It’s another week here at BCB After Dark: the secret hangout for night owls, early-risers, new parents and Cubs fans abroad. I’m so glad you’re here tonight, whether you’re a regular or a new customer. The dress code has been waived tonight. There are several good tables not too far from the stage still available. Let us take your hat and coat. Bring your own beverage.
BCB After Dark is the place for you to talk baseball, music, movies, or anything else you need to get off your chest, as long as it is within the rules of the site. The late-nighters are encouraged to get the party started, but everyone else is invited to join in as you wake up the next morning and into the afternoon.
Last week, I asked you when you thought this horrible lockout would end. Most of you are still reasonably optimistic as 23 percent of you predicted the players would be back to work in April and another 23 percent predicted it would end in May. There was 21 percent of you who predicted an agreement would be reached this month. However, if a deal wasn’t reached fairly soon, another 18 percent of you were predicting an August or later settlement that would certainly endanger the entire season.
Here’s the part where I talk about jazz and movies. You’re free to skip to the baseball question at the end. You won’t hurt my feelings.
Tonight we’ve got two 1963 performances from the Cannonball Adderley Sextet in one video. The first one, lasting about 70 minutes, is apparently from a live show in Switzerland. The second, which is about half an hour, appears to be from German television.
With Yusef Lateef on tenor sax, oboe and flute, Joe Zawinul on piano, Sam Jones on bass, Louis Hayes on drums and Julian’s brother Nat Adderley on cornet, here’s alto saxophonist Julian “Cannonball” Adderley in concert from 1963.
The directorial debut of Preston Sturges, 1940’s The Great McGinty, is a pretty sharp political satire, although it fails to be quite as funny as many of Sturges’ other works. It’s still a pretty good movie anyway because of the performances and Sturges’ skewering of machine politics. The screenplay for The Great McGinty won Sturges his only Academy Award.
Sturges was one of the screenwriters who popularized the “screwball comedy” of the 1930s. However successful his films were, Sturges wasn’t happy with the way other directors handled the scripts he wrote. He had been working on the script that became The Great McGinty since 1934 and he offered it to Paramount Pictures for the measly price of $10 on the condition that he be allowed to direct, even though he’d never directed before.
Under the studio system of the time, writers wrote, directors directed and writers were almost never allowed to direct their own material. But since Paramount really liked the script for The Great McGinty and they wanted him to continue to write hit movies for them, they agreed to Sturges’ terms. However, they put Sturges on a tight leash, a small budget and a three-week shooting schedule. They even gave him a cast of lesser-known actors (Brian Donlevy, Muriel Angelus, Akim Tamiroff, William Demarest) who worked cheap. Despite these handicaps, The Great McGinty was a big hit and it launched Sturges’ career as a director.
The opening title screen outlines the plot of The Great McGinty: this is the story of a corrupt man who did one honest thing in his life and a honest man who did one corrupt thing in his life. And both of them ended up on the run in a run-down bar in Latin America.
The “honest” man is actually just an excuse for the corrupt man, Daniel McGinty (Donlevy), to tell his life’s story in flashback. McGinty is tending bar in this small cantina when the other man, despondent over stealing money from the bank he worked for, tries to commit suicide. McGinty prevents the man from going through with killing himself and while he’s trying to calm the man down, McGinty lets slip that before he was a seedy bartender, he had been the governor of a state.
In a series of flashbacks, McGinty tells the tale of how he rose for an unemployed street thug to the governor of an unnamed US state. Skeeters (Demarest), offers McGinty, along with any other bum who walks into his office, two dollars to go and vote for his political machine’s candidate for mayor. McGinty manages to vote in 37 different precincts and then returns to Skeeters and demands $74. Skeeters doesn’t have that kind of money, so they have to go meet “The Boss.” (Tamiroff)
“The Boss” (if he has another name, I didn’t catch it) is one of those old-time machine bosses who control the city from behind the scenes through corruption and patronage. He also runs a mafia-like protection racket where local businessmen have to pay up if they don’t want the authorities to drum up some excuses to shut them down.
The Boss is immediately impressed with the tough guy McGinty, either in spite of or because McGinty talks back to him and the two get into a fist fight. The Boss hires him to carry out collection duties for the protection racket.
Spoilers for an 82-year-old film to follow:
McGinty does his job as a “collection agent” (read: shakedown artist) so well that the Boss gets McGinty a job as an alderman. After a corruption scandal sweeps City Hall, the Boss decides to run McGinty as the candidate for mayor of the rival Reform party, which the Boss created when his other politicians were tarred with the scandal. The Boss controls both sides. However, he tells McGinty that he has to get married because “women have the vote now and they won’t vote for a man who isn’t married.”
McGinty has zero interest in getting married to anyone, but McGinty’s secretary Catherine (Angelus) convinces him that it’s worth it for a chance to be mayor. After McGinty shoots down some of Catherine’s suggestions for brides, Catherine offers up herself in a marriage of convenience. The two of them would be legally married, but other than showing up together at campaign events, they would go about their lives separately as they always had.
