The Great McGinty initiates Preston Sturges into the directing ranks, after a long stretch as a film scenarist. Piloting an original story and screenplay of his own concoction, Sturges displays plenty of ability in accentuating both the comedy and dramatic elements of his material, withal maintaining a consistent pace in the unreeling.
Sturges’ story departs radically from accepted formula. His main character is a tough, rowdy and muscular individual who creates more interest than sympathy in his career as a prototype of many political rascals of the American scene.
Story is unfolded by flashback. Brian Donlevy is introduced as the toughened bartender of a dive in a Central American banana republic. He’s a fugitive from justice, the same as the young bank clerk who absconded with funds in a weak moment. Across the bar Donlevy tells the latter his story – a life of crookedness where the first honest thing he attempted chased him from the country. When he first finds that illegal voting brings coin, he becomes a repeater, gets into favor of political boss (Akim Tamiroff) and gradually rises to positions of alderman, mayor and finally governor of the state.
Portrayal of Donlevy as the slightly-educated political apprentice who learns the ropes fast, and wields his fists at every opportunity, is excellent. Tamiroff clicks as the political boss, while Muriel Angelus provides a charming and warmful personality in the role of the politico’s wife. Bill Demarest provides attention as a political stooge.
1940: Best Original Screenplay