The Great Man Votes

The Great Man Votes is a 1939 American drama film starring John Barrymore as a widowed professor turned drunkard who has the deciding vote in an election for mayor. It was based on the short story of the same name by Gordon Malherbe Hillman published in the November 1933 issue of American Magazine.[2] The plot of the 2008 movie Swing Vote has been compared to The Great Man Votes.[3]

The Great Man Votes
theatrical poster
Directed byGarson Kanin
Produced byCliff Reid
Screenplay byJohn Twist
Garson Kanin (uncredited)
Based on"The Great Man Votes" (short story) by Gordon Malherbe Hillman
StarringJohn Barrymore
Music byRoy Webb
CinematographyRussell Metty
Edited byJack Hively
Distributed byRKO Radio Pictures
Release date
  • January 13, 1939 (1939-01-13) (US)
Running time
72 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$432,000[1]


Ivy League scholar Gregory Vance descends into an alcoholic abyss after the death of his wife. He ends up barely able to hold a job, and a night watchman's job at that.

Vance's two children, Joan and Donald, are exceptionally intelligent and benefit from his tutoring. But they are bullied at school by other students and their father risks losing custody of them if he cannot change his ways. New teacher Agnes Billow is able to help Vance become more like the man he used to be, particularly after a political bigwig tempts him ethically with a bribe of a better job in exchange for Vance's vote.



The film recorded a loss of $10,000.[1]


  1. Richard Jewel, 'RKO Film Grosses: 1931–1951', Historical Journal of Film Radio and Television, Vol 14 No 1, 1994 p57
  2. "The Great Man Votes (1939): Screenplay Info". TCM Movie Database. Turner Classic Movies.
  3. Dargis, Manohla (August 1, 2008). "Hey, America, This Guy's for You (Movie Review 'Swing Vote')". The New York Times.
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