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George M. Cohan, Congressional Medal of Honor

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My report is on George M. Cohan, the congressional medal of honor, and his impact on WW1. George Michael Cohan who was a singer, dancer, songwriter, producer, lyricist, actor, playwright, composer, or just an American entertainer had an impact on World War one in many ways. George Michael Cohan, Professionally known as George M. Cohan was born on July 3, 1878. Cohan has published three hundred plus songs in his lifetime. Some of these songs included “The Yankee Doodle Boy”, “You’re a Grand Old Flag” and others. Before World War One George M. Cohan was also known as “the man who owned Broadway”. George M. Cohan Is considered the father of American musical comedy. George M. Cohan’s life was depicted in the Academy Award-winning film “Yankee Doodle Dandy” in 1942 and the 1968 musical George M. George M. Cohan has a statue in Times Square New York City that commemorates his contributions to American musical theatre. He appeared in films until the 1930s and has continued to perform as headline artist until 1940.

Early Career George M. Cohan was born in 1878 in Providence Rhode Island to Irish Catholic parents. A birth certificate from St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church said that Cohan was born on July 3, but his parents always said that Cohan was born on the “fourth of July”. George M. Cohan parents were traveling vaudeville performers and Cohan joined them on stage when he was an infant. While Cohan was on stage with his parents as an Infant he started off as a prop, and eventually learned how to walk and talk and soon after that he learned how to sing and dance. George M. Cohan first started off as a stage performer at age 8. At age 8 George M. Cohan started off playing the violin on stage and eventually, he moved on to dance instead. He was the fourth person of the family vaudeville act called The Four Cohans, which included his father Jeremiah Cohan, his mother Helen Costigan Cohan, his sister Josephine Cohan, and himself. The Four Cohans mostly toured together from 1890 to 1901. George M. Cohan toured as the star of a show called “Peck’s bad boy”. George M. Cohan and his sister both made their Broadway debut in 1893 in a skit called “ The Lively Bootblack”.Cohan began writing original skits over 150 skits, and songs for the family act in both vaudeville and minstrel shows while in his teens. Soon he started to write professionally, and eventually, he started selling his first songs to a national publisher in 1893. In 1901 he wrote, produced and directed his own Broadway musical called ”The Governor’s Son”, that was for The Four Cohans. His first Broadway hit was in 1904 and was the show ”Little Johnny Jones”, that introduced his tunes “Give My Regards to Broadway” and “The Yankee Doodle Boy”.

Cohan soon became one of the leading Tin Pan Alley songwriters, publishing upwards of 300 original songs known for their clever lyrics and catchy melodies. 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 the most popular American World War I song “Over There”, which was recorded by Enrico Caruso and others. The latter song became really popular 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 made and released over 50 musicals, revues, and plays on Broadway with his friend Sam H. Harris. Some of these songs included “Give My Regards to Broadway” and the popular “Going Up” in 1917, which became a hit in London the following year. His shows ran simultaneously in as much as five theatres. One of Cohan’s most creative plays was a dramatization of the mystery “Seven Keys to Baldpate” in 1913, which puzzled some audiences and critics but still became a hit. Cohan eventually adapted it into a film in 1917, and it was adapted for film six more times, and for TV and radio too. He eventually dropped out of acting for a couple of years after his 1919 argument with Actors’ Equity Association. In 1925, he published his autobiography, “Twenty Years on Broadway and the Years It Took To Get There”. Later Career 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 Hollywood musical film “The Phantom President”.

The film co-starred Claudette Colbert and Jimmy Durante, with songs by Rodgers and Hart, and was released by Paramount Pictures. He appeared in some earlier silent films but he disliked Hollywood production methods and only made one other sound film, “Gambling” in 1934, based on his own 1929 play and shot in New York City. A critic called ”Gambling” a “stodgy adaptation of a definitely dated play directed in obsolete theatrical technique.” It is considered a lost film. In 1940, Judy Garland played the title role in a film version of his 1922 musical ”Little Nellie Kelly”. Cohan’s mystery play “Seven Keys to Baldpate” was first filmed in 1916 and has been remade seven times, most recently as “House of Long Shadows” in 1983, starring Vincent Price. In 1942, a musical biopic of Cohan, ”Yankee Doodle Dandy”, was released, and James Cagney’s performance in the title role earned the Best Actor Academy Award. The film was privately screened for Cohan as he battled the last stages of abdominal cancer, Cohan’s comment on Cagney’s performance was, “My God, what an act to follow!’’ Cohan’s 1920 play ”The Meanest Man In The World” was filmed in 1943 with Jack Benny.

