Log In

George Michael Cohan

actor , comedian , composer , dancer , entertainer , lyricist , playwright , Producer , singer

George Michael Cohan, an American actor and playwright, was one of the most versatile personalities in the American theater. His shows glorified Broadway and patriotism.

Background

George Cohan was born on July 4, 1878 in Providence, Rhode Island, United States. He was the son of Jerry John and Helen Frances (Costigan) Cohan.

Career

Cohan started as a child performer at age 8, first on the violin and then as a dancer.

A legendary figure in American musical theater, Cohan was literally born to show business. His parents were traveling vaudevillians on the small-city circuit; Cohan was carried onstage as an infant in a skit of his father’s.

At age of nine, he spoke his first lines onstage. He began to write sketches at age eleven and songs at age thirteen; his first published song came at age sixteen. By then he was an old hand, having performed the lead role in Peck’s Bad Boy from the age of twelve.

Cohan, who handled the family’s business as well as wrote most of its material, was yearning for the bigger stage: Broadway.

He was a producer of his own and others’ plays. With Sam Harris, produced more than forty-five plays by Cohan and others during 1904-1920, and in 1937. He was starred in Ah, Wilderness! by Eugene O’Neill 1933, and as Franklin Delano Roosevelt in I'd Rather Be Right, by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart during 1937-1938. George Cohan appeared in screen versions of several of his own plays.

In 1925, he had a success in print with his autobiography, Twenty Years on Broadway, and the Years It Took to Get There: The True Story of a Trouper’s Life from the Cradle to the “Closed Shop, ’’—the term “closed shop” in the subtitle referred to his acrid dispute with the actors’ union.

Achievements

  • In 1914, Cohan became one of the founding members of ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers).

    Cohan published more than 300 songs during his lifetime, including the standards "Over There", "Give My Regards to Broadway", "The Yankee Doodle Boy" and "You're a Grand Old Flag".

    He is considered the father of American musical comedy.

Works

Personality

  • ““Never was a plant more indigenous to a particular part of the earth than was George M. Cohan to the United States of his day,” wrote songwriter Oscar Hammerstein II in a 1957 tribute to Cohan.”

Connections

He married Ethel Levey, actress, in 1900. They divorced in 1907. He married second Agnes Nolan, a dancer, in 1909. They had 3 children: Mary Helen, Helen Frances, George M.

father:
Jerry John Cohan

mother:
Helen Frances (Costigan) Cohan

spouses:
Ethel Levey

Agnes Nolan

children:
Mary Helen Cohan

Helen Frances Cohan

George M.

Haverstraw Cohan