Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5. USA, 1940. Paramount Pictures. Screenplay by Preston Sturges. Cinematography by William C. Mellor. Produced by Paul Jones. Music by Friedrich Hollaender. Production Design by Hans Dreier, A. Earl Hedrick. Costume Design by Edith Head. Film Editing by Hugh Bennett. Academy Awards 1940.
Brian Donlevy plays a clever hobo who stumbles upon a voting scheme designed to get a mayoral candidate into office, and uses it to turn a few extra dollars. His savvy impresses the tough boss (Akim Tamiroff) who is running the mayor’s crooked campaign, taking Donlevy in and becoming the engine that thrusts the once homeless man all the way to gubernatorial triumph, complete with in-name-only wife (Muriel Angelus) and her children from a previous marriage. The trouble is, all the power begins to get to him, not because the fun is spotted with responsibility, but because the responsibility actually begins to become important to him. This early Preston Sturges feature highlights what he had going for him right from the beginning of his career, his exquisite writing skills, before he had command of the film medium as a director (that would come to its peak with Sullivan’s Travels and The Lady Eve). Still, it’s a solid piece of work that takes a good strong look at the corrupt manner in which American politics has been running for far too long.