For Reel

The Great McGinty (1940)
July 21, 2012, 6:43 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Preston Sturges

When The Great McGinty premiered in New York in the Fall of 1940, critic Bosley Crowther praised writer/director Preston Sturges’ bitter satire of political corruption, suggesting that it was just the picture that audiences had been craving: “with graver matters to concern us and with a more comfortable sense of civic security, it is sublimely easy to laugh at the shameless tricks and vulgarities of out-and-out political buccaneers.” Even Crowther could not have guessed what Sturges would do for Paramount over the next two years, releasing masterpiece after masterpiece that were more daring, and, in the case of Hail the Conquering Hero, even more cynical in dealing with elected officials. The Great McGinty was the first film that saw Sturges as a director, and the story goes that, after years of trying to get a studio to give him that position, Paramount executives agreed to his demand with the condition that they only pay him $10 for the script. While the film is not upper tier Sturges – containing fewer laughs and not nearly the same energy as The Palm Beach Story or The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek – it is nonetheless a terrifically wry desecration of political corruption, with Sturges’ ultimate punchline being that the elected mayor’s growing sense of morality is what takes the position away from him. Brian Donlevy plays the transition from tramp to wizened public servant with grace, and Muriel Angelus, who plays the woman that he marries for the benefit of his self-image, serves her role as the catalyst for Donlevy’s transformation sublimely.

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