After a day full of parades, picnics and fireworks, how better to wind down than with a great Independence Day movie? Here are a few July 4th favorites to help make it a Yankee Doodle Day!
1. 1776 – This is the 1972 made for the cinema version of the musical that tells the story of our founding fathers and the writing of the Declaration of Independence. It is very much in the spirit of day in that it is very upbeat and patriotic and our favorite founding fathers are portrayed as singing and dancing guys with whom you wouldn’t mind sharing an icy cold Samuel Adams, a hamburger and tater salad.
2. The Patriot – Here I am referring to the Mel Gibson adventure flick from 2000 where he plays a politically neutral farmer who joins up with the revolutionaries because the evil, wicked, baby-killing British kill off his family. I will cede that the portrayal of the British is a bit over the top in this picture, but it is full of great costumes and patriotic feeling and it just makes you want to stand up and sing the national anthem.
3. Yankee Doodle Dandy – The life and adventures of George M. Cohen via Hollywood, and starring the inimitable James Cagney. After the premier, George Cohen was heard to say, “It was a good movie. Who was it about?” OK, to be fair, it has very little to do with any historical facts, but it is a fun romp filled with patriotic music that was, in fact, written by George M. Cohen.
4. She Wore a Yellow Ribbon – Or any of the John Ford/John Wayne cavalry trilogy. They are completely politically incorrect by 21st century standards, but they will make you stand up and cheer for the U.S. Cavalry. She Wore a Yellow Ribbon is probably the best movie, over all, but Rio Grande has the most music, and is well worth watching too.
5. The Stars and Stripes Forever – Like Yankee Doodle Dandy this is a biopic of a composer, in this case the immortal John Philip Sousa. It is not a great movie, but it has a simple and pleasant story of Sousa’s creation of the Marine Band. Clifton Webb is pleasant, and the all Sousa soundtrack will have you marching around the house.
6. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington – Jimmy Stewart and Frank Capra are one of the actor/director teams that will go down in history. The team is at its very best in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington where Stewart portrays Jefferson Smith, an idealistic junior senator who refuses to play the Washington political game. I highly recommend this one to any political outsider who feels that it is time for a change in Washington D.C.
7. Meet Me in St. Louis – Vincent Minnelli directs the beautiful Judy Garland in her prime in this visit to Golden Age America. It is the era of gazebos and innocent romances and Gibson girls, and it is a beautiful homage to a bygone era. And Judy sings like the girl next-door, but oh, so sexy.
8. They Were Expendable – John Wayne is back, this time with Robert Montgomery, as the two-fisted heroes of WW II in the Pacific. They fought a losing battle and were constantly punished for their heroism, yet they continued to do an ugly job. Like soldiers of every era, they did their jobs well and made the world safe for the American way of life, and got little thanks for it.
9. Superman – Not the new version where it turns out that Superman is a deadbeat dad, but the 1978 version with the iconic Christopher Reeve portraying the most American of superheros. Or, better yet, the 1980 sequel, mainly because it ends with Superman flying and holding an American flag. Yes, it’s schmaltz, but it’s good ol’ American schmaltz!
10. Pride of the Yankees – You cannot have an Independence Day movie list without a baseball movie, and, though there are many, none shines as brightly as the story of Lou Gehrig as the hero of the Yankees. AND it stars one of the greatest movie stars of all time: Gary Cooper. Yes, it is kind of a downer, in some ways, but the story is so heroic that you cannot help but be in love with the game and the man by the time the curtain falls.