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!

“Star Of The Month (August 2021)” Featuring Barbara Stanwyck in… The Great Man’s Lady (1942)

As we keep celebrating Barbara Stanwyck as the Star Of The Month, we’ve got another one of her films where she was paired with Joel McCrea, The Great Man’s Lady from 1942!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Pinto Pink (1967)

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

(Length: 6 minutes, 5 seconds)

The Pink Panther is trying to hitchhike across the country, when he spots a horse and decides to try riding him.  This is a rather funny one, with the main source of humor being the Panther’s failed attempts to get on the horse.  Of course, the horse is stubborn and foils the Panther’s attempts, frequently giving him the horse laugh.  I enjoyed this one from start to finish, and it’s one I don’t mind coming back to every now and then for a good laugh (or several)!

And Now For The Main Feature…

The commemoration of a statue to Ethan Hoyt, the founder of Hoyt City, sends a flock of reporters to the home of Hannah Sempler, an old woman who claims to be connected to Ethan.  However, she turns everybody away.  Everybody, that is, except a young lady (Katharine Stevens) looking to write a biography about Ethan.  So, Hannah decides to tell her life story.  She turns the clock back to 1848, when Hannah (Barbara Stanwyck) met Ethan (Joel McCrea).  At that time, she was a young lady engaged to another man (mostly at her father’s insistence).  Ethan was trying to convince her father to invest in his idea to build a city dedicated to his father out west.  Her father turns him down, but Hannah is thrilled by Ethan and his enthusiasm, so she decides to run away with him and get married.  Everything is rough for them out west, but she takes to being a homesteader as best as she can.  When attempts to raise money for Ethan’s dream of Hoyt City fail, they decide to pack up and go to Sacramento, California.  However, in trying to raise money for the trip, Ethan loses it all to gambler Steely Edwards (Brian Donlevy).  When she sees men taking everything away, Hannah goes to Steely privately to win it all back.  He is instantly infatuated with her, and, although she wins everything back, he accompanies them out to Sacramento.  There, Hannah runs a boarding house, while Ethan works at a mine in Virginia City, trying to find some gold.  One night, Ethan comes back, feeling quite discouraged.  However, as Hannah quickly realizes, his boots are covered in silver, so she borrows some money from Steely so that Ethan can afford to go back and mine it.  Ethan wants her to come with him, but she refuses.  He doesn’t know it yet, but she is pregnant, a fact she is keeping a secret at the moment so that he can achieve his dream of Hoyt City without worrying about her or the baby.  Ethan, of course, is suspicious that she just wants to stay with Steely, and, since she won’t reveal her real reason, he promises not to come back to her.  Later on (after she has given birth to twins), a torrential flood threatens Sacramento, and all the citizens attempt to evacuate. Steely helps get her and the twins on a stagecoach bound for Virginia City, but along the way, a flash flood washes it off a bridge. Steely later finds the now-dead twins and buries them. Since he didn’t find Hannah, he assumes she died as well, and goes to Virginia City to tell Ethan. Upon learning the news, Ethan shoots Steely, blaming him for his wife’s death. Steely survives being shot (although Ethan doesn’t know this), and eventually returns to Sacramento. There, he finds Hannah in her old boarding house, and tells her that Ethan has remarried. She decides to let Ethan believe her to be dead, and goes with Steely to San Francisco. Will Hannah and Ethan ever be reunited? (I’d also ask if Ethan will ever achieve his dreams, but the film’s opening kind of gives that away, so we’ll let that one go.)

The old saying goes “Behind every great man is a great woman,” and, in this movie, that role is definitely being filled by Barbara Stanwyck’s character! In what was the fifth of six collaborations with Joel McCrea, she portrays a woman who falls in love, and continually pushes her significant other to do better and be a better person. Of course, Barbara also shows us the human side of that equation, as we see her struggle with the results of that push, whether it be when she pushes him to go back to the mine (even though she is pregnant), or when she has to stay away, especially after losing her children. I do admit, the early part of the film, when she portrays a teenager, is pushing it a little, but that’s only because she doesn’t look that young (as I’d certainly say that her performance even then is still good). Of course, she also portrays the much older Hannah as well, and, for that, Barbara supposedly studied residents of nursing homes. It worked, as I certainly found her convincing!

