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The Great McGinty (1940)

Approved | | Comedy | 23 August 1940 (USA)
Dan McGinty has great success in his chosen field of crooked politics. But endangers it all in one crazy moment of honesty...





Airs Thu. Nov. 03, 10:00 PM on TCM

Won 1 Oscar. See more awards »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Catherine McGinty
Skeeters - The Politician
Tommy Thompson
Harry Rosenthal ...
Louie (bodyguard)
Arthur Hoyt ...
Libby Taylor ...
Bessy (maid)
Mr. Maxwell
The Dancing Girl
Esther Howard ...
Madame Juliette La Jolla
Frank Moran ...
The Boss' Chauffeur (as Frank C. Moran)
Jimmy Conlin ...
The Lookout
Benny Felgman


Told in flashback, Depression-era bum Dan McGinty is recruited by the city's political machine to help with vote fraud. His great aptitude for this brings rapid promotion from "the boss," who finally decides he'd be ideal as a new, nominally "reform" mayor; but this candidacy requires marriage. His in-name-only marriage to honest Catherine proves the beginning of the end for dishonest Dan... Written by Rod Crawford <puffinus@u.washington.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The SCREEN SURPRISE of the YEAR! It's the laffiest, daffiest film fun you have ever screamed at! (original ad) See more »




Approved | See all certifications »





Release Date:

23 August 1940 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Biograhy of a Bum  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


"Academy Award Theater" broadcast a 30 minute radio adaptation of the movie on April 20, 1946 with Brian Donlevy reprising his film role. See more »


In his victory parade as governor, McGinty rides in a car and it is clear he does not have a mustache. In the next scene, which takes place the same day at the state capitol, he has a mustache. See more »


Skeeters: If it wasn't for graft, you'd get a very low type of people in politics. Men without ambition. Jellyfish.
Catherine: Especially since you can't rob the people anyway.
Skeeters: Sure. How was that?
Catherine: What you rob, you spend, and what you spend goes back to the people. So, where's the robbery? I read that in one of my father's books.
Skeeters: That book should be in every home.
See more »


Written by Richard A. Whiting and Leo Robin
Played on piano
See more »

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User Reviews

Sturges' first hit
18 February 2008 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Brian Donlevy is "The Great McGinty" in this 1940 film written and directed by Preston Sturges. The film also stars two men who would become part of the Sturges group of actors, Akim Tamiroff and William Demarest. Muriel Angelus plays McGinty's wife.

Sturges always had interesting beginnings - or ends - to his films. This one begins: One man was always evil and had a moment of honesty; another man was always good and had a moment of evil. They both had to leave the country (paraphrasing). In a foreign country, a bartender tells his story to a suicidal man, an embezzler whom he has just saved, and a woman who works at the establishment. His story is a wild one - he was once governor of a state. As the story unfolds, McGinty - that's the man's name - was a hobo when he was paid $2 to vote to get a man into office. He voted 37 times and attracted the attention of a crooked political boss (Tamiroff) who gets him elected as alderman, mayor, and finally puts him up for governor. Along the way, he marries his secretary (Angelus) in order to have the appearance of a stable, good man. It's a marriage of convenience - she has two children and a dachshund. But he falls in love with all of them, and with her encouragement, decides to turn his back on the graft and the stealing and start thinking of the people. That's when he gets into trouble.

"The Great McGinty" isn't a crazy comedy like "The Miracle of Morgan's Creek" or "The Palm Beach Story." The humor comes out of the fact that this bum rises to the office of mayor and locks horns with the big boss. The best scenes are between Tamiroff and Donlevy, who work beautifully together, particularly when they're trying to kill one another. Though one of the last scenes is a sad one, Sturges gives us our smiles back with the last moments of the film.

Brian Donlevy, who is usually in a supporting role, does a terrific job as McGinty - tough and belligerent, but with a kind side even he didn't know he had. Donlevy repeated his role of McGinty in "The Miracle of Morgan's Creek" in a cameo. Muriel Angelus, a British leading lady who retired to raise a family in 1946, is lovely as Mrs. McGinty, who never wanted to get married again and then falls in love with her husband. Tamiroff makes a powerful "Boss" who has a volatile relationship with his puppet, who sometimes gets out of his strings. An excellent movie that pokes fun at political machinery and behind the scenes plotting. It also shows us what can happen when a little love comes into our lives.

7 of 8 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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