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This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

Bum on the Run

The Great McGinty (1940) on IMDb peaceful family life

Plot Overview

Tommy Thompson (Louis Jean Heydt) in his cups complains to bartender Dan McGinty (Brian Donlevy) how he lost his job as cashier of the First National Bank on account of one indiscretion and had to flee the country. McGinty rejoins by telling him of his political rise in fortune (“I was governor of a state, baby”) playing at crooked politics until his reform-minded secretary/wife Catherine (Muriel Angelus) convinced him he was strong enough to stand up to the machine, for the good of the people and the respect of his children. He was scuppered by the back­lash and similarly had to flee the country. The Russian speaking janitor (Akim Tamiroff) who has to clean up for the night has seen it all.


female patriotWhen McGinty was making the move from Alderman to Mayor, he was told by the Boss (Akim Tamiroff), “You gotta get married right away. Women got the vote now, and they don't like bachelors.” He laments about being led by a woman, saying, “Did you never hear of Samson and Delilah, or Sodom and Gomorrah?” One might gloss over this statement were it not for what the writer puts in the Prologue: “the story of two men who met in a banana republic. One of them never did anything dishonest in his life except for one crazy minute. The other never did anything honest in his life except for one crazy minute.” Samson was a righteous judge except for one bad hair­cut. Sodom was a wicked city except for one just man living there. We should look to compare “The Great McGinty” to some fractured, gender-bender biblical archetype.

You've heard of Noah and the ark. Back in the day, Gen. 6:5-8, every imagination of the heart of man was evil across the board and violence was endemic. Here, like­wise, graft was the order of the day:

Skeeters (William Demarest): “If it wasn't for graft, you'd get a very low type of people in politics. Men without ambition. Jellyfish.”

Catherine: “Especially since you can't rob the people anyway.”

Skeeters: “Sure. How was that?”

Catherine: “What you rob, you spend, and what you spend goes back to the people. So, where's the robbery? I read that in one of my father's books.”

Corruption was universally accepted as a way to stimulate the economy. As for gun violence, the Boss said there's “too much rod play in this city and it's unhealthy.”

Enter righteous Noah, Gen. 6:9-12. And, allowing for a change of sex, Catherine is the one righteous person on the scene here. Noah had three sons, (Gen. 6:10) “And Noah begat three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.” Catherine had two little children from a previous marriage, and now she plays the mother to McGinty as well. Noah rounded up the animals, and Catherine has a dachshund named Browny and McGinty reads in a children's book the adventures of Mugwump the tortoise. A big storm came up and Noah escaped with his boys. In our movie McGinty and two other jail­birds escape during a violent thunder­storm and head to a banana republic where we find them at the beginning of the movie being mothered by a dancing girl (Steffi Duna).

(Gen. 9:18-19) “And the sons of Noah, that went forth of the ark, were Shem, and Ham, and Japheth: and Ham is the father of Canaan. These are the three sons of Noah: and of them was the whole earth over­spread.” After the Flood there was an incident, Gen. 9:20-22, where Noah got drunk on wine and was exposed in all his glory to his son Ham who brazenly viewed him so. Noah's other two sons, Shem and Japheth, covered him up, Gen. 9:23. Ham had violated him in some way, Gen. 9:24. Noah's curse puts Ham's youngest son Canaan in a position of servitude, Gen. 9:25. Noah's other two sons Shem, Gen. 9:26, and Japheth, Gen. 9:27, were blessed by Noah. Writer Bodie Hodge (134) quotes “Bible Questions and Answers,” The Golden Age (July 24, 1929): p. 702.

Question: Is there anything in the Bible that reveals the origin of the Negro?

Answer: It is generally believed that the curse which Noah pronounced upon Canaan was the origin of the Black race. Certain it is that when Noah said, “Cursed be Canaan, a servant of servants shall he be to his brethren,” he pictured the future of the Colored race.