You’ve seen enough rom-coms to know where this is going. As it turns out, Catherine is divorced with two adorable little kids, which is a big political boon as it makes McGinty look like a family man. But McGinty turns out to really like the kids. The four of them move in together in a big house for appearances’ sake, but McGinty continues to carry on in his partying, bachelor ways. Catherine, for her part, continues to date other men and they sleep in separate bedrooms.
Eventually, of course, McGinty gets jealous of the other men dating Catherine. He kicks one out of the house and professes his love for Catherine. McGinty becomes a devoted husband and father to Catherine’s two kids.
At work, however, nothing has changed. As mayor, McGinty is just as corrupt and dishonest as ever, all the while telling himself (and Catherine) that this is the way things have to be. He also continues to report to “the Boss,” even while the two of them continue to fight.
Catherine, however, has a conscience and starts asking McGinty what is the point of being mayor if you can’t do good things for other people? At first, McGinty brushes her off and insists that the graft and corruption really does help the common people. But his wife’s words start to get to him and McGinty begins to have a change of heart.
Still, the Boss has too much on McGinty for him to change things right away. But when the Boss decides that McGinty is the ideal candidate for governor and he wins, McGinty decides to confront the boss with his new, anti-corruption reform agenda, thinking he’s too powerful to touch as the governor. The Boss is outraged and yet another fist fight breaks out between the two men, but this time the Boss pulls out a gun and tries to shoot McGinty. The Boss is arrested for attempting to assassinate the governor and McGinty is arrested when the Boss tells the authorities about all the bribes McGinty has taken. They’re put in adjoining jail cells (yeah, right) and while the two of them are arguing with each other, Skeeters shows up as the new prison guard. Skeeters breaks the two of them out of jail that night and McGinty explains to his audience at the catina that is how he ended up in this dive.
The film ends with Skeeters and the Boss finding McGinty at the Latin American bar and the Boss and McGinty having yet another fist fight.
As I said, The Great McGinty is a solid, but not terrific, tale of the rise of a dishonest man and how he threw everything away in an act of honesty. As a comedy. most of the humor comes from pratfalls and the comedic fights between McGinty and the Boss. Demarest also gets some humor in as the cynical Skeeters. If you can imagine Uncle Charley from My Three Sons as a seedy political fixer, then you’ve got Skeeters down exactly.
Donlevy and Tamiroff have really good chemistry as male “frenemies.” In fact, Sturges loved the two of them so much that they had them reprise their characters for a cameo in 1944’s The Miracle at Morgan Creek.
The love story between McGinty and Catherine doesn’t work quite so well, although it’s not terrible. This would turn out to be Angelus’ final film, as she would leave Hollywood to go back to the London stage right afterwards and would eventually leave the profession altogether.
The film also aptly illustrates how dishonest and crooked men are able to convince themselves that they’re good guys, even though it’s clear to everyone else that they aren’t.
As a first-time director, Sturges does a lot with a little budget. He keeps the film moving along briskly and while the framing device of the cantina wasn’t really necessary, it does give the audience signposts as to where we are in the story. There’s nothing really fancy in the production, but he does get good performances out of the actors.
Sturges got sick during the production and was hospitalized with pneumonia. He was so upset about this because he was worried that Paramount would replace him, but he agreed to stay in the hospital after someone from the studio visited him there and told him that the executives thought the work Sturges had done so far was terrific.
The Great McGinty just isn’t as good as The Lady Eve or Sullivan’s Travels, but it is good and got Sturges his only Oscar. According the story told on TCM after the recent airing of the film, Sturges decided that since he was a comedy writer, he would give a comedic speech at the Awards were he to win. So he wrote a speech that said “Preston Sturges was so overcome with nerves by the possibility of winning an Academy Award that he asked me to accept this on his behalf.” The problem with that joke was that almost nobody in the audience knew what Preston Sturges looked like in 1940, so when he gave that speech no one laughed and they all just assumed he was some random friend of Sturges accepting the Oscar for him.
Here’s a scene of McGinty as mayor shaking down a local businessman. It’s not a great scene, but it’s the best one available on YouTube.
Welcome back to everyone who skips the jazz and movies.
If anyone has any ideas for poll questions for this space, please don’t hesitate to share them. The original idea behind BCB After Dark would be that it would give people a chance to sound off about the current events surrounding the Cubs in a more freewheeling manner. But there is only one current event right now surrounding the major league Cubs and I don’t want to turn this into a discussion section for the Minor League Wrap, especially since the minors aren’t playing right now either.
So tonight I’m just going to ask you for your pick to lead the Cubs in RBI in 2022. Yes, I know that RBI is not an analytic category and doesn’t tell us much about the player, but they’re still fun and we still count them, right? If anything, this poll might help some people as they prepare for their fantasy drafts.
So who is your choice to lead the Cubs in RBI in 2022?
Who will lead the Cubs in RBI in 2022?
This poll is closed
Thank you again for your patronage this evening. Please tip the waitstaff. Drive home safely. Tell your friends about us. And join us again tomorrow night for another edition of BCB After Dark.