Friday, July 29, 2016


Carolyn Mitchell was one of those girls who seemed destined to make headlines. And did she ever.

Born with stars in her eyes in Phoenix in 1937, she moved to Los Angeles as a teenager.

While still in high school in Inglewood, the curvy teen adopted a new name, Barbara Thomason, and began entering bathing suit beauty contests from Hermosa Beach to Palisades Park.

She got her first headline after a Santa Monica pageant in June 1954: “Blonde, 17, Chosen Muscle Beach Queen.” She was described as “a bouncy, blue-eyed blonde in a white bathing suit,” with hourglass measurements recorded down to the half-inch.

Thomason won a roomful of beach beauty trophies, and that led to pin-up modeling. But she dreamed of acting.

In 1955, she made her screen debut (as Carolyn Mitchell) in an episode of “Crossroads,” an ABC morality-play series.

A few years later, she won a small part in the biker flick “Dragstrip Riot,” with Fay Wray. Next came a marquee-topping role in Roger Corman’s cult film “Cry Baby Killer,” the debut of co-star Jack Nicholson.

As those two B-movies flickered on silver screens, Thomason/Mitchell made another headline, on Aug. 12, 1958: “Starlet Takes Sleeping Pills at Mickey Rooney’s Home.”

Red Doff, Rooney’s flack, said he had a perfectly reasonable explanation — even if it wasn’t.
Barbara Thomason passed out at Mickey Rooney's home in August 1958 after taking too many sleeping pills. They were married by the end of the year.

Thomason accidentally took some pills, he said. After she got woozy, she was stripped naked and dunked in Rooney’s pool by pals trying to revive her. Later they dumped her at a hospital, where she recovered.

And no one was surprised when Thomason became Mrs. Rooney No. 5 in a secret service in Mexico on Dec. 1, 1958.

The bride was 21, the groom 38.

The union wasn’t legal since Rooney’s fourth divorce wasn’t yet inked, but they fixed that detail with a do-over ceremony five months later in L.A.

Thomason gave up her budding career to become a full-time mommy. She delivered four babies in exactly four years, beginning with Kelly Ann on Sept. 13, 1959, and ending with Kimmy Sue on Sept. 13, 1963, with two in between.

Whatever joy the children brought was tempered by Rooney’s financial swoon. He was broke, despite earning $12 million in hundreds of film roles over 35 years. He went bankrupt in 1962 as Uncle Sam dunned him for $100,000 in back taxes.

When she married a movie star, Thomason must have expected a glamorous life. Instead, she was awash in diapers and on a tight budget, keenly aware that her husband had resumed another chronic bad habit: philandering.

In 1965, Rooney traveled to the Philippines to film Ambush Bay, a war drama costarring Hugh O’Brian. While Rooney was away, Thomason got cozy with a muscular young actor, a Yugoslav émigré named Milos Milosevic.

As their affair began, Milosevic’s movie career was taking off. He had a bit part in the “The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming,” and he played the title demon in “Incubus,” the William Shatner horror film done in the Esperanto language.

Rooney returned from the Philippines in November 1965 to discover that the demon had moved in while he was gone. Rooney retreated to a hotel and filed for divorce. Barbara had second thoughts when she learned that he wanted custody of their children.

The couple met on Jan. 30, 1966, in a hospital room where Rooney was being treated for an intestinal bug. Thomason swore she would dump Milosevic, and Rooney surprised everyone by agreeing to reconcile. Barbara then had to break the news to Milosevic, who was still shacked up in the Rooneys’ Brentwood home. The Yugoslav was known for a volcanic temper, and no one expected him to leave his lover meekly. But friends who accompanied Thomason home said Milosevic seemed to take the news calmly. They went into the master bedroom together at about 8:30 that night.

The next day, when Thomason didn’t respond to knocks on the locked bedroom door, her friend Wilma Catania used a screwdriver to break in. On the floor in the master bath, Milosevic was sprawled atop his lover. Thomason had been shot under the chin, Milosevic in the temple. Police judged it a murder-suicide at Milosevic’s hand, using a .38 pistol that Rooney kept for protection.