Researcher Bodie Hodge confirms that “As a general trend, Ham is the father of many peoples in Africa” (122). Dr. Ide adds, “Ham sired four sons: Cush (translates as ‘black’) … and Canaan the youngest” (62). Canaan is the youngest son of Ham carrying the curse on the whole family by a figure of speech called a synecdoche where a part stands for the whole. (Jasher 73:35) “For the Lord our God gave Ham the son of Noah, and his children and all his seed, as slaves to the children of Shem and to the children of Japheth, and unto their seed after them for slaves, forever.” Writer Bodie Hodge holds forth that: “Generally, from the Middle East in the land of Shinar (modern-day Iraq, where Babel was), Japheth's descendants went north toward Europe and Asia, Ham's went toward Africa, and Shem's remained in the Middle East” (183).

In our movie Catherine, indeed, had a colored maid Bessy (Libby Taylor) and Dan McGinty had a black man­servant, according to the historical time­line as noted above. In the gender-bender, fractured archetype, the dancing girl, mother figure uncovered her legs to advantage, but neither Tommy nor the Boss paid them any attention. Dan, how­ever, was seen earlier to be a leg man when he glanced at this secretary's exposed ankles, and now as a bar­tender having to keep an eye on the crowded floor, we expect he took them in during the course of his duties. Such a peek may seem a very small thing for such radical repercussions, but bear in mind that so was Samson's hair­cut taking his strength away and Lot's wife looking back at her burning home, getting turned into a pillar of salt.

At any rate the focus isn't on how one of Noah's sons and his progeny ended up in servitude to the other two heirs, but on who was to take care of a drunken Tommy. He was fobbed off on the Boss who didn't need to work until later. This represents Japheth dwelling in the tents of Shem, as it were, his progeny benefiting from the Semites.

This whole movie is highly satirical. When public sentiment in 1940 held that the South must have been pervaded with sin to have allowed slavery, here it is presented as an expected out­come of an historical precedent, but the servants being treated well were happy, while it was a Northern state that was generally pervaded by sin. In 1940 it would have all been presented in good sport to people who were some­what conversant with biblical stories.

Production Values

This political satire, “” (1940) was written and directed by Preston Sturges. He got the chance to direct in exchange for offering Paramount Studios a cut rate on his script, he being an established script writer of some note. As part of Sturges's deal he had to make it on the cheap and not use any big name actors. What he did was develop a stable of actors he knew were good but hadn't yet made a name for them­selves. It stars Brian Donlevy, Muriel Angelus, and Akim Tamiroff. They all held up quite well, even in the small parts. Akim Tamiroff was especially note­worthy as “The Boss.”

It passed its certificate for acceptable viewing standards. Preston Sturges won the 1940 Oscar for Best Writing and Original Screenplay for this film. His level of writing is first rate. The story gets milked for all it's worth but is quite easy to follow.

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

“The Great McGinty” has got to be one of the cleverest political satires ever done for cinema. It was especially amusing on election day when I saw it. This one is good for laughs, at which it never lets up.

Movie Ratings

Action Factor: Weak action scenes. Suitability for children: Suitable for all ages. Video Occasion: Good for Groups. Special effects: Average special effects. Suspense: A few suspenseful moments. Overall movie rating: Five stars out of five.

Works Cited

Scripture quoted from the King James Version. Pub. 1611, rev. 1769. Software.

Hodge, Bodie. Tower of Babel: The Cultural History of Our Ancestors. Green Forest, AR: New Leaf Pub., 2013. Print.

Ide, Arthur Frederick. Noah & the Ark: The Influence of Sex, Homo­phobia and Hetero­sexism in the Flood Story and its Writing. Las Colinas: Monument Press, 1992. Print.

The Book of Jasher. Translated from the Hebrew into English (1840). Photo litho­graphic reprint of exact edition published by J.H. Parry & Co., Salt Lake City: 1887. Muskogee, OK: Artisan Pub., 1988. Print, WEB.