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 decades before 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” who appealed to a wide American audience. In 1914, Cohan became one of the founding members of ASCAP. Although Cohan was known as extremely generous to his fellow actors in need, in 1919, he unsuccessfully opposed a historic strike by Actors’ Equity Association, for which many in the theatrical professions never forgave him. Cohan opposed the strike because, in addition to being an actor in his productions, he was also the producer of the musical that set the terms and conditions of the actors’ employment. During the strike, he donated $100,000 to finance the “Actors’ Retirement Fund” in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. Cohan wrote numerous Broadway musicals and straight plays in addition to contributing material to shows written by others—more than 50 in all. Cohan shows included “Little Johnny Jones” in 1904, ”Forty Five Minutes From Broadway” in 1905, “George Washington Jr. in 1906, “The Talk of New York and the Honeymooners” in 1907, “Fifty Miles From Boston” and “The Yankee Prince” in 1908, “Broadway Jones” in 1912, “Seven Keys to Baldpate” in 1913, “The American Idea”,”Get Rich Quick Wallingford”, “The Man Who Owns Broadway”, “The Little Nellie Kelly”, “The Cohan Revenue of 1916” and 1918 co-written with Irving Berlin. “The Tavern” in 1920, ”The Rise of Rosie O’Reilly” in 1923, featuring a 13-year-old Ruby Keeler among the chorus girls. “The Song and Dance Man” in 1923, “Molly Malone”, “The Miracle Man”, “Hello Broadway”,”American Born” in 1925, “The Baby Cyclone” in 1927, one of Spencer Tracy’s early breaks, “Elmer The Great” in 1928, co-written with Ring Lardner, and “Pigeons and People” in 1933. At this point in his life, he walked in and out of retirement.

The Medal of Honor is the highest award for valor in action against an enemy force which can be bestowed upon an individual serving in the Armed Services of the United States. Generally presented to its recipient by the President of the United States of America in the name of Congress. On December 9, 1861, Iowa Senator James W. Grimes introduced S. No. 82 in the United States Senate, a bill designed to “promote the efficiency of the Navy” by authorizing the production and distribution of “medals of honor”. On December 21st the bill was passed, authorizing 200 such medals to be produced “which shall be bestowed upon such petty officers, seamen, landsmen and marines as shall distinguish themselves by their gallantry in action and other seamen like qualities during the present war (Civil War).” President Lincoln signed the bill and the (Navy) Medal of Honor was born. Here are some people who got the Congressional Medal of Honor and what they got it for. Wesley L. Fox, 1st Lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps, passed away on Friday, November 24th. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty, in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and the U.S. Marine Corps.

Thomas Jerome Hudner Jr., Lieutenant in the U.S. Navy, passed away on Monday, November 13th. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty, in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and the U.S. Navy. Arthur J. Jackson, Private First Class in the U.S. Marine Corps, passed away on Wednesday, June 14th. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for gallant initiative and heroic conduct in the face of extreme peril at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty, in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and the U.S. Marine Corps. Instituted: March 25, 1863. Established: U.S. Navy: December 21, 1861; U.S. Army: July 12, 1862; U.S. Air Force: April 14, 1965. Last awarded: October 23, 2017. Posthumous awards: 621, Distinct recipients: 3,498 Awarded for Conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty. 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 for his contributions to World War I morale, in particular, the songs “You’re a Grand Old Flag” and “Over There.” Cohan was the first person in any artistic field selected for this honor, which previously had gone only to military and political leaders, philanthropists, scientists, inventors, and explorers.

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