The Great McGinty (1940)

Brian Donlevy and Muriel Angelus
Brian Donlevy and Muriel Angelus

'The Great McGinty' is a political satire with plenty of comedy, made in 1940 By Preston Sturges, who also wrote the screenplay. It stars Brian Donlevy, Akim Tamiroff, Muriel Angelus and William Demarest. The movie won the Oscar for Best Writing Original Screenplay for Sturges. It was named as one of the 10 Best Films of the year by the New York Times.


Brian Donlevy plays Dan McGinty, a barman who tells his life story to two customers in his bar. He recounts how he started as a tramp and through hard work, luck and political chicanery, rises to become first mayor, then alderman and finally state governor. He makes a marriage of convenience, to Cathy, played by Muriel Angelus, but is finally brought down when he starts to try to act in an honest and responsible way.


Preston Sturges

During the 1930's Preston Sturges had made a reputation as a top class scriptwriter, and gained considerable experience creating and writing screenplays for movies such as 'Thirty Day Princess' and 'We Live Again' in 1934, 'Diamond Jim' in 1935 and 'Hotel Haywire' and 'Easy Living' in 1937.

His long term ambition was to become a movie director and 'The Great McGinty' enabled him to do just this. He had written the original story, entitled 'The Story of a Man' in 1933 and tried unsuccessfully, to sell it to Universal Studios. In 1938, with the story retitled 'Biography of a Bum' he sold it to Paramount for just 10 dollars on the condition that he, Preston Sturges, should be the director. His unusual deal paid handsome dividends. The movie was a great success and Sturges went on to become one of the first of Hollywood's great writer/directors, influencing similarly creative Hollywood talents such as Billy Wilder and John Huston.

Shooting began on December 15, 1939 at Paramount Studios in Hollywood and finished on January 25, 1940. The budget was a surprisingly small $350,000.

Susan Hayward and Patricia Morison were also considered for the role of Catherine before Muriel Angelus was chosen.

Main Cast

Brian Donlevy ... Daniel McGinty
Muriel Angelus ... Catherine McGinty
Akim Tamiroff ... The Boss
Allyn Joslyn ... George
William Demarest ... The Politician
Louis Jean Heydt ... Tommy Thompson
Harry Rosenthal ... Louie
Arthur Hoyt ... Mayor Wilfred T. Tillinghast
Libby Taylor ... Bessy
Thurston Hall ... Mr. Maxwell
Steffi Duna ... The Dancing Girl


Director ... Preston Sturges
Producer ... Paul Jones, Buddy G. DeSylva (uncredited)
Screenplay ... Preston Sturges
Music ... Frederick Hollander
Cinematography ... William C. Mellor
Format ... B & W
Distribution Company ... Paramount Pictures
Release date ... August 15, 1940
Running time ... 83 minutes

Academy Awards

One Win:
Best Writing, Original Screenplay ... Preston Sturges