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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?


"The Screen Guild Theater" broadcast a 30 minute radio adaptation of the movie on August 27, 1945 with Brian Donlevy and Akim Tamiroff reprising their film roles. 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 »


Prologue: "This is the story of two men who met in a banana republic. One of them never did anything dishonest in his life except for one crazy minute. The other never did anything honest in his life except for one crazy minute. They both had to get out of the country."
See more »


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

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User Reviews

Preston Sturges Begins His Golden Five Years
9 July 2006 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

In his golden five years 1940-44, Preston Sturges was the writer & director for eight movies for Paramount, ALL GOOD and MOST of them BRILLIANT.

I first came to know these movies when five of them were shown on the BBC at Christmas in the early 1990's, including my personal favourites 'The Lady Eve' and 'The Palm Beach Story'. Since then I have had to wait for the invention of the DVD, and then last year's Preston Sturges DVD box set, when at last I could check out the other three.

Of those three, 'The Great McGinty' was the first movie to be "Written & Directed by Preston Sturges", and has to go into the GOOD rather than the BRILLIANT category. But for his first such project to be so good has got to be seen as a brilliant achievement for Sturges. I know how long he had to wait, and how hard he had to bargain to get that opportunity. He knew he had to succeed, not in his own terms but in those of his bosses at Paramount. In other words he had to bring in an economical movie that was conventional enough to be popular with audiences and critics alike.

The lead, Brian Donleavy plays McGinty as quite a straight character who has comic moments in set pieces with other players. The best comedy of the movie probably comes from Bill Demarest as "the Politician" and especially Akim Tamiroff as "the Boss", who drives the movie and its plot along, as he pushes McGinty and his career forward.

The second movie in the Preston Sturges golden period would be 'Christmas in July', again not one of his brilliant best, but beginning to include more of the lunacy and eccentric characters of a true Preston Sturges movie. By the time of his third project 'The Lady Eve', Sturges would be at the top of his form and the top of his art, and 'The Great McGinty' has to be seen not only as a good movie in itself, but as the first step in that direction.

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