Posts Tagged ‘Brian Donlevy’

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.

My Classic Movie Pick: The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek

My classic film pick is one of the wackiest, funniest, romance-comedies ever made.  The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek was  First movie poster for TMOMCwritten and directed by Preston Sturges, and released by Paramount Studios in January of  1944.  This movie has  a couple of surprising  plot twists and  when I first watched the film I was surprised that one of those  twists had made it past the censors!

The excellent cast includes:  Betty Hutton, Eddie Bracken, William Demarest, Diana Lynn, with guest cameos by Brian Donlevy and Akim Tamiroff, as well as a myriad of great character actors and actresses who were usually in Preston Sturges’s movies.

Betty portrays Trudy Kockenlocker, a high school graduated working girl.  She works at  Morgan Creek’s music store, helping shoppers listen to the latest records that have come in, and we meet her doing a funny lip-synch to a song sung by an artist with a very low,  bass voice.  A group of soldiers who  have stopped by the store  find Trudy’s lip-synching hilarious and they invite her to attend their farewell dance that night.  She assures them that she’ll be there and that she’ll be ready for all the fun.  As the soldiers leave the store, Norval Jones (Eddie Bracken)arrives.   Norval is a nervous guy, very polite, and it’s obvious that he is in love with Trudy, but she just considers him a good friend.  He asks Trudy to  go to the movies with him that night, but she tells him that she can’t because she has already planned on going to the soldiers’ farewell dance.  Trudy then remembers that her dad, Constable Kockenlocker(a great, grumpy performance by William Demarest), has forbidden her going to anymore of those soldiers’ parties.  Trudy really wants to go to the dance, and as Norval loves her, even though it’s not reciprocated, he agrees to pick her up that night, so that Trudy can tell her dad that she’s on a date with him.  Trudy’s plan is that she will drop  Norval  off at the movies and she’ll drive on to the dance.  When the dance is over, she’ll drive back to the movie theatre  and let Norval drive her home, arriving according to her dad’s curfew.

Norval asking Trudy to go to the movies.

Norval asking Trudy to go to the movies.

Lip-synching for the soldiers.

Lip-synching for the soldiers.

Trudy goes to the dance, and she jitterbugs the night away, but unwisely, she decides to drink a lot of champagne, and during one jitterbug number, she is lifted too high and hits her head on a light fixture!  Time jumps ahead to 8:00 a.m. and  poor Norval has waited patiently for Trudy to arrive at the movie theatre!  Norval takes over the driving duties as he can tell Trudy is slightly hungover and confused as she can’t recall why she didn’t pick Norval up as planned.  When they arrive at Trudy’s house they are  greeted by a rampaging dad who races out the front door.  Constable Kockenlocker wants to throttle Norval for keeping his daughter out all night.  Trudy tries to calm her dad and tells him that they were at the movies, which doesn’t help as he knows the movie theater closes before midnight.  As he tries to grab Norval and beat him to a pulp, Trudy and her kid sister Emmy(Diana Lynn) grab their dad, and force him to the ground and pin him by sitting on him so Norval can escape!

Trudy enjoying herself at the soldiers' party!

Trudy enjoying herself at the soldiers’ party!

Officer Kockenlocker trying to get at Norval!

Officer Kockenlocker trying to get at Norval!

Later that day, Trudy starts to recall to Emmy bits and pieces about her fuzzy evening experiences.  Trudy recalls a wedding ceremony in front of a Justice of the Peace, but that she didn’t use her real name and she can’t recall who the groom was, just that he was a soldier!  There is also a wedding ring on the third finger of her left hand.  A few more weeks go by and Trudy discovers that she is expecting a baby!!  Norval comes to the rescue, not knowing that Trudy is expecting another man’s child, but as Trudy decides that she will need a husband, she encourages Norval’s love for her.  Then, she actually does fall in love with Norval, but she doesn’t want him to marry her when her first marriage is still legally binding, so the two of them hatch a crazy plan.  Trudy thinks the soldier she married had the last name of Ratzkiwatzki.  Norval, who is 4F, agrees to wear a relative’s old World War I uniform and then he and Trudy will drive 25 miles away to the Honeymoon Hotel and have the Justice of the Peace marry them.  After a week or two, Trudy can file for divorce from “Ratzkiwatzki”, and then she and Norval can have a proper wedding ceremony.   Simple plan, right? Wrong!  Norval messes up when signing the wedding license and writes his real name, not “Ratzkiwatzki” and the Justice of the Peace catches the mistake.  Police are called, Trudy has to fess up to her father about the soldiers’ party, the marriage, the baby on the way, that she really loves Norval who wants to marry her.  I won’t reveal the solutions to this crazy situation or even what the “miracle” is but if you do find this movie and watch it, I guarantee you’ll have an enjoyable time!

A publicity shot for The Miracle of Morgan's Creek.

A publicity shot for The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek.

2nd movie poster for TMOMC

Trudy and Norval at the Justice of the Peace's home.

Trudy and Norval at the Justice of the Peace’s home.

The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek cost Paramount Studios $775,000 to make and earned them a nice box office profit of $9 million.  Audiences loved this nutty film and Sturges was nominated in 1945 for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.   In 2001, the movie was selected to be preserved in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress and it was #54 on the American Film Institute’s List of Top 100 Comedic Films.    It was put on dvd in 2001 so one can purchase it via Amazon or Turner Classic Movies Shop TCM which is on their online site, and it is available to view through Netflix.  Turner Classic Movies also airs it so check their schedule, also on their online site.  Lastly, a kind soul put up some clips from the movie on Youtube.