I've spent the day watching very old movies.
I just watched Yankee Doodle Dandy which is a classic July 4th film from 1942. It stars James Cagney who usually played tough guys, but this film is a musical and the only movie Cagney won an Oscar for. It's about the famous Broadway actor/writer/dancer/producer on broadway named George M. Cohan, who started show business well over 100 years ago as a boy and died in 1942 when this film was released. Thankfully he did get a chance to see it before he died.
James Cagney (left), George M. Cohan (right)
Cohan wasn't even born on July 4th (July 3rd actually) and there is a lot about the film that isn't true, but people say it captured the spirit of George M. Cohan. Cohan claimed to be born on the 4th for the marketing appeal.
Another amusing note is that Rosemary DeCamp, who played James Cagney's mother in the film is 11 years younger than Cagney. However he did get to portray her father in a skit within the movie.
This film is usually rerun every July 4th in the USA on some channel. Sometimes the scene where George and his family are doing a cheerful minstrel act is cut. Back in 1942, this wasn't considered offensive. Even African Americans did minstrel acts in black face makeup. Strangely enough Jazz was invented as a way to make fun of White People dancing waltzes. Jazz back in the beginning was simply a waltz where the slaves before the US Civil War would add the syncopation beat they had from their African tribes. They would dance in pairs in a contest to see who could dance the most outrageously these stiff waltz dances towards a large cake. The winners would get the cake. If a dance was so good that it was sure to win they would say "That takes the cake", which is where that phrase originated.
Another classic July 4th film I saw today was Jaws (1975). This one I actually was alive when it was made and even saw it in the theaters when I was very young. This film scared a lot of people from going into the water on a beach. I remember being a little worried about sharks after I saw this movie. Robert Shaw's account of the tragedy of the USS Indianapolis in the film is a very memorable scene. The shark attacks in the film caused the possibility of closing the July 4th weekend festivities in that fictional island town in the movie.
I also watched The Wizard of Oz (1939) and the 1910 silent version of the story. The 1910 version was just awful, but it was less than 15 minutes. Most silent films weren't very good back then and were almost never more than 15 minutes.
In 1914, A film about Pancho Villa was over an hour, which was revolutionary. The makers were worried that an audience wouldn't sit for an entire hour watching a movie and the normal nickel per ticket usually charged for films then wasn't enough to make up the cost. So they charged a full dime for each ticket. This price became the normal price of a movie for many years.
This led the way to the incredibly racist film Birth of a Nation (1915). This link also gives some info on the film. This was the top grossing film of it's time for the next 10 years and introduced the start of many techniques used in more modern film productions. However because of the offensive nature of this film, TV channels won't show it and old film movie houses are generally afraid to play it now. However the outrage is justifiable IMO in this case.
Getting back to the Wizard of Oz, it seems the producer who cast all those Muchkins was supposed to pay them $100 per day each, which back then was a fair wage for this kind of work. However he stole half their pay and they wound up getting $50 per day usually (the ones who were under contract with MGM got $100 per day and a few others got a little more than $50 per day). Toto got $125 per day, but he had a better agent I guess ;)
So who is smarter, The Munchkins of the Lollipop Guild or Toto? Not only did Toto get paid more, he got the girl
Who is the smarter?