Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Great McGinty | 1940 | Screwball-free Sturges

The Great McGinty is a political satire, but it's still awful fun - if you're into that sort of thing.

This film is neither Screwball nor Romantic Comedy, but it's here on this blog because it is one of the Seven Wonders of Sturges.  It belongs here out of respect if nothing else.

According to the lore on the Internets, Sturges sold this story as a package deal - the studio got a solid screenplay for $10 and he got to direct his first feature.  If not for this Oscar winning screenplay there might not be as many as seven wonders, there might not be any.  This is the start of Sturges as we know him.

Though without this film there could have been more plays.  And maybe some Tony awards too.

Do you ever wonder about that?  Are people of greatness simply "that way" from the get-go?  Is it inevitable with some people?  Like, their challenge is in choosing a path.  (And by greatness I don't only mean big-shot screenwriters or Nobel Laureates, greatness can be a trusted veterinarian, respected school teacher, or top-notch butcher, baker, candlestick maker).  Or is this an abjectly random world that allows individuals with much to contribute to slip through the cracks and spend their days unrealized and impotent?

At first glance, the second option sounds worse, but if the world is Laissez-faire, then a person always has a chance to grab at something.  In option one, if you're not one of the chosen, you're screwed.  But, absent predestination a person can always hope.  Annoying, exhausting, hard-to-shake Hope.

They warn you about STDs in school but I sometimes think Hope causes more damage.  At least until it doesn't, I suppose.  But that's how it gets you.  What if I hold out hope just a bit longer?  Perhaps prosperity is just around the corner?

Well, Sturges' life isn't much help one way or another in that debate.  Although he was a great in a great big way, initially he struggled, then he found success, and then spent a number of years adrift and died fairly young.  Of course, that begs another question, as to how and why some people are able/allowed to reinvent (see: Frank Sinatra) and others cannot (see: Sturges).  It probably doesn't matter, there's likely nothing to be gained by thinking about it.  Success or failure, coming or going, all a person can do is...  what they do, as best they can, enjoying as much as possible, and then calling it a life.

Though, perhaps, sometimes rumored connections to the mob and the Kennedy's can help.

Released: 1940
Director: Preston Sturges
Producer:  Buddy G. DeSylva

Leads: Brian Donlevy, Muriel Angelus, Akim Tamiroff, William Demarest
Writer: Preston Sturges (Oscar for Best Original Screenplay)
Genre: Political Satire
@ Amazon:  Preston Sturges - The Filmmaker Collection (Sullivan's Travels/The Lady Eve/The Palm Beach Story/Hail the Conquering Hero/The Great McGinty/Christmas in July/The Great Moment)