Brian Donlevy for 2019 TCM’s Summer Under the Stars Blogathon

Every August, Turner Classic Movies takes each day in that month and focuses on one star.  Today, Tuesday, August 13th, the featured star is actor Brian Donlevy.  Donlevy had a long acting career in Hollywood.  Beginning as a model for the men’s dress shirt company Arrow and their detachable collars, Donlevy got to Broadway, then Silent movies and finally the talkies.  He was often cast as the main bad guy that the hero would ultimately have to defeat.  In 1939, he co-starred as Sgt. Markoff in Beau Geste and received an Acadamy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor.

The film in his repertoire that I’d like to take a closer look at is 1940’s Drama/Comedy The Great McGinty.  Released by Paramount Pictures, directed and written by Preston Sturges, the topic of the film seems so appropriate with our nation facing elections in 2020.  Preston’s story(which won him the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay) follows a bum, who is handpicked by a political machine to rise in the ranks of a political party and eventually become the governor of a state.  The machine thinks they have found a puppet to manipulate to do what they want in running this state’s government, but the lowly bum rises to his role and begins to turn the tables on his political benefactors.

THE GREAT MCGINTY (aka DOWN WITH MCGINTY), US poster, from left: Brian Donlevy, Muriel Angelus on window card, 1940

The movie begins with a bank clerk, distraught at a very foolish thing he’s done and about to take his life in a south of the border bar.  The bartender realizes this and stops the clerk, and through a flashback, explains how he saying yes to a wacky plan changed his life.  The movie then shows us the bartender, Dan McGinty(Brian Donlevy) in his former life as a homeless man, at a soup kitchen.  Entering the soup kitchen is the politician(William Demarest) who convinces McGinty to vote under the  names of deceased people.  McGinty does as he’s been told, voting 37 times for the Mayoral candidate chosen to win by the local political machine.  His actions impress the political machine’s boss(Akim Tamiroff) and McGinty is soon put forward to run as an Alderman, and then as Mayor.  To give him a greater chance to win as mayor, the political boss tells McGinty that he has to get married, so McGinty does just that, marrying his secretary, widowed Catherine(Muriel Angelus) who conveniently has two children.

Dan McGinty, homeless man at a soup kitchen

The politician explaining the voting plan to McGinty

McGinty reacting to the plan to run for Alderman.

McGinty and Catherine

The entire cast works so well together in this film.  Akim Tamiroff is ruthless as the political boss.  He thinks he’s picked the perfect puppet in Dan McGinty who has a natural charisma that enables him to get elected.  It’s natural to keep moving McGinty up the political ladder and when McGinty turns the tables on this political boss, the hatred is evident and murder will be the solution that the boss thinks will work.

Brian Donlevy gives a wonderful portrayal of a down on his luck man, who is willing to do as he’s ordered to better his circumstances.  Donlevy is able to portray McGinty as a cynical man who starts to have a softened heart and wants to become a better man, a sincere man.  Despite an arranged marriage, McGinty and Catherine warm to each other and do fall in love.  Muriel Angelus is outstanding as Catherine.  She loves McGinty and is willing to stand by him come what may, in good times and in bad.

This movie isn’t the typical, screwball comedic film from Sturges.  It is  more of a study of politicians, human nature, and all of the cynicism and quirks that seem to hang on to the edges of the world of politics.  The Great McGinty will air on TCM tonight at 8:00 p.m. est/7:00 p.m.  cst.  Be sure to check it out to see Brian Donlevy do what he always seemed to do best, act as a tough man who has goodness in him, wanting to burst out.

Be sure to visit the blogathon’s hosts, Journeys in Classic Film and Musings of a Classic Film Addict to read other posts for this month long blogathon, featuring an article a day about the day’s selected actor or actress.


3 responses to this post.

  1. Dear Jenni,

    This is a great article! I have never seen this film, but the title sounds vaguely familiar. Although I didn’t recognize Brian Donlevy by name, I recognized him right away. He was indeed a great character actor!

    By the way, last year you contributed to the Claude Rains Blogathon with your great article about “The Unsuspected.” I really appreciated this article, and I wanted to let you know that it’s that time of year again!

    This November 8-10, we at PEPS will be hosting the Second Annual Claude Rains Blogathon! The rules are the same as last year, and the concept is, as well. We want to honor this great classic actor on his 130th birthday, and we would love to have you join us again. You can see the announcement here:

    I hope you will be able to join us and advertise the blogathon on your website with one of the banners!


    Rebekah Brannan


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