Entertainment » Movies

The Great McGinty

by Sam Cohen
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Tuesday Jan 14, 2020
The Great McGinty

Can you truly go from being a crook to living a life of honesty? What Preston Sturges' debut feature presupposes is that you can, although those good decisions won't negate a lifetime of dishonesty. Sturges was best known for comedies with a cracking sense of wit, madcap sensibility and genuine attention to social trappings. In his first film, 1940's "The Great McGinty," the filmmaker hit the ground running and made a mark on American cinema that can still be felt. And with a stunning new 4K master on a new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber and their Studio Classics label, this underappreciated film is rightfully up for reevaluation. As with Sturge's best works, it's a timely and zany narrative that packs so much into its short running time.

The story is set in a seedy bar in the Banana Republic. As a club dancer attempts to woo a drunk man trying to forget about his troubles, the bartender regales them with a story about how he ended up at that bar. The bartender's name is Dan McGinty (Brian Donlevy), who once held the position of Governor of New York after scheming his way through the ranks of the political machine with his compadre, a crooked man nicknamed "The Boss" (Akim Tamiroff). The two met when Dan was a simple homeless man on the streets of New York City. Dan was helping The Boss rig the current mayoral election by voting for The Boss' preferred candidate a total of 37 times. Soon, The Boss helps Dan rise up through the political ranks and change policies to serve The Boss' crooked dealings.

The real fiery claim that Sturges makes about the political machine is that it can't be changed, no matter how honest you are. It's not owned by the representatives, just the shadowy bosses behind them. The thrills, though, are in watching Dan try to change his stripes and go straight. When we first meet his character, he's hardened and caustic to whoever he meets, which is understandable given that he's a homeless man. But through his relationship with Catherine (Muriel Angelus), a wife he gained through an organized marriage, his conscience starts to take the forefront. Not because of Catherine's influence, but because Dan's life slows down just enough for his hardened exterior to become completely stripped. But as in classic Sturges form, those niceties are nothing in the face of industry.

"The Great McGinty" gets a very sturdy video presentation on this new Blu-ray, although the nicks and bumps from wherever the restoration was sourced from are quite noticeable. Luckily, this does nothing to harm the experience of watching the film. While there aren't many special features included, I highly recommend this release if you're a fan of Sturges or 40s-era comedies with an acidic wit. Special features include:

• Audio commentary with film historian Samm Deighan
• Theatrical trailer

"The Great McGinty"
Kino Lorber Blu-ray

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