Power And Cynicism: The Preston Sturges Film, “The Great McGinty”

The Great McGinty (1940) is not a great movie but it’s pure Preston Sturges, which means it’s fanciful and personal.  “It has mainly to do with the rise through city politics from soup line to Governor’s mansion of a toughie (Brian Donlevy) who learns very fast” (Otis Ferguson, who describes the premise better than I could).  The film tells us a number of things:  1)  if crooked people in a democracy want political power, they will get it; 2) cynicism is rife enough in American politics to crowd out idealism; and 3) unscrupulous men are frequently tamed by marriage and family.

Written, of course, by Sturges, as well as his first directorial effort, what McGinty is is Ring Lardner with heart and a bit of slapstick.  Not much heart, though, because the film is darkly acerbic.  Yet, too, it is “quite a lot of fun” (Ferguson again).

The Great McGinty
The Great McGinty (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


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