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Albert J. Cohen

Albert J. Cohen

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Also Known As: Albert Cohen Died: October 4, 1984
Born: June 30, 1903 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Baltimore, Maryland, USA Profession: producer, writer

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A brash, jaunty songwriter and performer whose lasting contribution to Americana includes the songs "Give My Regards to Broadway" and "Over There," George M. Cohan virtually brought the Broadway musical into the 20th Century single-handedly. Before him, most musicals and comedies were either imported from Europe or based on European ideals. Cohan invented the wise-cracking, fast-talking show which eventually influenced the screwball comedy films of the 1930s and 40s. The son of actors, Cohan toured in vaudeville in the late 19th Century with his parents and older sister Josephine. He had his first success playing "Peck's Bad Boy" (1890) on tour, then brought his family to Broadway in 1901 with his own play, "The Governor's Son." From then on there was no stopping him: Cohan composed songs for, wrote, produced and directed shows in which he (and often his family) starred. While many critics derided these entertainments as flashy and corny, the public loved them. His biggest hits (often toured and revived) included "Little Johnny Jones" (1904), "Forty-Five Minutes from Broadway" (1906), "The Little Millionaire" (1911), the thrillers "Seven Keys to Baldpate" (1913) and "The Tavern" (1921), "The Home...

A brash, jaunty songwriter and performer whose lasting contribution to Americana includes the songs "Give My Regards to Broadway" and "Over There," George M. Cohan virtually brought the Broadway musical into the 20th Century single-handedly. Before him, most musicals and comedies were either imported from Europe or based on European ideals. Cohan invented the wise-cracking, fast-talking show which eventually influenced the screwball comedy films of the 1930s and 40s.

The son of actors, Cohan toured in vaudeville in the late 19th Century with his parents and older sister Josephine. He had his first success playing "Peck's Bad Boy" (1890) on tour, then brought his family to Broadway in 1901 with his own play, "The Governor's Son." From then on there was no stopping him: Cohan composed songs for, wrote, produced and directed shows in which he (and often his family) starred. While many critics derided these entertainments as flashy and corny, the public loved them. His biggest hits (often toured and revived) included "Little Johnny Jones" (1904), "Forty-Five Minutes from Broadway" (1906), "The Little Millionaire" (1911), the thrillers "Seven Keys to Baldpate" (1913) and "The Tavern" (1921), "The Home Towners" (1926) and "Gambling" (1929). In the 30s, Cohan successfully appeared in two shows he did not write: as the patriarch based on the author's actor father in Eugene O'Neill's comedy "Ah, Wilderness!" (1933); and as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart's "I'd Rather Be Right" (1937).

From 1906 through 1920, Cohan produced his plays with partner Sam Harris. His opposition to the Actor's Equity Strike of 1919 gained him some enmity in the theater world (just when his vogue was beginning to pass). But even in his lifetime, Cohan was generally well-liked and acknowledged to be an innovator and great talent.

Cohan had more success selling his work to the screen than he did in selling himself. Although he appeared in three silent films, "Broadway Jones" and "Seven Keys to Baldpate" (both 1917) and "Hit-the-Trail Holliday" (1918), and in two talkies, "The Phantom President" (1932) and "Gambling" (1934), he never achieved screen stardom. Cohan, however, supplied the stories for 30 films, including five versions of "Seven Keys to Baldpate."

Shortly after his death, Cohan was brilliantly portrayed by James Cagney in the award-winning biopic "Yankee Doodle Dandy" (1943). Both Cagney and Spencer Tracy admitted that their brash screen personas owed more than a little to Cohan's personality. Though his plays are occasionally revived, his songs, notably "Yankee Doodle Dandy," "Mary," "Forty-Five Minutes from Broadway," "Grand Old Flag" and "Harrigan," among others, remain standards to this day.

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