Monday, August 19, 2013

TODAY'S NUGGET: The Great McGinty (1940) - How to Convey a "Message" Using Irony

[Quick Summary: A bum who becomes a corrupt governor learns his lessons too late.]

The Great McGinty has a message about danger in politics.

Boring, right?

Actually, no. 

The script's irony is so entertaining that I hardly realized there was a message.

ex. McGinty votes for a candidate in exchange for $2/vote.

1 - A predictable setup = We think we know where it's going.

"THE POLITICIAN IN THE TOOL HOUSE

He stands, watch in hand, talking indignantly to the cop outside.

POLITICIAN: Well, I ain't goin' to wait here all night...I got a right to eat, ain't I? The guy's had time to vote ten times! I'm goin' to eat. If you see him, you tell him I got somethin' better to do than...

McGINTY'S VOICE: Than what? ...."

2 - The payoff is exaggerated. Who expected five tickets?

"McGinty comes in, reaches into his right pants pocket and chucks five tickets on the table.

POLITICIAN (counting them with his hand): From the time you took anybody's think...."

3 - The 2nd payoff is hugely exaggerated.  This results in the opposite of what we expected (irony).

From his left pants pocket McGinty throws ten more tickets on the table. This stops the Politician right in the middle of his sentence. He watches goggle-eyed as McGinty throws ten more from his right coat pocket. He watches stupefied as McGinty extracts another ten from his left coat pocket.

POLITICIAN (in an awe-struck voice): Is that all?

McGINTY: Wait a minute. (He pulls two more tickets from his breast pocket) That's it.

POLITICIAN (muttering to himself as he counts the tickets): Thirty-five, thirty-six, thirty-seven...sixty-four bucks!

McGINTY: Seventy-four bucks."

4 - The message? People will find ways around the system. 

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: For an ironic twist, exaggerate, then exaggerate even bigger. 

The Great McGinty (1940)
by Preston Sturges

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