No one could explain why the shots were not heard, even though her children and a maid were in bedrooms just down the hall.

The tragedy created Thomason’s curtain-closer headline: “MICKEY ROONEY’S WIFE NO. 5 SLAIN.”

Her children were raised by Barbara’s mother. Rooney married three more times before he died in 2014 at the age of 93, and he never spoke of the murder. The tragedy is of course that Barbara was killed so young, but another tragedy is she is barely remembered at all...

Monday, July 25, 2016


Last month I lost another dear friend who inspired me in my Bing Crosby collection. Bob Cowley made a tribute tape for Bing Crosby in 1974 that he sent to the crooner, and he got a personalized letter back from him. Bob Cowley was a genius with anything dealing with radio, and in the days before the computer and CDs, he made this tape for Bing sound better than anything I have ever heard. I corresponded with Bob from the late 1990s until 2010 when ill health ended our communication.

Robert C. “Bob” Cowley, age 96, of Toledo, passed away on Tuesday, June 14, 2016, at Vibrant Life Senior Living-Jackman Lodge, Temperance, MI. He was born on May 11, 1920, in Lincoln, Nebraska to the late Charles Harold and Gladys (Nelson) Cowley. He began an interest in radio and electronics in his early teens, experimenting with old radios and amplifiers. The Cowley family moved to Toledo in 1941 where Bob worked at Strong Electric for 2 years before his career at WSPD began as an engineer in 1943. During those early years he worked in radio, traveled around northwest Ohio, with Art Barrie of WSPD radio doing remote live radio broadcasts. In the 50's at the inception of TV Broadcasting, he switched to WSPD Television studios.

He married Ruth L. Wollenweber on April 14, 1948, and in their early years of marriage he repaired radios and televisions for friends and neighbors for a little extra cash. While the children were growing up, he took a lot of home movies which he later transferred to video tapes. He built a Schober Electronic Organ with a full 32 range of pedals from a mail order kit. It was used in their home until donated to Our Savior Lutheran Church in Cincinnati. When their house was built in 1956, Bob did all the wiring and majority of the woodwork.

On Sunday mornings he taped the church services which were taken to “shut-ins”. He also did recordings at home of sermons by area pastors for a Sunday morning radio broadcast called “Lutheran Chapel of the Air” on WCWA for 25 years. He was a member of Hosanna Evangelical Lutheran Church in Monclova.

Bob is survived by his loving wife of 68 years, Ruth; their children, Susan Sturtz, Judy (Ralph) Fuehr, Linda (Mike) Maas, and David (Jennifer) Cowley; 9 grandchildren, 17 great-grandchildren, 4 great-great-grandchildren; and a sister-in-law, Betty Cowley. He was also preceded in death by sisters, Margaret Putnam, Mildred Hites, and Marie Eighmey, and a brother, Paul Cowley.

Funeral services will begin at 12 Noon on Monday, June 20, 2016, at David R. Jasin-Hoening Funeral Home, 5300 N. Summit St., Toledo, OH 43611, with Pastor Scott Mosher, officiating. Visitation will begin in the funeral home at 10 a.m. and continue until the time of the service. Burial will follow in Ottawa Hills Memorial Park, Toledo.

Those wishing to make a contribution in Bob's memory are asked to consider Hosanna Evangelical Lutheran Church, Monclova, or Hospice of Northwest Ohio. Many thanks to Foundation Park, Hospice of Northwest Ohio and Vibrant Life of Temperance for the special care given to Bob.

I will never forget the videos and audio tapes that Bob sent me, and if anyone wants a copy of Bob's excellent tribute to Bing, please contact me. Rest in peace dear friend...

Thursday, July 21, 2016


Longtime Pittsburgh personality and TV host Bill Cardille died at 1:15 a.m. today at his home in McCandless.

Mr. Cardille, 87, recently had been diagnosed with liver cancer.

Mr. Cardille was the co-creator and host of "Chiller Theatre," which has been off the air since January 1984 but is remembered for its late-night horror flicks.

