-->''This is 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. They both had to get out of the country.''
-->'''''Opening title card'''''

''The Great [=McGinty=]'' is a ScrewballComedy, and the first film directed by Creator/PrestonSturges.

In a bar in an unnamed Latin American country, [[AlliterativeName Tommy Thompson]] (Louis Jean Heydt) is down in the dumps, and is about to commit suicide before Daniel [=McGinty=] (Brian Donlevy), the bartender, stops him. Turns out Thompson was once cashier of a bank (before, it's implied, he stole money), and when [=McGinty=] poo-poohs this, a dancer (Steffi Duna) who's obviously in love with Tommy sarcastically wonders if [=McGinty=] was president of the bank. "Who, me? Nossir...I was governor of a state, baby," he replies.

In a {{Flashback}}, we see how that came to be; [=McGinty=] was initially a bum, until he went to a soup kitchen one night and heard about a scheme to make money. He was directed to Skeeters (William Demarest), a political hack, who told him he could make $2 to vote for the mayor, as long as he asked for "Bill" at the voting place. [=McGinty=] asked him if he could make more money for voting more, and Skeeters, thinking [=McGinty=] a nut, said yes. So, [=McGinty=] voted 37 times, to the amazement of Skeeters. He brings [=Mcginty=] to The Boss (Akim Tamiroff), who runs the mayor's office and in general runs the political machine in the town. [=McGinty=] is thoroughly unimpressed, and even belligerent, but while The Boss doesn't appreciate the belligerence, he thinks [=McGinty=] has a certain style, so he hires him to collect "protection" money.

[=McGinty=] gradually works his way up to alderman, and when the current mayor gets indicted for graft, The Boss decides [=McGinty=] might make a fine mayor. There's one catch, though; he has to get married. [=McGinty=] has no intention of doing this ("My parents were married!"), but his secretary, Catherine (Muriel Angelus), thinks they can have a marriage of convenience; he can become mayor, and she now has support for her two children by her previous marriage. At first just amiable companions, they gradually fall in love. But while she's been accepting of the graft [=McGinty=] participates in, she thinks he ought to use his office for the public good, like ending sweatshops and child labor and so forth. He refuses at first, but his conscience starts to nag at him, especially when he's able to make the leap from mayor to governor. This, of course, puts him on a collision course with The Boss.

With this film, Sturges became the first screenwriter who became a director, thereby paving the way for other writers like Creator/JohnHuston, Joseph L. Mankiewicz and Creator/BillyWilder. He did so by agreeing to sell his screenplay to the studio for $1 on the condition he direct it (he was eventually paid $10 for it). The movie ended up being a big hit, and Sturges won his first and only AcademyAward for it, for Best Original Screenplay.

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!!This film contains examples of:

* AffablyEvil: The Boss, though [=McGinty=] often tests his affability.
* AntiHero: [=McGinty=] ranges from Type III to Type V, and back again.
* AttentionDeficitOohShiny: While The Boss is explaining his philosophy of life and how he came to make it in America, [=McGinty=] keeps getting distracted by the limousine they're riding in, wondering why it's so quiet.
* BananaRepublic: The opening title card uses these exact words to describe wherever it is that [=McGinty=] has wound up turning bar.
* BecomingTheMask: [=McGinty=], who was pushed up by The Boss as a fake reformer, actually decides to become a real reformer.
* CorruptPolitician: All of them. Deciding not to be this is what brings about [=McGinty=]'s downfall.
* EveryoneCallsHimBarkeep: The Boss.
* FramingDevice: As mentioned above, the movie starts in a bar until [=McGinty=] tells his story, and it ends in the same bar.
* FunnyBackgroundEvent: [=McGinty=] and The Boss start to fight and wrestle in the back of the limo, and then we immediately cut to the chauffeur complaining to The Boss' bodyguard about his girl troubles.
* HeelFaceTurn: [=McGinty=], [[{{Foreshadowing}} as revealed in the title card]]. It doesn't last very long, though.
* HypocriticalHumor: The Boss is trying to explain to [=McGinty=] why he should get married:
-->'''The Boss:''' Marriage is a wonderful thing; it's the most beautiful set-up between the sexes.
-->'''[=McGinty=]:''' Then why aren't you married?
-->'''The Boss:''' Because I ain't running for mayor!
* ITakeOffenseToThatLastOne:
-->'''[=McGinty=]:''' Listen, you fat little four-flusher!
-->'''The Boss:''' *Fat*? (''they start fighting'')
* PerfectlyArrangedMarriage: As mentioned above, [=McGinty=] only marries Catherine grudgingly, because The Boss tells him they need the women vote, and Catherine is willing to help. But they end up falling in love. Played with, however, in that while [=McGinty=] still loves Catherine [[spoiler: he ends up having to leave her to avoid prosecution. He does make sure she and her children are well provided for before he leaves]].
* RunningGag: Whenever [=McGinty=] gets The Boss riled, they start fighting.
-->'''Skeeters:''' [[HereWeGoAgain Here we go again]]!
* SlidingScaleOfIdealismVersusCynicism: There is idealism if you look for it, but mostly, this definitely tilts on the cynical side. Being a corrupt criminal sent [=McGinty=] to the governor's mansion; turning honest destroyed his life.
* TwoLinesNoWaiting: Subverted; despite what the title card seems to promise, we don't hear Tommy's story, we only hear [=McGinty=]'s.
* UnusualEuphemism: [=McGinty=] describes the fights he has with The Boss as "brannigans".
* VoteEarlyVoteOften: [=McGinty=] votes for the mayor ''37 times''.