Sunday, January 19, 2020

Tonight's Movie: The Good Fairy (1935) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

THE GOOD FAIRY (1935), a truly magical romantic comedy directed by the great William Wyler, was released on Blu-ray this past week by Kino Lorber.

I first saw this film just about a decade ago, and I remembered very little about it, other than that I liked it. The thing that particularly stayed in my memory was Margaret Sullavan waving a light-up arrow as a movie theater usherette. Both the arrow and the film were just as charming as remembered.

The screenplay was written by another great, Preston Sturges, based on a play by Ferenc Molnar. It concerns a very innocent, somewhat daffy young girl named Luisa (Sullavan) who has just left the Budapest orphanage in which she was raised in order to take a job as an usherette at a theater owned by Mr. Schlapkohl (Alan Hale Sr.).

There are lots of young men (including Cesar Romero!) waiting at the stage door to date the pretty young usherettes, but Luisa is taken under the wing of a protective waiter (Reginald Owen) determined to preserve her innocence. The waiter sneaks Luisa into a fancy ball, where she meets wealthy Konrad (Frank Morgan), who has designs on her virtue.

Luisa promised the orphanage director (Beulah Bondi) that she'd do a good deed every day, and an opportunity opens up for Luisa to help a poor but honest lawyer, Dr. Sporum (Herbert Marshall). It's all very complicated, having to do with Konrad wanting to pay off Luisa's mythical "husband" so she'll be his mistress, or something like that, so Luisa selects Sporum's name out of the phone book to be showered with Konrad's largesse.

From there, matters only get crazier, but it's all quite delightful and fun. A storyline such as that could easily veer into the crass or tasteless, but it's all handled with a lighter-than-air, gossamer touch; in fact, the supposedly lecherous Konrad eventually reveals himself as an insecure man who really just wants to get married and have children.

This type of role was perfect for Sullavan, whose silliness always charms rather than exasperates. The scene where Sporum gifts her with a "genuine Foxine" fake fur and she cries because it's the first gift anyone has given her is both funny and touching.

By the final scene Luisa has three men (Marshall, Morgan, and Owen) wrapped around her little finger, all wanting to help her; I got to thinking Sullavan and her character in that regard reminded me of a Deanna Durbin character, such as in FOR THE LOVE OF MARY (1948) -- and then had to laugh as I suddenly remembered that Durbin actually remade THE GOOD FAIRY, playing Sullavan's role! In fact, that's one of only three Durbin films I've not seen; I love Durbin so much that I've been reluctant to completely finish off her "new-to-me" movies.  There's something tantalizing about knowing I still have a couple of her films yet unseen, but I guess that's a bit silly at this point, so I should catch I'LL BE YOURS soon.

Back to THE GOOD FAIRY, there are so many marvelous bits, from the previously mentioned light-up arrow to the very funny movie playing in the theater to Sporum honking his car horn and rhapsodizing about office equipment. There's also a great little chase scene near movie's end. The good lines come very quickly, so this is a film which demands one's full attention so as not to miss anything.

Marshall is particularly wonderful as the dour, rude professor, who gradually evolves into a completely different, caring personality thanks to Luisa entering his life. When he finally shaves off his horrible beard and reveals "movie star" good looks underneath, it's such a shock that Luisa doesn't initially recognize him.

It's fun to note that half a decade later Sullavan and Morgan would costar in another romantic comedy set in Budapest, THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER (1940).

THE GOOD FAIRY was filmed by Norbert Brodine. The film's running time is 98 minutes.

The great cast also includes Eric Blore and Luis Alberni. One of the orphanage girls listed at IMDb is said to be Ann Miller; I'll have to look for her next time I watch.

Extras on the Blu-ray are the trailer, a trailer gallery for six additional films available from Kino Lorber, and a commentary track by Simon Abrams.

Thanks to Kino Lorber for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray.


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