|"The Great McGinty": Some Honest Deceit|
|By Michael S. Goldberger, iBerkshires Film Critic|
06:06PM / Friday, August 07, 2020
I wish that I were reviewing one of the half-dozen movies certain to be made when this pox upon our house is no more. But until that glorious return to normality has us resuming all the simple joys of life we take for granted, like going to the movies, I'll be retro-reviewing and thereby sharing with you the films that I've come to treasure over the years, most of which can probably be retrieved from one of the movie streaming services. It is my fondest hope that I've barely put a dent into this trove when they let the likes of me back into the Bijou.
"You Can Fool All of the People Some of the Time. And Some of the People all the Time. But You Cannot Fool All the People all of the Time …. (attributed to A. Lincoln)
As outraged folks across America champ at the bit to right the wrongs of the last four years on Nov. 3, 2020, and make America Good Again, there are concerns that Trump, for fear of being stopped in his mad rampage to assume total dictatorial control, will try anything. Rest assured the fiendish scheming is unhampered by any ethical concerns. Only the will of a rightfully disgusted population aware that our very democracy rests with their conscientious resolve can drop the curtain on the veritable horror show that's disguised itself as a presidency.
Thus, while we dedicate ourselves to the truth that now is the time for all good men and women to come to the aid of their country, not as the typing drill borrowed from Patrick Henry's imploring, but in its original intent, viewing "The Great McGinty" (1940) is here endorsed.
Penned and directed by the socio-politically astute Preston Sturges, not only is this parable of a hobo's rise to the pinnacle of machine politics successful in exposing the backroom to glaringly divulging light, but it's Twainishly satirical.
A good laugh while mentally arming yourself for whatever dastardly, underhanded treachery Trump and his flying monkey acolytes may attempt to dupe those still susceptible to his Big Lie Baloney, might very well prove a salubrious bolster to your much-needed steadfastness. Who's to say that even Lafayette didn't take a break from his strategizing to see a heart-lightening show at whatever Parisian amusement preceded the frolic of the Moulin Rouge?
Brian Donlevy is stellar as Dan McGinty, a tramp who has seemingly sprung from nowhere when he wanders into the campaign headquarters of Mayor Wilfred H. Tillinghast looking for some free eats. It's there he learns he can make a quick buck by voting for the, er, honorable mayor. Psst. The fix is in. And getting hip to the electoral jive, he not only cashes in after voting 37 times, but wins the ambitious approval of Akim Tamiroff's The Boss, a thieving plotter whose emanation from Eastern European despotism has prepped him for a career in circumventing democracy.
Aside from good looks and determination, the victim of the Great Depression who has suddenly found his calling, also impresses The Boss because he can handle his mitts. Informing that there's too much rod play in the city of late, Tamiroff's kingmaker explains to McGinty that it brings in a bad element. Besides, "Take away his rod and what have you got? A violet."
The resulting confederacy leads to Dan running for mayor which, naturally, paves the way for Cupid's entrance into the political process. It's 1940 and no self-respecting voter will pull the lever for a bachelor. Hence, enters stage right the pretty and genteel Muriel Angelus's Catherine, McGinty's widowed secretary and mom of one who offers a marriage of convenience. Of course, she has a crush on the lug and thinks he's made of much finer stuff than he himself believes. But shh, for now.
In the meantime, though secretly an idealist with high hopes for her in-name-only spouse, this daughter of a political pundit serves as winsome afflatus for the blossoming baby-kisser. The following repartee she engages in with William Demarest's dese and dems political operative, Skeeters, done for McGinty's benefit, represents the part of the review where I glance the gist and ruin it for you just a little bit.
Skeeters: If it wasn't for graft, you'd get a very low type of people in politics. Men without ambition. Jellyfish.
Catherine: Especially since you can't rob the people anyway.
Skeeters: Sure. How was that?
Catherine: What you rob, you spend, and what you spend goes back to the people. So, where's the robbery? I read that in one of my father's books.
Skeeters: That book should be in every home.
The thing is, auteur Sturges' culture of Runyonesque political scoundrels, affable because of their candid dismissal of the rules, haven't, like their real-life counterparts now holding sway, abandoned all sense of decency for the sort of tyrannical power that scripture decries. No amount of the Kool-Aid that's infested the water supply on the right side of D.C. for the last four years could make them rationalize abrogating all morality and, for fear of angering the President, stay mum while tens of thousands die at the hands of their selfish equivocating. The Boss and his ilk are rogues and resourceful rascals, but not murderers.
Still, Sturges' hilariously witty primer on corruption isn't so politely naïve to suggest that the fit of conscience McGinty predictably experiences through Catherine's encouragement won't be punished. Noble works demand bravery. Look at the protesters in the streets of late, risking their lives against anonymous goons for just their Constitutionally guaranteed fair shake, and not the riches their oppressors so zealously clutch. It is the honesty about deceit that makes McGinty great.
"The Great McGinty," a Paramount Pictures release directed by Preston Sturges, stars Brian Donlevy, Muriel Angelus and Akim Tamiroff. Running time: 82 minutes