The Great McGinty

The Great McGinty: written and directed by Preston Sturges; starring Brian Donlevy (Dan McGinty), Muriel Angelus (Catherine McGinty), Akim Tamiroff (The Boss) and William Demarest (Skeeters) (1940): Zippy political comedy from the great writer-director Preston Sturges. Indeed, this was his first directorial effort, and it won the Oscar for best screenplay.

Set in a city that seems an awful lot like Chicago but is never named, The Great McGinty shows the rise and fall of, well, Dan McGinty. We first see him as a grifter and a drifter. But once he attracts the eye of backroom political power The Boss, McGinty’s rise to the governorship of his state is assured.

Political corruption is taken as a given in this movie, which may surprise people who are unaware that political corruption wasn’t created in the year 2000. Sturges was something of a cynic, though he held out hope that a person’s good nature could be put to decent use, just so long as that person didn’t end up owing the wrong people money.

Brian Donlevy is solid as the tough, hard-luck McGinty, and Muriel Angelus is mostly fine as his secretary/wife-of-convenience, though her odd mid-Atlantic accent can occasionally distract one from what she’s saying. Akim Tamiroff blusters, sweats, and yells entertainingly as The Boss, the Eastern European mobster with a heart of lead. This isn’t Sturges’ best film performing double duty, but it is fun and entertaining and blessedly short and fast-moving, clocking in at under 90 minutes. Recommended.

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