His daughter, Lori Cardille, posted on June 24 on Facebook that her father -- known by the moniker "Chilly Billy" -- was ailing. Thousands of cards and letters arrived in the mail over the next few weeks, and Ms. Cardille said her sister, Maria Johnson, spent last night reading many of them to their father.

“Dad truly was at peace,” she said.

Legions of Pittsburgh-area kids, their parents and Saturday-night babysitters, grew up watching him host “Chiller Theatre” and/or “Studio Wrestling.” To be sitting around the TV set, watching the early black-and-white movies on WIIC (later, WPXI), was for many the height of innocent weekend fun.

His first job in television was at WICU in Erie. Part of his job involved hosting a Saturday-morning spelling bee, then doing commercials for Erie Brewing during half-inning breaks of Cleveland Indians games.

“I don’t drink,” he recalled, “and in those days, you could drink beer on the air... the company sent me a case a week and the engineers would drink it.”

He pretended to take a sip during the commercial “and then I’d pour mine down the sewer. They were the happiest rats in Erie.”

One day, after yet another game ended early and there was on-air time to kill, he asked it it were possible to get a camera to the station’s front sidewalk. From there, he proceeded to interview people on the street, just chatting them up.

It was something he later enjoyed during the closing of “Studio Wrestling.” As the crowd filed out, Mr. Cardille would interview the fans.

He and wife, Louise, returned to Pittsburgh on Labor Day weekend, 1962. He’d been offered a management position in Erie but turned it down, convinced his future was as a director and announcer.

“So I came here and made $110 a week, with a wife and two kids. I thought there was a future,” Mr. Cardille once said.

Funeral arrangements were not complete, although Ms. Cardille said there likely will be private and public services early next week...

Wednesday, July 20, 2016


Garry Marshall knew how to tug at moviegoers' heartstrings, whether with unlikely love in "Pretty Woman" or sentimental loss in "Beaches."

But it was goofy, crowd-pleasing comedy that endeared the writer and director to generations of TV viewers in hit sitcoms including "Happy Days", "Laverne & Shirley" and "Mork & Mindy." Marshall, who died Tuesday at 81, said in a 1980s interview that humor was his necessary path in life.

"In the neighborhood where we grew up in, the Bronx, you only had a few choices. You were either an athlete or a gangster, or you were funny," the New York native said.

Marshall also had a memorable on-screen presence, using his hometown accent and gruff delivery in colorful supporting roles that included a practical-minded casino boss untouched by Albert Brooks' disastrous luck in "Lost in America" and a crass network executive in "Soapdish."

He died at a hospital in Burbank, California, of complications from pneumonia following a stroke, his publicist Michelle Bega said in a statement. An outpouring of respect and affection quickly followed.

Ron Howard, who starred as all-American teen Richie Cunningham on "Happy Days" before going on to become one of Hollywood's top directors, wrote on Twitter that Marshall went by a simple mantra, "Life is more important than show business."

"He was a world class boss & mentor whose creativity and leadership meant a ton to me," Howard added.

Richard Gere, who starred opposite Julia Roberts in "Pretty Woman," said in a statement that "everyone loved Garry. He was a mentor and a cheerleader and one of the funniest men who ever lived. He had a heart of the purest gold and a soul full of mischief. He was Garry."

Henry Winkler, who starred as Fonzie on "Happy Days," saluted Marshall in a tweet as "larger than life, funnier than most, wise and the definition of friend."

"A great, great guy and the best casino boss in the history of film," actor-filmmaker Brooks posted on Twitter.

He rejected retirement, serving as a consultant on CBS' 2015 reboot of "The Odd Couple," starring Matthew Perry and Thomas Lennon, and appearing in an episode this year as Oscar's father, Walter. Among his final credits was "Mother's Day," a film released last April starring Jennifer Aniston, Kate Hudson and Roberts.

Marshall, the brother of actress-director Penny Marshall, earned a degree in journalism from Northwestern University and worked at the New York Daily News. But he found he was better at writing punchlines.

