Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2021) on… The Great McGinty (1940)

Here and there this year, I’ve been looking into films that were either written by Preston Sturges or written AND directed by him, and I’m back for another movie he wrote/directed with the 1940 film The Great McGinty starring Brian Donlevy, Muriel Angelus and Akim Tamiroff!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Sky Blue Pink (1968)

(available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of The Pink Panther Cartoon Collection: Volume 2 (1966-1968) from Kino Lorber)

(Length: 6 minutes, 11 seconds)

The Pink Panther tries to fly a kite, but keeps causing trouble for the Little Man. It’s a fun cartoon, with a mix of things going wrong (hilariously) for the Panther, and his actions having unintended consequences (also quite funny) that keep affecting the Little Man. Of course, the Little Man’s frustration with the Panther grows, resulting in him actively going after the Panther by short’s end. The gags all work pretty well for me, and make this one quite easy to revisit for a few good laughs!

And Now For The Main Feature…

At a soup kitchen, some crooked politicians try to recruit some homeless men to vote for the incumbent mayor Wilfred H. Tillinghast (Arthur Hoyt) in various precincts by offering two dollars per vote. One enterprising man, Dan McGinty (Brian Donlevy), goes off and votes thirty-seven times. This act catches the eye of the local political Boss (Akim Tamiroff), who hires him to extort protection money from various people. Eventually, McGinty becomes an alderman. When the mayor and many other politicians are caught in corruption, the Boss, who has a hand in every political party, decides to pick McGinty to be the next mayor as part of the reform party. The problem for McGinty? The Boss wants him married so that he can have the women’s vote. McGinty turns him down, until he talks with his secretary, Catherine (Muriel Angelus), who suggests a sham marriage so that he can get the women’s vote, and he agrees. After they get married, he learns that she has two children from a previous marriage, but decides to stick around anyways, since it’s not a “real” marriage for them. It’s all enough for him to be elected as the mayor, and he continues in his unscrupulous ways. However, after nearly six months of marriage, he finds that he does indeed love Catherine and her children. This love results in her starting to express her more idealistic politics to him, as she hopes that he will develop more of a conscience. McGinty is reluctant to follow through, as he feels that he doesn’t have enough power as the mayor to buck the Boss. Will he eventually have enough power to go against the Boss’ wishes? Or will he continue his unscrupulous ways in spite of his wife and family?

Preston Sturges wrote the story under the title The Story Of A Man way back as far as 1933, intending it as a vehicle for Spencer Tracy. When that failed, he tried to sell it to the Saturday Evening Post (but they didn’t want it, either). Up to that point, he had been writing his stories for the various studios he worked at, but he didn’t always like what the directors did with his films, and longed to direct them himself. After Remember The Night, he made the decision to direct his scripts himself. He tried selling The Story Of A Man to Paramount Studios at the low price of $10, on the condition that he, and only he, was to be the one who would direct it. They agreed, giving him a budget of $350,000, a three-week shooting schedule, and some of their more inexpensive stars. The movie wasn’t a big hit, but it did well enough that Preston Sturges was given the chance to keep working as a director.

I’m coming off my first time seeing this film, and going into it, I really had no idea what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised by a decent movie. Sure, there are no big stars here, but, in some respects, that works much better, as you can see them as the actual characters much easier. I can’t deny that, in spite of its age, this film still feels quite relevant with regard to the world of politics. The political rallies shown certainly haven’t changed, with one rally complaining about the other candidate and their corruption, while the other (led in this film by Skeeters the Politician, as played by Sturges regular William Demarest) builds up his candidate and all the “things he has done for the people.” Watching Brian Donlevy’s Dan McGinty as he goes from being completely unscrupulous to gaining a conscience as he listens to his wife is a fascinating story. I’ll admit, the fights between McGinty and Akim Tamiroff’s Boss character are some of the most amusing parts of the story (especially how indifferent those around them are to the fights). I do think that some of Preston Sturges’ later comedies like The Lady Eve and The Palm Beach Story are far better, but I enjoyed this film a lot (and I certainly hope to get a chance at some point to see The Miracle Of Morgan Creek with Brian Donlevy and Akim Tamiroff reprising their characters). I would definitely recommend this one!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2020) with… The Great McGinty (1940)

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber Studio Classics coming from a new 4K master. My own opinion here is that this new transfer looks quite good! The detail is quite superb, and the picture has been cleaned up of a lot of dirt and debris. There are some shots that don’t look *quite* as good as everything else, but I suspect those are due to available elements and/or the way the film was originally put together. Certainly not something that would stop me from recommending a wonderful release of this entertaining movie!

Film Length: 1 hour, 22 minutes

My Rating: 8/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Jesse James (1939) – Brian Donlevy – The Great Man’s Lady (1942)

Spawn Of The North (1938) – Akim Tamiroff – Can’t Help Singing (1944)

As an Amazon Affiliate, this site gets a small percentage for every purchase made upon using one of the Amazon links, even if it’s not the movie I linked to (and it’s at no extra cost to you). If you like what I’m doing with the blog, please consider using them so that I can continue to do more!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.