George M. Cohan

(1878-1942) Playwright, songwriter, stage director, actor, dancer, producer -- George M. Cohan was all of these. For more than twenty years he was the Man Who Owned Broadway, a musical genius who set the style for the swift-moving American musical comedy of today. In his early years, Cohan trouped with his parents and sister as part of the renowned vaudeville act, The Four Cohans. By sixteen, he was known as vaudeville's child prodigy, with many songs published and sketches produced. At the age of twenty he was managing The Four Cohans, and at twenty-three he was a successful playwright, a bright light on Broadway's Great White Way.Cohan perfected a style of light comedic drama that influenced early 20th-Century popular American theatre. Some of his many plays are Seven Keys to Baldpate, The Little Millionaire (1911), Forty-Five Minutes from Broadway (1906), and Little Nelly Kelly (1923). He also wrote the popular WWI song "Over There" and acted in Eugene O'Neil's Ah, Wilderness! (1933) and Rodgers and Hart's I'd Rather be Right (1937).   Broadway knew Cohan as a brisk and bounding young man who was forever waving Old Glory. He went into dance at any provocation, called everybody "Kid," and jabbed people in the ribs and thumped them on the chest with the back of his hand when he wanted to emphasize a point. His many stage hits -- Little Johnny Jones, Forty-five Minutes from Broadway, George Washington, Jr., and The Little Milionaire, to name a few -- brought him riches and fame beyond his wildest dreams. And, when asked late in his life for a summary of his career, he said in typical Cohanesque style out the side of his mouth, "No complaints, kid." Cohan was born on July 3, 1878, in Providence, Rhode Island. But, as the Yankee Doodle Boy he always celebrated his birthday on July 4, Independence Day.