He began his entertainment career in the 1960s selling jokes to comedians, then moved to writing sketches for "The Tonight Show" with Jack Paar in New York. He caught the eye of comic Joey Bishop, who brought him to Los Angeles to write for "The Joey Bishop Show."

Sitcoms quickly proved to be Marshall's forte. He and then-writing partner Jerry Belson turned out scripts for the most popular comedies of the '60s, including "The Lucy Show," ''The Danny Thomas Show" and "The Dick Van Dyke Show."

In 1970, they turned Neil Simon's Broadway hit, "The Odd Couple," into a sitcom starring Jack Klugman and Tony Randall and produced by Marshall. It ran for five seasons and proved the beginning of a TV sitcom empire that lives on in unending 21st-century reruns.

In January 1979, Marshall had three of the top five comedies on the air with "Happy Days," which ran from 1974-84; "Laverne & Shirley" (1976-83), which starred Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams, and "Mork & Mindy" (1978-82) with newcomer Robin Williams.

After cranking out what Marshall once estimated to be 1,000 sitcom episodes, he switched his focus to the big screen with 1984's "The Flamingo Kid," a coming-of-age story starring Matt Dillon, which Marshall wrote and directed.

He concentrated on directing with his later films, including 1986's "Nothing in Common," with Tom Hanks and Jackie Gleason; "Overboard" (1987) starring Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell; "Beaches" (1988) with Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey; "Pretty Woman" (1990) and "Dear God" (1996) with Greg Kinnear and Laurie Metcalf.

The Gere-Roberts pairing that helped make "Pretty Woman" a smash hit did the same for "Runaway Bride," which reunited them in 1999. "The Princess Diaries" in 2001 was another winner, although Marshall suffered a flop with "Georgia Rule" (2007), starring Jane Fonda and Lindsay Lohan.

Marshall is survived by his wife, Barbara, and the couple's three children, Lori, Kathleen and Scott...

Monday, July 18, 2016


Ann Miller was one of the most celebrated dancers in the history of the American Musical. By the late 1950s though, as the era of Hollywood musicals waned, Miller's career in films declined. Following her appearance in Hit the Deck (1955), Miller left the movies behind to become a nightclub performer. Over the following decades she also made frequent appearances on television variety programs, including The Ed Sullivan Show and The Hollywood Palace, wearing bouffant brunette wigs and heavy eye makeup. This so-called Nefertiti look became Miller's trademark on- and offstage for many years and coincided with her growing interest in spirituality and reincarnation; she later expressed the belief that she had once been the ancient Egyptian queen Hatshepsut.

In 1969 Miller returned to the Broadway stage in the title role of Mame, a musical based on the film version of Patrick Dennis's semiautobiographical novel Auntie Mame. The role had been originated by Angela Lansbury to great acclaim, but Miller's performance, which featured singing as well as dancing, earned even more lavish praise from critics. Moreover it was credited with helping to spark a tap-dancing revival.

After Mame ended, Miller resumed her work in nightclubs and on television, interspersed with appearances in touring companies of Can-Can, Panama Hattie, and Hello, Dolly!, and a musical version of the Noël Coward play Blithe Spirit. She also appeared in a memorable television commercial in 1972, dancing on top of a giant Heinz soup can. Four years later she was discovered by a new generation of moviegoers when MGM released That's Entertainment, Part II, featuring clips of Miller and other dancers and singers in studio musicals of the past.

In 1979 Miller made a triumphant return to Broadway in the musical revue Sugar Babies, in which she costarred with Mickey Rooney. The show was an enormous hit with both audiences and critics; it played in New York for nearly three years and then toured the country. At age fifty-six Miller was delighted to find herself a glamorous Broadway showgirl both on- and offstage, experiencing at last a sustained stardom that had eluded her in Hollywood. Both Miller and Rooney earned Tony Award nominations in 1980 for their performances in Sugar Babies.

