Guest Movie Review: The Great McGinty (1940)

eliBy Eli Sanchez
Guest Contributor
Silver Screen Capture

greatmcgintyPreston Sturges’ political satire The Great McGinty (B+) follows the rising career of down-and-out breadline dependent Daniel McGinty (Brian Donlevy) who gets offered food and a job committing voter fraud at thirty-seven different polling locations. After this act, “The Boss” (Akim Tamiroff) recruits him as hired muscle, and McGinty starts working his way up in the graft scheme in politics. McGinty’s rise is initially as city alderman, then he is thrust comically into the limelight as “the reform candidate” for mayor. He’s pushed into marriage with a woman he’s friendly with (Muriel Angelus) who already has a ready built-in family in order to gain the female vote. The film is mainly told in flashbacks with McGinty tending bar and seemingly returning to his lower-class roots while speaking to a drunk intent on killing himself and one of the dancers who works at his bar. Donlevy of Beau Geste and Glass Key was largely a supporting player; but in this film, he gets to take on a lead role and shows some solid chops as a rags-to-riches drifter turned politician. Tamiroff is just as impressive as the pugnaciously sinister boss who tries to manipulate McGinty throughout. Angelus is a treat as the sympathetic and dutiful wife. The film has touches of social commentary on the political mood at the time but also paints the crooked wheel-greasers that are behind the scenes as heavily contentious coworkers who would just as soon kill each other as work together as partners.

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I've reviewed films for more than 20 years. Current movie reviews of new theatrical releases and direct-to-video or streaming films are added weekly to the Silver Screen Capture movie news site. Many capsule critiques originally appeared in expanded form in my syndicated Lights Camera Reaction column.

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Posted in 1940, Eli Sanchez

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