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Robert Z. Leonard
In 1923, Gregory Vance, a widower with two children, is a former scholar who has turned from book-to-bottle. He works, slightly, as a night-watchman and his children, who know him for what he is and what he isn't, are his only admirers. Then, it is discovered that he is the only registered voter in a key precinct and the politicians, from both parties, arrive in droves bearing inducements. What he does about this situation, and the relatives who want to take his children away from him make up the story. Written by
Les Adams <email@example.com>
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John Barrymore is a down and out drunken widower with two children in "The Great Man Votes," a 1939 film also starring Virginia Weidler, Peter Holden, and Katherine Alexander. Barrymore plays Gregory Vance, a brilliant Harvard graduate, a once well-known intellectual, and a raging alcoholic. His two children, however, (Weidler and Holden) adore him, and he is an attentive dad. When his kids beat up the taunting son of the local political boss, Iron Hat McCarthy, Gregory loses his night watchman job. But when McCarthy meets with the party head, he's told the 13th precinct always votes the party in and he has to deliver; on being told the 13th precinct is voting the party, the rest of the precincts will follow. One problem. There's only one registered voter in the precinct - Gregory Vance. As Vance tries to parlay a deal for himself, his in-laws seek to take his children.
This is a heart-warming story with a brilliant performance by Barrymore. Pompous but loving, he makes Gregory Vance a likable character the audience roots for through the entire film. He's bombastic and over-dramatic, which is perfect for the character. His stage experience really shines through. The kids, Virginia Weidler and Peter Holden are excellent - and you'd never know Barrymore didn't like to work with kids.
As enjoyable as "The Great Man Votes" is, it leaves one feeling sad; Barrymore died when he was 50, his best screen years as a character actor were still ahead of him. So we have to take what we can get - and one of his best performances is in "The Great Man Votes."
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