The film’s story came from Viña Delmar’s short story “The Human Side,” which had been published in Hearst’s International-Cosmopolitan in 1939. I personally found this movie to be quite riveting, from start to finish! Barbara Stanwyck was certainly the film’s big appeal for me, but I think the rest of the cast worked quite well for me, too! Joel McCrea’s performance as Ethan Hoyt was interesting, since we saw him with his big ideas and dreams for the future. When on his own, he sometimes struggled with his dreams, and was sometimes willing to cut corners, but Stanwyck’s Hannah was there to push him not to take the easy way, and to help nudge him in the right direction. Brian Donlevy’s Steely Edwards was also worth watching, as a gambler (and con) who takes all Ethan’s money, only to meet Hannah, and fall in love with her. Yet, in spite of the presence of the love triangle, he realizes she loves Ethan, and tries to take care of her without trying to take Ethan’s place. This was a very heartwarming (and, to a degree, sad) story, and it’s one I look forward to revisiting in the future! (So, yes, I would recommend it!)

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2020) with… The Great Man’s Lady (1942)

This movie is available on Blu-ray as part of the three film Barbara Stanwyck Collection from Kino Lorber Studio Classics.  This film’s HD scan looks pretty good.  There is some dust and dirt here and there, but it’s very minor, and easily forgotten.  It’s no full-blown restoration, but I’ll take it, as it’s the best this almost forgotten film is likely to appear for some time.  So, I would definitely recommend it!

Film Length: 1 hour, 31 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

The Lady Eve (1941)Barbara StanwyckChristmas In Connecticut (1945)

Sullivan’s Travels (1941) – Joel McCrea – The Palm Beach Story (1942)

The Great McGinty (1940) – Brian Donlevy

Internes Can’t Take Money (1937) – Barbara Stanwyck Collection – The Bride Wore Boots (1946)

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!

Film Legends Of Yesteryear (2019): 1939 on… Jesse James (1939)

Now that it’s 2019, let’s start off the 80th anniversary of many movies from 1939 with the movie Jesse James, starring Tyrone Power in the title role and Henry Fonda as his brother Frank James.

The railroad is going around buying up people’s land (and not exactly honestly, either). When they come to the home of the James family, they find they are not able to make them sell the land. They try to get the James brothers arrested, but when they run, the house gets destroyed while their mother is in it. This sets Jesse and his brother off on a crusade to rob the railroad. Jesse’s girlfriend, Zerelda “Zee” Cobb convinces him to marry her and turn himself in in exchange for a light sentence. However, once he is in jail, the railroad president tries to change things around so that he would be hanged. Frank helps him escape from jail, and Zee joins them as they go on the run. However, when she gives birth to Jesse’s son, she decides to come home. Jesse lets her, but then starts taking more chances, and makes enemies even of friends that had supported him previously.

I enjoyed this movie very much. To me, it seems like it starts out as a “Robin Hood”-type story, with the railroad people taking the land from the farmers, and Jesse James and his brother start to fight back, with the support of the people. Then the movie diverges, warning about Jesse getting so used to robbing that that might be all he can do. Zee realizes this, and tries to get him to turn himself in. After some thought, he is willing to do so. However, when he does turn himself in, the president of the railroad decides to break his own promise and try to hang him. In the process, he just makes the situation worse, not just for himself, but everybody (of course, this shouldn’t be a surprise, considering what the men he sent to buy the land from the farmers were doing under his leadership). One can only imagine how much better the situation would have been (in the movie) if the bank president had only been a better leader overall, not just in his dealings with the James brothers, but with all the other landowners as well.

Now, I don’t know enough about Jesse James to know how historically accurate this movie is. I know one of Jesse’s real-life granddaughters was hired as a technical advisor for the movie, but I have otherwise heard that the movie is still inaccurate. Personally, I don’t really care, as I enjoy this movie very much. I mainly watched it for Tyrone Power in the title role, as I have seen a few of his other movies, and enjoyed them (and this movie being from 1939, long considered to be one of the best years in Hollywood, certainly helps). I do know that this movie had a sequel, The Return Of Frank James, with Henry Fonda reprising his role as Frank James, but I have yet to see this movie. But I do recommend Jesse James to anybody curious enough to try it!

The movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Twentieth Century Fox.

Film Length: 1 hour, 46 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Tyrone Power – The Mark Of Zorro (1940)

Spawn Of The North (1938) – Henry Fonda – Young Mr. Lincoln (1939)

Brian Donlevy – The Great McGinty (1940)

A Christmas Carol (1938) – Gene Lockhart – The Sea Wolf (1941)

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!