9 July 2006 | geoffparfitt
Preston Sturges Begins His Golden Five Years
In his golden five years 1940-44, Preston Sturges was the writer & director for eight movies for Paramount, ALL GOOD and MOST of them BRILLIANT.
I first came to know these movies when five of them were shown on the BBC at Christmas in the early 1990's, including my personal favourites 'The Lady Eve' and 'The Palm Beach Story'. Since then I have had to wait for the invention of the DVD, and then last year's Preston Sturges DVD box set, when at last I could check out the other three.
Of those three, 'The Great McGinty' was the first movie to be "Written & Directed by Preston Sturges", and has to go into the GOOD rather than the BRILLIANT category. But for his first such project to be so good has got to be seen as a brilliant achievement for Sturges. I know how long he had to wait, and how hard he had to bargain to get that opportunity. He knew he had to succeed, not in his own terms but in those of his bosses at Paramount. In other words he had to bring in an economical movie that was conventional enough to be popular with audiences and critics alike.
The lead, Brian Donleavy plays McGinty as quite a straight character who has comic moments in set pieces with other players. The best comedy of the movie probably comes from Bill Demarest as "the Politician" and especially Akim Tamiroff as "the Boss", who drives the movie and its plot along, as he pushes McGinty and his career forward.
The second movie in the Preston Sturges golden period would be 'Christmas in July', again not one of his brilliant best, but beginning to include more of the lunacy and eccentric characters of a true Preston Sturges movie. By the time of his third project 'The Lady Eve', Sturges would be at the top of his form and the top of his art, and 'The Great McGinty' has to be seen not only as a good movie in itself, but as the first step in that direction.