07 June 2011

The Entertainers: George M. Cohan

By: Isabel Roman

George Michael Cohan became the stuff theatrical legends are made of, so it shouldn't be surprising that he instigated a few of those legends, including one surrounding his birth date.

That's from a biography page about him, the first line. Even in his version of Yankee Doodle Dandy (song not film), there's a line about born on the fourth of July. He's known as the father of the American musical comedy and 'the man who owned Broadway'.

George started in vaudeville, first traveling around the US then preforming on Broadway before making the jump from vaudeville to 'legitmate' stage. In 1899 he married Ethel Levey, a fellow vaudeville singer and comedienne and their first child, Georgette, was born in 1900. In 1907 he and Ethel divorced and George married Agnes Mary Nolan-they had 3 children: Mary, Helen, and George

Several of his first Broadway shows bombed on Broadway but toured successfully across America. However it wasn't until he met and partnered with Sam Harris that things really looked up for George and family.

Some of the most well-known hits from that partnership are I'm a Yankee Doodle Dandy, Give my Regards to Broadway, Over There, and You're a Grand Old Flag.

The bio-pic Yankee Doodle Dandy, was derived from Cohan's trademark The Yankee Doodle Boy.

Isabel Roman is the pseudonym used by writing team Christine Koehler and Marisa Velez. Their Victorian Druids series has been featured on The Home Shopping Network and is available in bookstores everywhere. Currently they're working on a Prohibition-era series and wondering why time flies so quickly. Visit the Isabel Roman blog!