'The Great McGinty'

By Michael Muskal, Los Angeles Times staff writer The accusations against Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich are just the latest in the state’s storied history. And while Chicago might not be the most corrupt city in the United States, its politicians are clearly among the most brazen — and most likely to be caught. Political corruption was never a laughing matter. That is, until Preston Sturges. In “The Great McGinty,” his 1940 satire on the foibles of democratic politics, the Academy Award-winning writer had one of his characters explain why graft is not really as bad as many think: “If it weren’t for graft, you’d get a very low type of people in politics.” The film, considered the classic cinematic framegrab on political machines, is set in an unnamed city that looks and sounds suspiciously like Chicago. Though it is almost seven decades old, the movie’s cynicism would fit comfortably in this week’s political drama involving corruption charges against Blagojevich. Among other things, Blagojevich, who ran as a reformer, is accused of trying to sell the Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama, who won on a campaign pledging change and hope. That same disdain is evident in the movie’s political boss, played by Akim Tamiroff, who boasts that there is no difference between the political machine and reformers, and that he controls both. Photo: Akim Tamiroff makes a point to Brian Donlevy and William Demarest in "The Great McGinty."
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