This page contains a Flash digital edition of a book.
George M. Cohan was filmed in the role he made famous in more than 300 stage performances, in the 1917 version of SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE.


On September 22nd, 1913, the play SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE opened on Broadway. Impresario- writer George M. Cohan, known for his musicals, crafted a canny adaptation which added a ticking clock to the plot in a bet between William Hallowell Magee and publisher Hal Bentley which requires the author to sit down at midnight and write a 10,000 word “novel” in 24 hours. Furthermore, Cohan com- pounded Biggers’ trickiness with two additional twists (double spoiler alert!). The mystery which swirls around Magee turns out to be a put-on: all the suspects are members of the local repertory company improvising like crazy, hired by Bentley to distract the author and win the bet. Then, even this turns out not to have happened: between the pro- logue and epilogue, the two acts have represented the novel the hero is frantically typing to meet the deadline and win the bet. In THE GREEN BOOK, the critic Channing Pol- lock (not to be confused with the magician Channing Pollock, who starred in Franju’s JUDEX) noted “the amazingly ingenious scheme of the piece suggests those wooden eggs, contained by one inside


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another, that used to be imported from China. SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE is a play and a burlesque of that play synchronized. Its authors deride the trashy melodrama, in melodrama, and then justify melo- drama by showing real life to be full of melodrama. Finally, they justify themselves and defy criticism in a brilliant bit of effrontery.” ‘The critics will roast the tar out of it,’ says Magee of his story, which, of course, is also the story in which he appears, ‘but this is the stuff the public wants.’ In addition to being an author, a composer, an actor, a dancer, a director and a producer, Mr. Cohan stands revealed


as a profit (sic), for the crowds at the Astor prove his ‘mystery farce’ to be truly ‘the stuff the public wants.’” The truth of Cohan’s life is now intermingled inextricably with the legend put forth by Michael Curtiz’ 1942 patriotic biopic YANKEE DOODLE DANDY, with James Cagney as the energetic all- round entertainer. Cohan composed the songs “Over There,” “Give My Regards To Broadway” and “You’re A Grand Old Flag” and had a hand in the career of Lon Chaney, whose breakthrough film THE MIRACLE MAN (1919) was based on a Cohan play.


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