Miller returned briefly to the stage in 1998, when she performed in a revival of Stephen Sondheim's musical Follies at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, New Jersey. She made her last screen appearance in 2001, playing a dramatic role as the manager of an apartment complex in Mulholland Drive. Miller spent the final decades of her life at homes in Beverly Hills, California, and Sedona, Arizona. She died in Los Angeles after being hospitalized following a fall at her home in Beverly Hills. Shortly before her death she reportedly converted to Roman Catholicism.

Miller was married--briefly, in each case--three times: to Reese Milner (1946-1947), William Moss (1958-1961), and Arthur Cameron (1961-1962). Her first two marriages ended in divorce; the third was annulled. She and Milner had a daughter who was born prematurely and died shortly after birth; Miller later claimed that Milner had beaten her during her pregnancy, at one point pushing her down a flight of stairs and breaking her back. All three of Miller's husbands demanded that she give up her career as a condition of marriage, which may have accounted in part for the brevity of the unions. She was also romantically involved with the movie producer Louis B. Mayer and the hotel tycoon Conrad Hilton...

Friday, July 15, 2016


Here is a great article, from my friend and fellow blogger at the Geezer Music Club...

If your memories of Marilyn Monroe as a singer mostly consist of her breathy rendition of “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” offered up to Jack Kennedy or brassy numbers like “Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend,” then you might be surprised to hear that there is a movement afoot to reexamine her vocalizing. According to a recent article in the New York Times, many experts are taking another listen to some of the material she left behind, and it appears that her singing — like her acting — was much better than she was given credit for during her lifetime.

One thing is certain. She took music seriously, spending a lot of time with voice coaches and also studying the greats, like Ella Fitzgerald. In fact, she helped pave the way for Ella to appear in previously restricted clubs, and the two became very good friends. In later years Ella always gave her credit for helping further her career.

Even in Marilyn’s early movies she often found opportunities to sing, and although pros like Marni Nixon occasionally dubbed a few notes here and there, most of what we heard was the star’s real voice. She continued to sing in a surprising number of movies through the years, and those performances demonstrated a voice that varied widely but had real talent behind it.

Like most singers (and non-singers too) her voice became a little huskier as she grew older, but she could carry a tune and deliver the goods. Her most noticeable characteristic to my ear is that she was often tentative, especially in the early passages of standards like “A Fine Romance” and “When I Fall In Love.” She was at her best when she set the tone early and stayed with it, as with “River Of No Return,” which was released as a single and did very well.

But she was still Marilyn Monroe, and in a quote from Collier’s Magazine in 1954, she spelled it out like this: “I won’t be satisfied until people want to hear me sing without looking at me. Of course, that doesn’t mean I want them to stop looking.”


Monday, July 11, 2016


In discussing Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, Frank Sinatra once said, “Steve and Eydie represent all that is good about performers and the interpretation of a song . . . they’re the best.”

High praise indeed from the “Chairman of the Board” himself. In the mid 1990s the husband and wife singing duo of Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme toured with “Old Blue Eyes.”

Lawrence was born Sidney Liebowitz, in Brooklyn on July 8, 1935. Eydie Gorme was born Edith Gormezano in the Bronx on Aug. 16, 1928.

While singer Tony Bennett was able to introduce himself to a new generation of fans and reinvent himself in the mid 1990s after appearing on episodes of MTV Unplugged, Steve & Eydie still never attempted a crossover or reinvention; instead they remained dedicated to their prime audience – the cocktail generation raised on the music of the Rat Pack.

During a phone conversation we had with him in the 1990s, Lawrence had a few things to say about Bennett’s transformation.

“I think we could bring the same to the show that Tony did – that is, he’s doing what he’s always done and that’s the way to go,” Lawrence told us. “You don’t abandon one audience in an attempt to capture another. A few of our colleagues have done that and it’s proven to be a big mistake.”

Outside of occasional appearances on The Dean Martin Show back in the 1960s; the closest Lawrence came to attaching his star – even for the briefest of moments – to anything remotely considered hip or topical was when he appeared as agent Maury Sline in the 1980 hit film, The Blues Brothers starring John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd.

