Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Tuesday's Overlooked Movies: The Great McGinty

Well, I’m slowly working my way through Preston Sturges’s movies. THE GREAT McGINTY, from 1940, is the first film he both wrote and directed. The story is told in flashback by a bartender in a nightclub in some unnamed “banana republic” and concerns the rise and fall of a political fixer named Dan McGinty who goes from a hand-to-mouth existence as a hobo to being elected governor of the also unnamed state where the story takes place.

One weakness of the plot, or at least it seems like that to me, is that the viewer knows right from the start the bartender is McGinty. That sort of kills any suspense about what’s going to happen. And the ending is so limp that Livia and I both said, “Is that it?”

Despite all that, THE GREAT McGINTY is worth watching because of the performances and Sturges’s dialogue. The plot may not hold together very well, but good actors and good dialogue can salvage a lot. I’ve never been a big fan of Brian Donlevy, although he’s great as the brutal Sergeant Markoff in BEAU GESTE, but he’s really good as Dan McGinty, too, especially in the scenes where he’s not sporting his usual pencil-thin mustache. Akim Tamiroff is the head of the corrupt political machine behind McGinty, and the great William Demarest is one of his henchmen. I’d never heard of Muriel Angelus, who plays the secretary who winds up marrying McGinty (in fact, this was her last film before she retired after a short career in movies), but she’s not the typical leading lady of the era and is quite effective in the role.

I had a few problems with the plot of HAIL THE CONQUERING HERO, the other Sturges movie I’ve watched recently, but I liked it overall and I liked THE GREAT McGINTY, too, well enough that I’m sure in due time I’ll get around to the other Preston Sturges movies I haven’t seen.


pattinase (abbott) said...

I haven't seen this one since childhood. On the whole, I love this films.

stacy said...

most of th 40s/50s films have weak endings. some would end abruptly that I would go 'what? that's the ending?'