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With: Brian Donlevy, Akim Tamiroff, Allyn Joslyn, William Demarest, Arthur Hoyt, Muriel Angelus
Written by: Preston Sturges
Directed by: Preston Sturges
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 82
Date: 08/15/1940

The Great McGinty (1940)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Politically Incorrect

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Preston Sturges's directorial debut is perhaps better known for its origin story. After years of watching his screenplays needlessly butchered by others, Sturges offered The Great McGinty to Universal for only $10 on the condition that he be allowed to direct. The movie itself doesn't quite rank with Sturges's best, but it's still very strong, and, sadly, still relevant. (It won an Oscar for Best Screenplay.) It begins with Dan McGinty (Brian Donlevy) working as a bartender. In an attempt to cheer up a depressed customer. He tells his story. He was once a homeless man, who, on election night, is paid to vote 37 times to re-elect the governor. His gumption impresses the Boss (Akim Tamiroff) and McGinty gets a job as a collector and a flashy new suit. Soon, it's decided that McGinty will run for mayor, and he must enter into a fake marriage, with his secretary Catherine (Muriel Angelus), to look good for the voters. He then becomes governor, and continues to do the dirty work the Boss requires of him. But he falls in love for real, decides to do the right thing, and suffers his final downfall. (The original title was "Down Went McGinty.") The movie has only a few real laughs -- Donlevy is fine in the role, but isn't inherently funny -- but Sturges's eye for satire, both political and otherwise, was spot-on. Kino Lorber released this on great-looking Blu-ray in 2020, with a commentary track by historian Samm Deighan, and trailers for four other comedies (including Sturges's great Christmas in July).

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