The other day a young screenwriter asked yours truly how I go about constructing a script.
“I start at the end. I need to know my ending and resolution—two distinct narrative end-points—before I start writing the script.”
The young screenwriter asked if my story ideas start with character or plot.
“Sometimes character, sometimes plot. A story I’m working on now started with an image. I met a female sniper. She had a beautiful manicure—nails laquered red as a Chinese vase—except for her trigger finger which was absent nail polish and bluntly cut. I can’t get that image out of my mind.”
The Great McGinty (1940) charts the rise and fall of a Depression era hobo to mayor of a city, then Governor, and finally exile in a banana republic.
Though a satire, Preston Sturges, certainly the greatest writer-director in Hollywood history, was a keen observer of American political life.
McGinty, played by Brian Donlevy, finds favor in the eyes of the corrupt political machine by casting 36 ballots in a local election, elevating voter fraud to an art form that would be the envy of any Chicago Democrat. McGinty then works as a most effective collector for the protection racket run by The Boss, played by the great Armenian actor Akim Tamaroff.
McGinty is soon tapped to be the reform candidate for mayor.
Preston Sturges wrote and directed The Great McGinty, 1940, a political satire that, seen today, is astonishingly accurate in its depiction of big city politics and the corruption and self-interest of politicians who claim to serve the interests of “the little people.”
Though the film is carefully non-partisan, depicting all politicians as crooked, one can’t help but notice that the movie deftly comments on the irreconcilable tension between the machinery of an impersonal government bureaucracy towards non-bureaucratic ends, namely improving the lives of citizens.