"The Screen Guild Theater" broadcast a 30 minute radio adaptation of the movie on October 19, 1942 with James Cagney reprising his film role.
Fred Astaire was first offered the leading role but turned it down.
Frances Langford is listed in the credits simply as "Singer". In the film, Cagney calls her "Nora", so this character is probably the real-life Nora Bayes (1880-1928). Bayes was a popular performer who recorded many Cohan songs and entertained the troops with Cohan during World War I. Bayes wrote the song "Shine on Harvest Moon" and was the subject of the Warner Brothers biopic Shine on Harvest Moon. In "Yankee Doodle Dandy", Langford also sings the medley "In a Kingdom of Our Own" / "Love Nest" / "Nellie Kelly, I Love You" / "The Man Who Owns Broadway" / "Molly Malone"/ "Billie" that backs up one of Don Siegel's great montage sequences. Langford sang "Over There" to WW I American troops and toured with Bob Hope to entertain American troops in WW II, Korea and Viet Nam.
James Cagney broke a rib while filming a dance scene, but continued dancing until it was completed.
James Cagney won his first and only Oscar for this movie.
James Cagney's performance as George M. Cohan is ranked #6 on Premiere Magazine's 100 Greatest Performances of All Time.
James Cagney's tearful death scene by the side of dying screen father Walter Huston so moved director Michael Curtiz that he cried uncontrollably while the scene was being shot.
Carl Jules Weyl's theater stage set took up a whole sound stage and was specifically constructed so that it could replicate the proscenium design of any given theater, from the traditional, 19th century stylings of the Liberty (now Madame Tusseud's Wax Museum, where "Little Johnny Jones" opened in 1904) and Herald Square (demolished in 1915, where "George Washington Junior" opened in 1906) Theaters, to the Art Deco design of the Alvin (now the Neil Simon, where "I'd Rather Be Right" opened in 1937) Theater.
According to James Cagney's autobiography his brother William Cagney (who was also his manager) actively pursued the role of ultra-patriotic George M. Cohan for James as a way of removing the taint of James' political activities in the 1930s, when he was a strong, somewhat radical supporter of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. When Cohan himself learned about Cagney's background as a song-and-dance man in vaudeville, he approved him for the project.
Although Josie Cohan Niblo did predecease Jerry Cohan, dying of a diagnosed heart condition in 1916 at the age of 40 (her then 13-year-old son, future screenwriter Fred Niblo, Jr., discovered her body in an upstairs hallway), his wife, Helen Costigan "Nellie" Cohan actually survived him by 11 years, dying in 1928. In the film, it is stated that both Jerry Cohan's daughter and wife predeceased him.
In 2007, the American Film Institute ranked this as the #98 Greatest Movie of All Time.
Many facts were changed or ignored to add to the feel of the movie. For example, the real George M. Cohan was married twice, and although his second wife's middle name was Mary, she went by her first name, Agnes. In fact, the movie deviated so far from the truth that, following the premiere, the real George M. Cohan commented, "It was a good movie. Who was it about?"
The car the college kids are driving is a 1933 Chevrolet Phaeton "Jalopy". Graffiti from back to front reads: "Exit Here" (arrow pointing to door handle), "Open Here", "Will Stop Quick if a Wheel Brakes", "For Sale", "Frankie & Johnnie", "But Good", "In Case of Fire Scream".
The movie's line "My mother thanks you. My father thanks you. My sister thanks you. And I thank you." was voted as the #97 movie quote by the American Film Institute (out of 100).
This was the very first black and white movie to be colorized using a controversial computer-applied process. Despite widespread opposition to the practice by many film aficionados, stars and directors, the movie won over a sizeable section of the public on its re-release.
Walking down the stairs at the White House, James Cagney goes into a tap dance. According to TCM, that was completely ad-libbed.
Warner Bros.' second highest-grossing film of 1942 ($4.8 million).