George M. Cohan is Born
Playwright, songwriter, dancer, actor, theater owner, and producer George M. Cohan was born on July 3, 1878, in Providence, Rhode Island.
(Some sources report his date of birth as July 4.) As a young boy, he and his sister toured New England and the Midwest with their parents as the Four Cohans, a vaudeville act, for which he also wrote sketches and songs. In 1904, Cohan opened in the Broadway production Little Johnny Jones. That play, which Cohan also directed and for which he wrote the book, music, and lyrics (including the song "Yankee Doodle Dandy"), catapulted him to national attention.
Cohan is best known for the innovative Broadway musicals that he produced in the 1920s, such as The Tavern (1920-21), The Song and Dance Man (1923-24), and American Born (1925). He later made memorable appearances in Ah, Wilderness! (1933-34) and I'd Rather Be Right (1937-38).
Cohan was born in Providence, Rhode Island to Irish Catholic parents. A baptismal certificate (which gave the wrong first name for his mother) indicated that he was born on July 3, but the Cohan family always insisted that George had been "born on the Fourth of July!" George's parents were traveling Vaudeville performers, and he joined them on stage while still an infant, at first as a prop, later learning to dance and sing soon after he could walk and talk.
He completed a family act called The Four Cohans, which included his father Jeremiah "Jere" (Keohane)  Cohan (1848–1917), mother Helen "Nellie" Costigan Cohan (1854–1928), and sister Josephine "Josie" Cohan Niblo (1876–1916). Josie, who died of heart disease at a young age, was married to Fred Niblo Sr. (1874–1948), an important director of silent films, including Ben Hur (1925), and a founder of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Their son, Fred Niblo Jr. (1903–1973) was an Academy Award-nominated screenwriter.
Give my regards to Broadway,
remember me to Herald Square,
Tell all the gang at Forty-Second street,
that I will soon be there,
Whisper of how I'm yearning
To mingle with the old time throng,
Give my regards to old Broadway
and say that I'll be there, e'er long”— George M. Cohan, "Give My Regards to Broadway,"
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