps down a marble staircase at the White House. The title tune surges, and hearts swell. Even in black and white, it’s a red-white-and-blue finale.