Good Fairy, The (1935)

“Where does the pencil sharpener come in?”

Synopsis:
When a smitten millionaire (Frank Morgan) aggressively pursues a young orphan (Margaret Sullavan), she claims to have a husband and Morgan agrees to secretly make him rich on Louisa’s behalf. Sullavan picks a random lawyer (Herbert Marshall) out of the phone book and pretends she’s married to him, but complications quickly ensue as Sullavan’s “good fairy” actions lead her to meet Marshall in real life, and the couple fall in love.

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Review:
William Wyler directed this delightful romantic comedy about a real-life “good fairy” whose pay-it-forward desire to spread goodness in the world — a lesson taught to her during her upbringing in an orphange — leads to unexpectedly complicated results. Spluttering Morgan is perfectly cast as the conflicted but generous suitor, and Sullavan is luminous throughout. Marshall — often saddled with playing a pill onscreen — only presents that way for a few minutes, then becomes surprisingly sympathetic, making our investment in his outcome all the more acute. The storyline — scripted by Preston Sturges, and based on a play by Ferenc Molnar — moves us quickly through one humorous set up after the other, with quirky twists at every turn. Check out TCM’s article for background information on the surprisingly rocky making of this film, which resulted in a short-lived marriage between hot-tempered Sullavan and exasperated Wyler.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Margaret Sullavan as Louisa
  • Frank Morgan as Konrad
  • Herbert Marshall as Dr. Sporum
  • Reginald Owen as Detlaff the waiter
  • Luminous cinematography by Norbert Brodine
  • Preston Sturges’ consistently clever and engaging script: “If there’s any good fairy around here, it’s me!”

Must See?
Yes, as a fine romantic comedy, and particularly for Sullavan’s performance.

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One Response to “Good Fairy, The (1935)”

  1. Not must-see.

    I’d seen this once before and it’s possible that I found it charming on a first viewing. Seeing it again, I find it more flawed than I originally thought. For most of the film, I think everyone involved is simply trying too hard to be both funny and farcical – and the effort shows, more than it should.

    For example, in one particularly forced sequence, Morgan and Owen are quarreling (during a celebratory occasion in a restaurant) about what is and what isn’t available on a menu. The mounting ‘tension’ of the scene is meant for laughs but, like a number of other sequences, it’s more idiotic than funny.

    Sturges would, of course, go on to write better scripts than this one – but, because it *is* Sturges’ script, we do occasionally get a funny line or a sequence here and there that works reasonably well. But there’s also a fair amount of awkwardness (of material) throughout.

    I think the film only begins to come really alive in the last 20 minutes – as the ‘pressure cooker’ is about to blow and the main characters are all finally directly clashing with each other as a group, in order to bring the film (and its viewers) to a happy ending.

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