Summer 2015

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16 CINEMONTAGE / SUMMER 2015 THIS QUARTER IN FILM HISTORY by Edward Landler Seventy-five years ago, on August 14, 1940 — back when studios still owned theatres — The Great McGinty, written and directed by Preston Sturges, premiered at the Paramount Theatre in New York's Times Square. Opening day receipts totaled over $5,000. Two days later, a Paramount executive wired Hollywood stating, "Audiences continue enthusiastic about picture." The movie's success let Sturges achieve his ambition to direct his own scripts after 10 years as a screenwriter. Joseph L. Mankiewicz called him "the Moses who led us out of the wilderness" — the "us" being the film writers who wanted to direct "because they couldn't stomach what was being done to what they wrote." In the next five years, John Huston, Billy Wilder, Delmer Daves and Mankiewicz were all directing their own screenplays. For Sturges, McGinty kicked off a remarkable string of eight pictures he wrote and directed for Paramount between 1940 and 1944, seven of them box office hits. Inimitable blends of satiric observation and screwball energy driven by physical comedy, these movies skewer the twisted inconsistencies of the American dream. The filmmaker's open treatment of social and emotional realities burst the seams of classic Hollywood's studio-bound sets and conventions. Among his targets are class differences, romantic expectations, the movies, heroism, morality, justice, mom, the girl next door and success itself. For openers, in McGinty, Sturges set his sights on American politics, tracing the rise of a tramp from a soup kitchen to Down Went McGinty The Best $10 Screenplay Ever Produced The Great McGinty. Paramount Pictures/ Photofest

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