Their stylish act consisted of married couple comic banter, but the centerpiece always remained the music. Lawrence, the easygoing crooner with the rich baritone, and Gorme, the belter with the big, brassy voice, covered the musical landscape with hits from the masters: George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Irving Berlin and Jerome Kern.

In October 2010, Steve and Eydie reached a career milestone when they celebrated their 50th anniversary as a popular singing duo. They were married in Las Vegas in 1957. Joe E. Lewis attended the ceremony wearing Chinese pajamas and Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, who were married there the same day, were witnesses.

Steve and Eydie began their careers as members of the cast of Steve Allen’s original Tonight Show. While starring with Allen, their individual recording careers flourished with such hits as “Blame It on the Bossa Nova” for Eydie and “Go Away Little Girl” for Steve. Steve and Eydie share a Grammy for the album, We’ve Got Us, and Eydie won a second Grammy for her solo recording of “If He Walked Into My Life.”

“We’re no different than anyone else,” said Lawrence. “Our disagreements run the gamut from professional to personal. In fact, one of the best shows we ever did came on the heels of a fight we had. I can’t recall what precipitated it. We walked out on stage and we were so hostile to each other. The more venomous it became, the more the audience loved it. When the show was over we were cleansed. It was actually cathartic.”

Steve and Eydie had two sons, one tragically died in 1986 at the age of 23 after knee surgery from a fall in a softball game. The young man, Michael, had experienced a mild heart condition as a teenager. Overcome with grief, the couple didn’t perform for a year.

On Aug. 10, 2013 the singing team was silenced forever when Gorme passed away just shy of her 85th birthday.

Since then, Lawrence, for the most part, has been absent from live performances and public appearances are rare.

When discussing the prospect of retirement at the time of our interview, he said, “Retirement is a decision based on a lot of different emotional levels. We’re sometimes the best ones to know and sometimes we’re the last ones to know. When you can no longer reach certain notes; when you are physically not strong enough to transmit that needed energy to an audience; these are all tell-tale signs along the professional highway that it might be time.”

Friday, July 8, 2016


Tony Bennett is one of the last singers of a bygone generation. His peers included Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Perry Como, and other great crooners. Bennett, reaching 90, has maintained a pretty busy schedule. However, in the last few months his health has come into question. Tony was set to perform in my hometown of Pittsburgh on July 9.

Officials announced Thursday evening that singer Tony Bennett’s performance scheduled for this Saturday at Heinz Hall in Pittsburgh has been canceled. According to a press release, Bennett, 89, has the flu, which has temporarily prevent him from touring for the next few days. However, sources say that age is finally catching up to the crooner. Many people say his health just is not what it used to be, and he should slow down his hectic pace.

The release said refunds are available at point of purchase, and that the performance would not be rescheduled, which is also a ref flag to more serious health issues...

Monday, July 4, 2016


What present Hollywood is missing in its stars is a sense of patriotism. Classic Hollywood really rallied about the country, especially during World War II. On this 4th of July, I thought I would take a look at some of the patriotic pictures from classic Hollywood...

Ann Miller (1923-2004)

Ava Gardner (1922-1990)

Claudette Colbert (1903-1996)

Colleen Moore (1899-1988)

Cyd Charisse (1922-2008)

Veronica Lake (1922-1973)

Friday, July 1, 2016


George M. Cohan is a name that is but an ancient footnote in the history of the entertainment. However, he was one of the first true superstars of entertainment. In an age without computers or facebook or even television, George Cohan became an icon to millions of fans. Cohan was born in 1878 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 Cohan and his 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, first as a prop, learning to dance and sing soon after he could walk and talk.

As a child, Cohan and his family toured most of the year and spent summer vacations from the vaudeville circuit at his grandmother's home in North Brookfield, Massachusetts, where Cohan befriended baseball player Connie Mack. The family generally gave a performance at the town hall there each summer, and Cohan had a chance to gain some more normal childhood experiences, like riding his bike and playing sandlot baseball. Cohan's memories of those happy summers inspired his 1907 musical 50 Miles from Boston, which is set North Brookfield and contains one of his most famous songs, “Harrigan". As Cohan matured through his teens, he used the quiet summers there to write. When he returned to the town in the cast of Ah, Wilderness! in 1934, he told a reporter, "I've knocked around everywhere, but there's no place like North Brookfield."

