The great American playwright George M. Cohan, “born July 4,” is part of Youngstown theater history.
YOUNGSTOWN – A patriotic playwright and performer has written many Old Glory-style salutes you’ll hear in band stands and parades around the corner this July 4th holiday.
And the scenes of Youngstown were a regular part of his legend.
George M. Cohan in his classic American tune “The Yankee Doodle Boy” claimed he was “born July 4” – but it was actually July 3, according to his birth certificate.
By the early 1900s, Cohan was part-owner and rented out the old Park Theater along Champion Street, and made Youngstown a regular stop when his number hit the road, said Steven Shagrin.
“We were right in the heart of Chicago, Pittsburgh [and] Cleveland here. When people went there, they stopped, ”Shagrin said. His family owned and operated the Youngstown theaters he fondly remembers from his childhood, including the Foster Theater, which may soon experience a revival.
Shagrin’s grandfather, Joseph Shagrin Sr., also managed the park in the 1920s and was “a longtime friend” with Cohan. With Foster’s rebirth, Shagrin said he now delves into old family files and learns a lot more about the man.
Shagrin said his grandfather started acting when he was 10, as a bailiff. He became the youngest theater director in the country, he said. Shagrin visited the park regularly in his youth and even learned how to use theater projectors, load and thread the film, and sync the reel at the right time.
Shagrin Sr., who died in 1974, was known locally as “Mr. Show Business,” according to Magazine ticket office.
Cohan, known as “the man who owned Broadway”, wrote classics like “Give My Regards to Broadway” and “You’re a Grand Old Flag”.
Cohan’s “Over There” became the anthem of the First World War. In 1940, President Franklin D. Roosevelt awarded Cohan the Congressional Gold Medal for his impact on the war effort.
At the time, a Massachusetts congressman, to justify the award, called Cohan “the man who was responsible for recruiting thousands of American troops during the world war, a man who uplifted the morale of the American people.” , which in its patriotic songs encouraged young people to go to the recruiting office and join the colors.
This is one of the musical numbers from the 1942 biographical film “Yankee Doodle Dandy” starring James Cagney as Cohan.
Cohan died the same year the film was released.
But his music will live on for generations. Shagrin said he remembered the moment his father, Joseph Jr., paraded through their home with his children, flags in hand, singing the timeless American homage to Cohan.
“He was proud that his father knew George M. He would sing ‘Over There’. We would sing ‘Yankee Doodle Dandy’, ”Shagrin said.
“It reminds me of my father’s love for cinema and movies and his eye for detail.”
TCM will air “Yankee Doodle Dandy” Sunday at 8 p.m. Warren’s Robins Theater screened the musical on Saturday night.