The Great McGinty (1940) - Rotten Tomatoes

The Great McGinty (1940)



Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

The Great McGinty Photos

Movie Info

The moral of Preston Sturges' first directorial effort The Great McGinty seems to be: If you're a crook, stay a crook, because honesty will get ya every time. Brian Donlevy plays Dan McGinty, a Chicago hobo who is hired by local political bosses as a "professional voter", casting ballots under a variety of assumed names in various districts. McGinty chalks up $74 worth of votes, and when local ward heeler William Demarest can't pony up, McGinty takes direct action by trying to beat up The Boss (Akim Tamiroff). Though the two men can't get through an entire day without trying to kill each other, McGinty and the Boss are impressed by each other's raw abilities and become political partners. Through the Boss' patronage, McGinty works his way up to the mayor's office, with his politically expedient bride (Muriel Angelus) at his side. Though he never goes so far as to fall in love with his "arranged" wife, Donlevy is fond of both her and her children by a previous marriage, and for their sake he begins to reform--much to the dismay of the Boss. With the Governor's mansion within his grasp, McGinty makes the fatal error of fessing up to a graft-ridden bridge contract. It is this impulsive moment of honesty, rather than any of his past crimes, that gets McGinty thrown in the slammer, sharing a cell with the blood-in-his-eye Boss. Demarest separates the two combative men long enough to arrange an escape to South America, but not before McGinty has assured the financial security of his wife and family. The story is told in flashback form in a seedy South American dive, where McGinty works as a bartender and the Boss is the manager. The film ends with the two friendly enemies duking it out over a minor infraction, while bouncer Demarest looks on in disgust. Sick to death of watching other directors mangle his screenplays, Preston Sturges sold this rollicking political satire to Paramount only on the condition that he be allowed to direct (for the princely sum of $10). Paramount hedged its bets by giving Sturges a slim budget and inexpensive stars; as a result, the film made back its cost several times over, and Preston Sturges' directorial career was off and running.


Brian Donlevy
as Dan McGinty
Akim Tamiroff
as The Boss
Muriel Angelus
as Catherine McGinty
William Demarest
as The Politician
Harry Rosenthal
as Louis, the Bodyguard
Arthur Hoyt
as Mayor Tillinghast
Thurston Hall
as Mr. Moxwell
Steffi Duna
as The Girl
Esther Howard
as Madame La Jolla
Frank Moran
as The Boss' Chauffeur
Jimmy Conlin
as The Lookout
Dewey Robinson
as Benny Feigman
Richard Carle
as Dr. Jarvis
Donnie Kerr
as Catherine's Boy (age 4)
Donald Kerr
as Catherine's Children
Mary Thomas
as Catherine's Girl (age 6)
Drew Roddy
as Catherine's Boy (age 6)
Sheila Sheldon
as Catherine's Girl (age 11)
Jean Phillps
as Manicurist
Pat West
as Pappia
Byron Foulger
as Secretary
Charles R. Moore
as McGinty's Valet
Jean Phillips
as Manicurist
Emory Parnell
as Policeman
Harry Hayden
as Watcher
Robert Warwick
as Opposition Speaker
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Critic Reviews for The Great McGinty

All Critics (25) | Top Critics (8)

''The Great McGinty'' was the great Preston Sturges's first showing as a director, and a happy occasion it was.

January 10, 2018 | Full Review…

Sturges displays plenty of ability in accentuating both the comedy and dramatic elements of his material, withal maintaining a consistent pace in the unreeling.

November 13, 2007 | Full Review…

A wonderfully dry satire.

June 24, 2006
Top Critic

Deliciously biting political satire.

October 21, 2004 | Rating: 4/5
Top Critic

You won't make a mistake, believe us, if you stuff the ballot-box for The Great McGinty.

May 20, 2003 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

Donlevy isn't Sturges' most appealing lead, but he'll do, and Tamiroff really works it as his patron, the Boss.

March 10, 2003 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Great McGinty

The Great McGinty was Preston Sturges' directorial debut; he famously sold the script - which went on to win him an Oscar - to Paramount for $10, on the condition that he could direct the movie himself. In a seedy bar in a banana republic, Dan McGinty (Brian Donlevy) recalls his meteoric rise (and spectacular fall) from bum to racketeer, to crooked mayor, to honest state governor and back to bum again. By staging his story as a post-catastrophic flashback from skid row, Sturges neatly undermines the sentimentality and predictability of McGinty's romance with Catherine (Muriel Angelus), the secretary he marries out of convenience, but the lack of a Happy Ending makes the picture oddly unsatisfying. This problem is emphasised by the economical running time; clocking in at a little over 80 minutes, McGinty's end credits begin to roll at about the time we would typically anticipate that final twist enabling the leads to live happily ever after.

Stephen M
Stephen M

Super Reviewer


An historic movie as it's probably the first one done by a writer/director, Preston Sturges. The Great McGinty stars off with enough of the trademarked Sturges dialogue and humor (namely with McGinty's suit) as it tells the tale of a dishonest hobo turned mayor turned governor who eventually ends up down the drain for going honest. It takes itself a little too seriously at times but when it's funny it's really on. It also acts as a sneak preview to what would be coming down the pipeline from Sturges. You can see his style emerging and beginning to take the shape of something great.

Michael Gildea
Michael Gildea

Super Reviewer

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