Cohan began writing original skits (over 150 of them) and songs for the family act in both vaudeville and minstrel shows while in his teens. Soon he was writing professionally, selling his first songs to a national publisher in 1893. In 1901 he wrote, directed and produced his first Broadway musical, "The Governor's Son", for The Four Cohans. His first big Broadway hit in 1904 was the show Little Johnny Jones, which introduced his tunes "Give My Regards to Broadway" and "The Yankee Doodle Boy."

Cohan became one of the leading Tin Pan Alley songwriters, publishing upwards of 300 original songs noted for their catchy melodies and clever lyrics. His major hit songs included "You're a Grand Old Flag," "Forty-Five Minutes from Broadway," "Mary Is a Grand Old Name," "The Warmest Baby in the Bunch," "Life's a Funny Proposition After All," "I Want To Hear a Yankee Doodle Tune," "You Won't Do Any Business If You Haven't Got a Band," "The Small Town Gal," "I'm Mighty Glad I'm Living, That's All," "That Haunting Melody," "Always Leave Them Laughing When You Say Goodbye", and America's most popular World War I song "Over There", which was recorded by Enrico Caruso among others. The latter song reached such currency among troops and shipyard workers that a ship was named "Costigan" after Cohan's grandfather, Dennis Costigan. During the christening, "Over There" was played.

From 1904 to 1920, Cohan created and produced over fifty musicals, plays and revues on Broadway together with his friend Sam Harris, including Give My Regards to Broadway and the successful Going Up in 1917, which became a smash hit in London the following year. His shows ran simultaneously in as many as five theatres. One of Cohan's most innovative plays was a dramatization of the mystery Seven Keys to Baldpate in 1913, which baffled some audiences and critics but became a hit. Cohan further adapted it as a film in 1917, and it was adapted for film six more times, as well as for TV and radio. He dropped out of acting for some years after his 1919 dispute with Actors' Equity Association.

Cohan appeared in 1930 in a revival of his tribute to vaudeville and his father, The Song and Dance Man. In 1932, Cohan starred in a dual role as a cold, corrupt politician and his charming, idealistic campaign double in the Hollywood musical film The Phantom President. The film co-starred Claudette Colbert and Jimmy Durante, with songs by Rodgers and Hart, and was released by Paramount Pictures. He appeared in some earlier silent films but he disliked Hollywood production methods and only made one other sound film, Gambling (1934), based on his own 1929 play and shot in New York City. A critic called Gambling a "stodgy adaptation of a definitely dated play directed in obsolete theatrical technique." It is considered a lost film.

Cohan earned acclaim as a serious actor in Eugene O'Neill's only comedy, Ah, Wilderness! (1933), and in the role of a song-and-dance President Franklin D. Roosevelt in Rodgers and Hart's musical I'd Rather Be Right (1937). The same year, he reunited with Harris to produce a play called Fulton of Oak Falls, starring Cohan. His final play, The Return of the Vagabond (1940), featured a young Celeste Holm in the cast.

 In 1942, a musical biopic of Cohan, Yankee Doodle Dandy, was released, and James Cagney's performance in the title role earned the Best Actor Academy Award. The film was privately screened for Cohan as he battled the last stages of abdominal cancer; Cohan’s comment on Cagney’s performance was, "My God, what an act to follow!"

Cohan died of cancer at the age of 64 on November 5, 1942, at his Manhattan apartment on Fifth Avenue. Although Cohan is mostly remembered for his songs, he became an early pioneer in the development of the "book musical", using his engaging libretti to bridge the gaps between drama and music. More than three decades before Agnes de Mille choreographed Oklahoma!, Cohan used dance not merely as razzle-dazzle, but to advance the plot. Cohan's main characters were "average Joes and Janes" that appealed to a wide American audience..