Strange Bedfellows

(Pictured above: Kevin Kline as President ‘Dave’)

It’s often said that truth is stranger than fiction, and the current political climate seems to be doubling-down on that cliché.

In the first of two articles, we look at intentional as opposed to accidental political satire. If real-life politicians are compelling you to check your passport’s expiration date, you might consider spending streaming (or DVD) time with those of a more endearing, fictional stripe.

Here, we present for voter approval, two cinematic political profiles: The Great McGinty and Dave. (And don’t forget to check in next Thursday, August 17, to read about even “Stranger Bedfellows.”)

Brute 66:  Dan McGinty, ex-Governor

Summary: Preston Sturges’ debut as both writer and director gives us Brian Donlevy’s winning portrayal as the The Great McGinty (1940). McGinty is a good hearted, rough-around-the-edges governor of a big state, whose people-oriented administration is brought to an untimely end by his relationship with a corrupt political boss.

Backstory: The ex-governor’s affiliation with corruption goes back to his homeless days when the same boss offers him a two-dollar bribe to vote under a false name in a rigged election. Turns out, McGinty is game, good with his fists and immune to ethics of any kind, enabling him to move up the ladder from ward boss to mayor and governor. As the trailer below suggests, once elected governor, this single-minded viewpoint is undermined by the love of a good woman.

To see The Great McGinty, you’ll need to get it on DVD, since the movie is not currently streaming anywhere.

Body politic meets body double: William Harrison Mitchell, President.

Summary: “In a country where anybody can become president, anybody just did.” In 1993’s Dave, Kevin Kline plays a morally challenged and out-of-touch chief executive who has an unexpected epiphany — or flip flop — when he decides to give financial support to a homeless shelter he had previously wanted to defund.

Backstory:  Actually (with a nod to The Man in the Iron Mask), Kevin Kline also plays “Dave” Kovic, a simple, sweet man (as evidenced in the trailer below), running a temporary employment agency near Washington, DC.  Better yet, Dave is President Mitchell’s perfect doppelganger. When President Mitchell has a massive stroke during an extramarital affair with a female staffer, it takes very little time for Mitchell’s chief-of-staff to conscript Dave. Of course, it’s Dave (“the president”), who decides to save the homeless shelter and promote a corresponding jobs bill. Plus, he strikes up a warm relationship with the adulterous president’s offended wife, played by Sigourney Weaver. (Cheating on Sigourney Weaver? Impeachable!)

Stream Dave for $2.99 on YouTube and other sites.

(Note: This article, an updated version of one published earlier this year, is part of our summer Throwback Thursday series.)

About Charlie Greenberg

Charlie Greenberg is a NY-based theater and instrumental composer.

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