The Great McGinty (1940)

83 mins | Comedy | 23 August 1940

Director:

Preston Sturges

Writer:

Preston Sturges

Producer:

Paul Jones

Cinematographer:

William C. Mellor

Editor:

Hugh Bennett

Production Designers:

Hans Dreier, Earl Hedrick

Production Company:

Paramount Pictures, Inc.
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HISTORY

The working titles of this film were Down Went McGinty , The Story of a Man , The Vagrant , The Mantle of Dignity and The Biography of a Bum . It marked Preston Sturges' directorial debut. According to materials contained in the Preston Sturges Files at the UCLA Library, Sturges wrote the original story, entitled "The Story of a Man," in 1933 with Spencer Tracy in mind. He tried to sell it to Universal in 1935, and in 1938, he tried to sell the story, retitled "Biography of a Bum," to Saturday Evening Post. When that magazine refused the story, Sturges sold it to Paramount for ten dollars on the condition that he be allowed to direct it. The film began production on 15 Dec 1939 and closed down on 25 Jan 1940 with one day left to shoot. The final scenes were shot on 15 Apr 1940, after the first cut had been made. According to a news item in HR , the production of this film was postponed to allow Akim Tamiroff to appear in The Way of All Flesh. During filming, Sturges was stricken with pneumonia and, as a result, needed a private nurse on the set with him. Correspondence in the Preston Sturges Papers notes that Jo Ann Sayers was borrowed from M-G-M to play the female lead opposite Brain Donlevy, but was declared incompetent and consequently was dropped. The LAHE and HR add that Paramount tried to borrow Joseph Schildkraut for a role in this film. Sturges won an Academy Award for Best ... More Less

The working titles of this film were Down Went McGinty , The Story of a Man , The Vagrant , The Mantle of Dignity and The Biography of a Bum . It marked Preston Sturges' directorial debut. According to materials contained in the Preston Sturges Files at the UCLA Library, Sturges wrote the original story, entitled "The Story of a Man," in 1933 with Spencer Tracy in mind. He tried to sell it to Universal in 1935, and in 1938, he tried to sell the story, retitled "Biography of a Bum," to Saturday Evening Post. When that magazine refused the story, Sturges sold it to Paramount for ten dollars on the condition that he be allowed to direct it. The film began production on 15 Dec 1939 and closed down on 25 Jan 1940 with one day left to shoot. The final scenes were shot on 15 Apr 1940, after the first cut had been made. According to a news item in HR , the production of this film was postponed to allow Akim Tamiroff to appear in The Way of All Flesh. During filming, Sturges was stricken with pneumonia and, as a result, needed a private nurse on the set with him. Correspondence in the Preston Sturges Papers notes that Jo Ann Sayers was borrowed from M-G-M to play the female lead opposite Brain Donlevy, but was declared incompetent and consequently was dropped. The LAHE and HR add that Paramount tried to borrow Joseph Schildkraut for a role in this film. Sturges won an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for this picture. The picture was also included in FD's "ten best" films of 1940. In 1942, Brian Donlevy starred in a Philip Morris Playhouse version of the story on the CBS radio network. In 1942, Brian Donlevy and Akim Tamiroff reprised their roles of Dan McGinty and The Boss in Sturges's The Miracle of Morgan's Creek . In 1950, Paramount considered remaking the film with Bing Crosby, and in 1954 with Bob Hope, but dropped the project. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
19 Jul 40
p. 3.
Film Daily
23 Jul 40
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Nov 39
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Nov 39
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Nov 39
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Dec 39
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Jul 40
p. 3.
Los Angeles Herald Express
3 Oct 1939.
---
Los Angeles Times
22 Aug 1950.
---
Motion Picture Daily
23 Jul 40
p .1, 6
Motion Picture Herald
10 Feb 40
p. 49.
Motion Picture Herald
27 Jul 40
p. 35.
New York Times
15 Aug 40
p. 23.
New York Times
18 Aug 40
p. 3.
New York Times
25 Aug 40
p. 3.
New York Times
6 Nov 49
p. 1.
Variety
24 Jul 40
p. 14.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Prod
Exec prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
2d cam
Asst cam
Transparency
Transparency
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Asst cutter
SET DECORATORS
Int dec
Set dresser
Set dresser and prop asst
COSTUMES
Cost
Wardrobe ladies
Wardrobe men
Wardrobe designer
MUSIC
Mus dept
MAKEUP
Makeup
PRODUCTION MISC
Tech adv
Unit mgr
Scr clerk
Chief elec
Company grip
Company grip asst
Company grip asst
Boom grip
Boom grip
Mike grip
Asst to prod
Props
Gaffer
Gaffer asst
Gaffer asst
Gaffer asst
Stage eng
Casting
Still photog
Publicity
Asst bus mgr
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
Down Went McGinty
The Biography of a Bum
The Mantle of Dignity
The Vagrant
The Story of a Man
Release Date:
23 August 1940
Premiere Information:
New York opening: week of 15 August 1940
Production Date:
15 December 1939--25 January 1940
addl scenes 15 April 1940
Copyright Claimant:
Paramount Pictures, Inc.
Copyright Date:
23 August 1940
Copyright Number:
LP9862
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
83
Length(in feet):
7,339
Length(in reels):
9
Country:
United States
PCA No:
5977
Passed by NBR:
Yes
SYNOPSIS

