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Small in the Saddle
[FINAL Edition]
The Washington Post - Washington, D.C.
Subjects: Nonfiction; Biographies; Books-titles -- Yankee Doodle Dandy: The Life and Times of Tod Sloan
Author: Yardley, Jonathan
Date: Dec 7, 2000
Start Page: C.02
Section: STYLE

In time it all tumbled down. In December 1900, [Tod Sloan] was banished by the Jockey Club of London on gambling charges of questionable merit. He returned to the United States. Unable to revive his career, he tried his hand at everything from motorcars to trapshooting to gambling to women to vaudeville. He was successful at nothing and eventually frittered away the not inconsiderable fortune he had earned. But in 1903 his story came to [George M. Cohan]'s attention. He based a show on it called "Little Johnny Jones," which opened on Broadway the next year. It was not a smash hit, but it contained two of Cohan's best, most durable songs: "Yankee Doodle Dandy" and "Give My Regards to Broadway." Both were directly inspired by Sloan.

Still, listen up, for it turns out that Sloan's story is well worth telling and that [John Dizikes] tells it very well in "Yankee Doodle Dandy." It may seem odd that a scholar (at the University of California, Santa Cruz) whose previous book was "Opera in America" should now be writing about a famous 19th-century jockey, but Dizikes understands that Sloan's story, apart from its own intrinsic interest, is a deeply American story as well and deserves to be taken seriously.

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