George Michael Cohan was born in Providence, Rhode Island on July 4, 187, the great composer of “Yankee Doodle Dandy”.
In 1904 he produced his first successful musical play Little Johnny Jones, in which he played the character The Yankee Doodle Boy.
As a songwriter, he was a charter member of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP).
His popular song catalog includes the already mentioned “Yankee Doodle Dandy”, “Venus, My Shining Love”, “I Guess I’ll Have to Telegraph My Baby”, “The Yankee Doodle Boy”, “My Musical Comedy Maid”, “Revolutionary Rag”, “Give My Regards to Broadway”, “You Remind Me of My Mother”, “Life’s a Funny Proposition After All”, “Mary’s a Grand Old Name”, “So Long, Mary”, “Forty-Five Minutes from Broadway”, “I Was Born in Virginia”, “Harrigan”, “Over There” (the song of World War I which earned Cohan the Congressional Medal of Honor), “In the Kingdom of Our Own”, “Nellie Kelly, I Love You”, “When June Comes Along With a Song”, “Molly Malone”, “Where Were You, Where Was I?”, “The Song and Dance Man”, “Billie” and the patriotic theme song and 2002 Towering Song Award winner, “You’re a Grand Old Flag.”
As a child, he featured in many acts and plays and began to write his own skits and songs in his teens. Soon he was writing, directing and producing his own Broadway musicals.
He became one of the leading popular songwriters of his day known for his witty lyrics and catchy melodies.
Young George was known to be highly temperamental though he matured with age.
He met the Broadway producer Sam Harris and the two formed a successful partnership that would continue for many years, and the first play they put together, ‘Little Johnny Jones’ became one of Broadway’s greatest hits.
His plays were characterized by action and speed and he was credited for energizing the American stage.
George M. Cohan called himself “just a song-and-dance man,” but at the height of his career he was unquestionably the first man in the American theatre.
Songwriter, dancer, actor, playwright, producer, theatre owner–he was the most versatile person in show business.
An old trouper and hoofer, whose dapper costumes, derby or straw hat cocked jauntily over one eye, wisecracks from the corner of the mouth, and lively caper across the stage with his fast-swinging cane, were nationally known trademarks, he was regarded for years as just a Broadway vaudeville performer, but astonished the theatrical world by developing into a serious actor and dramatist whose work won praise even from the intellectuals who had previously ignored him. He married twice.
His first wife was Ethel Levey, who became his dancing partner with “the Four Cohans” after his sister Josie married.
A daughter, Georgette, who became an actress, was born to them.
The marriage was dissolved in 1907, after which Miss Levey was prominent as a dancer in England.
He married the second Mrs. Cohan on July 4, 1908. Mr. Cohan was president of the Catholic Actors Guild, which he had headed for several years.