When Thompson, a despondent bank cashier, tries to commit suicide in a south of the border dive because he ruined his life with one crazy moment of dishonesty, he is rescued by the bartender, who relates the story of how one crazy moment of honesty caused his fall from governor of a state to bartender. Dan McGinty's climb to electoral glory begins at a soup kitchen where he is recruited by a crooked politician to vote in various precincts under the names of recently deceased voters for the machine-run mayor. Impressed by McGinty's skill in voting thirty-seven times, as well as his lack of scruples, the political boss welcomes him to the party, and McGinty soon rises from extortion man to alderman. To win the post of mayor, McGinty enters into a business arrangement to marry his secretary, Catherine, and thus dons the mantle of respectability by becoming father to her two children. Six months into the marriage, however, the newlyweds fall in love, and McGinty discovers that his new role as family man and the urgings of his wife instill a sense of honor and decency in him. Elected governor, McGinty informs the Boss that he is through with the party, and when the enraged Boss tries to murder the new governor, he is arrested. Meanwhile, the party, learning of the double cross, exposes McGinty's corruption, and as a result, he, too, is thrown in jail. Imprisoned in adjoining cells, the governor and the Boss begin to argue when the Politician, disguised as a guard, breaks them out of jail. After calling his tearful wife to tell her where he has hidden ... +


When Thompson, a despondent bank cashier, tries to commit suicide in a south of the border dive because he ruined his life with one crazy moment of dishonesty, he is rescued by the bartender, who relates the story of how one crazy moment of honesty caused his fall from governor of a state to bartender. Dan McGinty's climb to electoral glory begins at a soup kitchen where he is recruited by a crooked politician to vote in various precincts under the names of recently deceased voters for the machine-run mayor. Impressed by McGinty's skill in voting thirty-seven times, as well as his lack of scruples, the political boss welcomes him to the party, and McGinty soon rises from extortion man to alderman. To win the post of mayor, McGinty enters into a business arrangement to marry his secretary, Catherine, and thus dons the mantle of respectability by becoming father to her two children. Six months into the marriage, however, the newlyweds fall in love, and McGinty discovers that his new role as family man and the urgings of his wife instill a sense of honor and decency in him. Elected governor, McGinty informs the Boss that he is through with the party, and when the enraged Boss tries to murder the new governor, he is arrested. Meanwhile, the party, learning of the double cross, exposes McGinty's corruption, and as a result, he, too, is thrown in jail. Imprisoned in adjoining cells, the governor and the Boss begin to argue when the Politician, disguised as a guard, breaks them out of jail. After calling his tearful wife to tell her where he has hidden the money for her and the children, McGinty and the others flee the country. After McGinty's story ends, Thompson has a change of heart, and McGinty goes back to tending bar, aided by the Boss and the Politician. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.