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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 <email@example.com>
Other titles for this project were "Biography of a Bum" and "Down Went McGinty". 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 »
"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."
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In his debut as a director Preston Sturges turned in one of the brightest political satires ever done for the cinema in The Great McGinty. Sturges allegedly got the idea for the film and the various scenes therein from talking to a judge from Chicago who filled them in one the various shenanigans pulled there back in the day and still being pulled in some parts of the USA.
Preston Sturges though he had a successful Broadway play, The Good Fairy, and had written several sparkling screenplays for Paramount, the moguls that ran Paramount were a bit uneasy about giving him his own film to direct as well as act. The Great McGinty was a B film when it was released, playing the lower half of double features. It had a competent cast of players, but none of them you could say were big box office.
Imagine the surprise the following year when The Great McGinty won an Oscar for Preston Sturges, not for directing, but for Best Original Screenplay in 1940. The Great McGinty returned a tidy profit for a film they had not spent all that much money on. Sturges was given greater autonomy and control after that and for the next four years turned out a series of comedy classics with much larger budgets. But he was in constant warfare with the money people at Paramount for the rest of the time he was there.
The film is told in flashback as Brian Donlevy as a philosophical bartender tells a distraught Louis Jean Heydt his life story after preventing Heydt from shooting himself. There both in an unnamed South American country without extradition to the USA.
Donlevy was the epitome of the American dream as Preston Sturges sees the American dream. In Sturges's view any bum with nerve enough to seize opportunity before him, there's no telling how far he can go in America.
When we meet Donlevy he's exactly that, a hobo. He's on a soup line and ready to earn a few bucks by being a repeat voter for some people who for one reason or other are still on the voting rolls, but just can't make it to the polls. By earning $74.00 a vote by voting 37 times at $2.00 a vote, he comes to the attention of boss Akim Tamiroff.
Though they are immediate antagonists, Tamiroff sees potential in Donlevy and he begins a great political career and then has a very big fall.
Preston Sturges was starting to assemble his stock company of players who were in most of his films at Paramount, like William Demarest, Jimmy Conlin, Robert Grieg, etc. Although Sturges was only at Paramount for four years his stock company rivaled that of John Ford for that brief period.
Seen 67 years after its debut, The Great McGinty is a fresh as the day it was first made. It's dated in that the political bosses like Akim Tamiroff are not what they used to be in the age of information. Still though the ethics or lack thereof are still present in the age of television and the internet.
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