Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Great McGinty (1940)

WHO: Preston Sturges wrote and directed this.

WHAT: Almost ten years ago I dove into a project of watching almost every Preston Sturges-credited film I could get my hands on, in order to write a short piece on this film of Senses Of Cinema. I still like most of what I wrote, but a more recent revisitation of the film made me wonder why I left out certain key aspects of the film that make it more complex than my 1200 words (including footnotes) got across. The framing story involving Louis Jean Heydt and Steffi Duna, for instance, got completely overlooked, for instance, when in fact it's one of Sturges's most fascinating disruptions to the Hollywood formula.

Though I wouldn't call The Great McGinty one of Sturges's very best films, it's too-frequently dismissed as a substantially inferior first stab at directing, when in fact it's really just about as well-constructed and at least as thematically rich as any of his other films. Its humor is perhaps not as pushed to the center as in a more canonized film like The Palm Beach Story, but maybe that's not such a bad thing. It's certainly one of my sentimental favorites of Sturges's films, and a fine introduction to the filmmaker for anyone who hasn't experienced his work before.

WHERE/WHEN: Tonight through Sunday at the Stanford Theatre at 7:30, with additional Saturday and Sunday afternoon matinees at 4:10.

WHY: Tonight's screening of The Great McGinty is on a double-bill with the very first Marx Brothers feature (and the one from their first ten years in Hollywood that I've seen least recently) The Cocoanuts. The Stanford's new series screens each of the first seven feature Marx Brothers films along with the first seven films Sturges directed each weekend through the rest of 2013, nearly in chronological order. The only modification to this scheme is the swapping of the 1942 Palm Beach Story with the 1944 Miracle of Morgan's Creek, presumably so that the World War II-themed latter film can be paired with the Marx Brothers' takedown of war Duck Soup.

HOW: All films in this Stanford series screen on 35mm.

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