The Great McGinty (1940)

Approved  |   |  Comedy  |  23 August 1940 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.5/10 from 2,247 users  
Reviews: 32 user | 24 critic

Dan McGinty has great success in his chosen field of crooked politics. But endangers it all in one crazy moment of honesty...



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Muriel Angelus ...
Catherine McGinty
Skeeters - The Politician
Louis Jean Heydt ...
Tommy Thompson
Harry Rosenthal ...
Louie (bodyguard)
Arthur Hoyt ...
Libby Taylor ...
Bessy (maid)
Thurston Hall ...
Mr. Maxwell
Steffi Duna ...
The Dancing Girl
Esther Howard ...
Madame Juliette La Jolla
Frank Moran ...
The Boss' Chauffeur (as Frank C. Moran)
Jimmy Conlin ...
The Lookout
Dewey Robinson ...
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 <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


HE'LL TAKE YOU...and MAKE YOU LAUGH! (original poster) See more »




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Release Date:

23 August 1940 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Biograhy of a Bum  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


Brian Donlevy and Akim Tamiroff reprised their roles as Governor McGinty and The Boss in Preston Sturges's The Miracle of Morgan's Creek (1944). In the film, McGinty and The Boss provide a retroactive marriage license for Betty Hutton and Eddie Bracken. 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 »


Featured in 100 Years of Comedy (1997) See more »


Written by Richard A. Whiting and Leo Robin
Played on piano
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User Reviews

Preston Sturges' satire on political corruption is unevenly paced, but with Akim Tamiroff as "The Boss," it is a lot of fun.
17 November 1998 | by (Pine Grove, California) – See all my reviews

Preston Sturges couldn't get any studio interested in doing his "Story of a Man," nor could he even get it published when it was retitled "Biography of a Bum," so he offered it to Paramount for $10 on condition he could direct it. It was an offer the studio bosses couldn't refuse and it paved the way for other writers, such as John Huston, to take control of their own work by directing its film production. The script, which won an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, has some extremely funny moments, with almost all of them involving Akim Tamiroff, who steals the movie as "The Boss," the man who pulls the political strings in the entire state. He is the perfect counterpoint to the rather bland Brian Donlevy, who is in the title role, as a bum who votes thirty seven times in an election for mayor to get the two dollars per vote. This makes a deep impression on Tamiroff, who likes his chutzpa, and eventually runs him for alderman, then mayor, and finally governor. The pace of the film is slow at its start, but picks up when Donlevy starts his story (in flashback) until he's elected mayor, and then slows down again. The condition that he marry to win any election begins his downfall, because he marries his secretary, Muriel Angelus, who wants him to do great things and eliminate the graft in politics. Although it's a marriage of convenience, he falls in love and wants to please her. And you see what she means when Tamiroff is all smiles as he says, greeting the new governor: "What a wonderful opportunity. This state needs everything. ... We'll need - you'll kiss me for this - a new dam. ... You think a dam is something you put a lot of water in. A dam is something you put a lot of concrete in. And it doesn't matter how much you put in there's always room for a lot more. ..." The level of writing is first rate, but I wish there were no flashbacks in the screenplay construction, since you know how it ends from the start. I've always felt the flashback construction in nine out of ten films is detrimental to their enjoyment. The supporting cast includes William Demarest, who has the classic line "If you didn't have graft, you'd have a lower class of people in politics!" Muriel Angelus was and is a relatively unknown actress who quit making movies after 1940. Sturges had severe budget constraints and couldn't use high salaried actors, which would have benfited the film.

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