It’s a little difficult to get your head around. Eight years ago when I suggested going to your video rental store to watch the ultimate Fourth of July movie–Jaws–we still had several video rental stores in every town. It’s very different now with streaming services (have you finished Season 3 of Stranger Things yet on Netflix?) and any Blu-ray you want available overnight for purchase from retailers like Amazon. To be fair, you can still rent movies, the plastic disc kind, at local Redbox machines, and Family Video still has a good footprint across the nation and a broad video selection (pretty much Blu-rays prevail, so sorry to people still with only VHS and plain ol’ DVDs). Back in 2011 when I listed some recommended viewing material for Independence Day here at borg, I mentioned some films including my pick for today.
Every audience, every moviegoer, is after something different. If you’re looking for action try on Captain America: The First Avenger, or even binge the entire Captain America series of films. The first Independence Day movie from 1996 has your dose of sci-fi, and it’s an easy choice to go to especially if you’re too young to have watched it before. Even Independence Day–the day, not the movie–means different things to different people. I would recommend to anyone films like Dave, The American President, The Post, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, All the President’s Men, Sergeant York, Far and Away, The Last of the Mohicans, Lincoln, Glory, and Dances with Wolves–each covers some aspect of what America stands for. Actually Frank Capra has more in the category, too, including Meet John Doe and State of the Union.
Four of my favorites are playing on Turner Classic Movies/TCM today. At 8:30 a.m. Central is John Ford′s She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, followed at 10:30 a.m. Central by Ford’s Fort Apache. These are some of the famed director’s finest works, and high points for both Henry Fonda, John Wayne, and Maureen O’Hara, plus the stories tell other tales of the American experience (and both rate high on my all-time best Westerns list here). A recent anthology film fits the bill for today well–that’s the Coen Brothers’ The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, which we reviewed here at borg last year. It tells several stories of the pain, struggle, and sacrifice of peoples from throughout the world coming together to build a nation. But what’s that sure-fire Fourth of July movie that should appeal to everyone?
That movie has got to be the 1942 thrice Oscar winner (for best actor, sound, and music) Yankee Doodle Dandy. It’s my recommendation for today. It’s the story of a family of musicians making their way from obscurity to popularity. Along the way the son, George M. Cohan, played by a dancing and singing James Cagney, composes some of the most patriotic popular music the country has ever known. Actress Joan Leslie is sweet, funny, and shares some great chemistry with Cagney as Cohan’s wife Mary. Some call them ear worms (that phrase gives me images of Chekov in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan every time I hear it), but don’t be surprised if you find yourself humming both Over There and Mary afterward. The real-life Cohan was a showman, and that is reflected well in the elaborate musical numbers in the film. If you ever get a chance to see the colorized version, record it or borrow it as it’s one of those films that made good use of that briefly popular era in movies. Yankee Doodle Dandy airs tonight on TCM at 7 p.m. Central.
And that fourth favorite movie playing on TCM tonight (technically 12:15 a.m. early Thursday) is The Music Man. You can’t beat Robert Preston, Shirley Jones, and Buddy Hackett (and a young Ron Howard!) in this movie. It’s stuffed with good music thanks to Meredith Willson, plus loads of humor.
What? You can’t handle old movies? You need a zombie movie today? Okay, fine, Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter (reviewed here) exists for you.
The key aspect of this day is not confusing politics with patriotism. Go to your local town parade today and wave that flag, and get your feet tapping to some great American tunes from the likes of John Philip Sousa, Karl King, George M. Cohan, and Meredith Willson. If you can’t make it, you have a few options tonight from TCM.
Have a happy and safe Fourth of July!