George M. Cohan

George M. Cohan

Providence, Providence County, Rhode Island, USA
Death 5 Nov 1942 (aged 64)
New York, New York County (Manhattan), New York, USA
Burial Bronx, Bronx County, New York, USA
Plot Section 141/206, Butternut Plot, Lot 13841
Memorial ID 213 · View Source
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Composer, Producer, Entertainer, Actor. He is best remembered for his popular World War I morale songs "Over There" and "You're a Grand Old Flag" as well as his numerous Broadway plays. He was often referred to as the greatest single figure the American theater ever produced, as a player, playwright, actor, composer, and producer, and is considered the father of American musical comedy and "The Man Who Owned Broadway." Born to Irish Catholic parents who were traveling vaudeville performers, he learned to dance and sing soon after he could walk and talk. He was the 4th member of the family vaudeville act which included his parents and older sister that toured from 1890 to 1901. While in his teens, he began writing skits and songs for the family act and sold his first songs to a national publisher in 1893. In 1901 he wrote, directed, and produced his first Broadway musical, "The Governor's Son," which was followed in 1904 with his first big Broadway hit, "Little Johnny Jones," featuring his famous tunes "Give My Regards to Broadway" and "The Yankee Doodle Boy." He soon became one of the leading Tin Pan Alley songwriters with around 300 published songs to his credit that were noted for their catchy melodies and clever lyrics, including his major hit songs "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 his World War I morale songs "Over There" and "You're a Grand Old Flag." From 1904 to 1920 he wrote and produced more than fifty Broadway musicals and plays with his friend Sam Harris, including "Give My Regards to Broadway" and "Going Up." In 1914 he became one of the founding members of the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP). In 1925 he published his autobiography, "Twenty Years on Broadway and the Years It Took To Get There." His acting career included some early silent films and in 1930 he appeared in "The Song and Dance Man" which was his tribute to vaudeville and his father. He also starred in the films "The Phantom President" (1932), "Ah, Wilderness!" (1933), "Gambling" (1934, now a lost film) and in Rodgers and Hart's musical "I'd Rather Be Right" (1937), in which he played the role of a song-and-dance President Franklin D. Roosevelt. On June 29, 1936, President Roosevelt awarded him the Congressional Gold Medal for his contributions to World War I morale, becoming the first person in any artistic field to be selected for this honor. In 1937 he reunited with Sam Harris to produce the play "Fulton of Oak Falls" in which he also starred. In 1942 a musical biographical film of Cohan, "Yankee Doodle Dandy" was released, and James Cagney's performance in the title role earned him the Best Actor Academy Award. The film was privately screened for Cohan as he battled the last stages of abdominal cancer, from which he died at his Manhattan apartment in New York City, New York at the age of 64. In 1959 a bronze statue of Cohan was dedicated in Times Square at Broadway and 46th Street in Manhattan, and it remains the only statue of an actor on Broadway. The 1968 Broadway musical "George M!" was based on his life, the biggest Broadway star of his time. He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1970 and into the American Folklore Hall of Fame in 2003. He also received a star on the renowned Hollywood Walk of Fame. As an interesting note, he won a landmark decision against the Internal Revenue Service in 1930 that allowed for the federal income tax deduction of his business travel and entertainment expenses, known today as the "Cohan Rule" and is frequently cited in tax cases.

Bio by: William Bjornstad

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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Added: 31 Dec 2000
  • Find a Grave Memorial 213
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for George M. Cohan (3 Jul 1878–5 Nov 1942), Find a Grave Memorial no. 213, citing Woodlawn Cemetery, Bronx, Bronx County, New York, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .