The Great McGinty
|The Great McGinty|
UK theatrical poster
|Directed by||Preston Sturges|
|Produced by||Buddy G. DeSylva (uncredited)|
|Written by||Preston Sturges|
|Music by||Frederick Hollander
John Leipold (uncredited)
|Cinematography||William C. Mellor|
|Editing by||Hugh Bennett|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Release date(s)||August 15, 1940
August 23 (general)
|Running time||83 minutes|
The Great McGinty is a 1940 political satire comedy film written and directed by Preston Sturges, starring Brian Donlevy and Akim Tamiroff and featuring William Demarest and Muriel Angelus. It was Sturges's first film as a director; he sold the story to Paramount Pictures for just $1 on condition he direct the film. Sturges went on to win the Academy Award for Writing Original Screenplay.
In the U.K. the film was retitled Down Went McGinty.
Dan McGinty (Brian Donlevy) is a bartender in a banana republic who recounts his rise and fall to the bar's dancing girl and an exiled American down on his luck. McGinty's career begins when he was a tramp who, cajoled into voting under a false name in order to get $2, he impresses a local political boss (Akim Tamiroff) by voting thirty-seven times in a rigged mayoral election. McGinty becomes one of the boss's enforcers, then his political protégé, makes a marriage of convenience, wins the mayor's job as a "reform" candidate, then goes on to the governor's mansion before a change of heart compels him to take public service seriously after he and his wife finally fall in love.
His past catches up with him though: he is imprisoned in the next cell to his former mentor. The two men escape and go into exile together, but are still given to violent disagreements.
- Brian Donlevy as Daniel McGinty
- Muriel Angelus as Catherine McGinty
- Akim Tamiroff as The Boss
- Allyn Joslyn as George
- William Demarest as The Politician
- Louis Jean Heydt as Tommy Thompson
- Harry Rosenthal as Louie
- Arthur Hoyt as Mayor Wilfred T. Tillinghast
- Libby Taylor as Bessy
- Thurston Hall as Mr. Maxwell
- Steffi Duna as The Dancing Girl
- Both Donlevy and Tamiroff reprised their roles in Sturges' 1944 comedy The Miracle of Morgan's Creek.
- This was the first film directed by Preston Sturges, and in it he used many of the actors who became part of his unofficial "stock company", a troupe of character actors within the studio system. Appearing in McGinty are: George Anderson, Jimmy Conlin, William Demarest, Byron Foulger, Harry Hayden, Esther Howard, Arthur Hoyt, George Melford, Charles R. Moore, Frank Moran, Emory Parnell, Victor Potel, Dewey Robinson, Harry Rosenthal and Robert Warwick.
- This was the third film written by Preston Sturges that William Demarest appeared in, after Diamond Jim (1935) and Easy Living (1937), and he would go on to do seven others (see note).
- Jo Ann Sayers was originally scheduled to play Catherine McGinty, and was borrowed from MGM, but she was not found to be satisfactory and was replaced.
- Tamiroff's malaprop-laced performance inspired the cartoon character Boris Badenov, the male half of the villainous husband-and-wife team Boris and Natasha on The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. Sturges used Tamiroff's character to skewer one of Hollywood's hoariest practices when he repeatedly pleads, "Don't make me say everything twice, will you?"
- Heydt had starred in the Broadway production of Sturges' first big success, "Strictly Dishonorable."
The Great McGinty had numerous working titles: "The Story of a Man", "The Vagrant", "The Mantle of Dignity", "The Biography of a Bum", and "Down Went McGinty", (which was used for the film's release in the U.K). Sturges had written the original story, "The Story of a Man", in 1933 with Spencer Tracy in mind. According to film historian Kevin Brownlow, Sturges was inspired by the career of William Sulzer, who was impeached and removed from office as governor of New York.
After trying to sell the story to Universal in 1935, and the Saturday Evening Post in 1938 under the title Biography of a Bum, Sturges finally sold it to Paramount on August 19, 1939 for $10 on the condition that he be allowed to direct it. Sturges at that time was the highest paid screenwriter in Hollywood, so it's not surprising that Paramount agreed, but they also covered themselves by giving Sturges a modest budget of $350,000, a three-week shooting schedule, and inexpensive stars to work with.
Production on the film was delayed to allow Akim Tamiroff to do The Way of All Flesh, but it began on December 15, 1939. Sturges contracted pneumonia during filming, and required a nurse to attend to him on the set. Production stopped on January 25, 1940 with one day's shooting left to do, which was accomplished on April 15, after the first cut of the film had already been made.
It was released on video in the U.S. on April 7, 1988, and re-released on June 30, 1993.
Brian Donlevy appeared in a Philip Morris Playhouse radio adaptation in 1942 on the CBS radio network, the August 27, 1945 episode of The Screen Guild Theater and in the April 20, 1946 episode of Academy Award Theater. It was also adapted to the October 12, 1947 episode of the Ford Theatre and a May 11, 1952 Screen Guild Theater starring Broderick Crawford. Donlevy also appeared in a television adaptation on Lux Video Theatre, broadcast on 28 April 1955, with Thomas Gomez and Jesse White. The director was Earl Eby and Preston Sturges' screenplay was adapted by S.H. Barnett.
Paramount considered a remake of the film starring Bing Crosby in 1950, and in 1954 with Bob Hope, but decided against both.
Awards and honors
- Christmas in July (1940), Sullivan's Travels (1941), The Lady Eve (1941), The Palm Beach Story (1942), The Miracle of Morgan's Creek (1944), Hail the Conquering Hero (1944) and The Great Moment (1944).
- TCM Notes
- Feaster, Felicia "The Great McGinty" (TCM article)
- Erickson, Hal Plot synopsis (Allmovie)
- IMDB Release dates
- James Curtis, Between Flops: A Biography of Preston Sturges, Limelight, 1984 p135
- Lux Video Theatre: The Great McGinty at the Internet Movie Database
- Allmovie Awards
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: The Great McGinty|
- The Great McGinty at the Internet Movie Database
- The Great McGinty at the TCM Movie Database
- The Great McGinty at AllRovi
- The Great McGinty on Screen Guild Theater: August 27, 1945
- The Great McGinty on Academy Award Theater: April 20, 1946