Thursday, January 04, 2018

Tonight's Movie: It's a Wonderful World (1939) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

Claudette Colbert and James Stewart star in IT'S A WONDERFUL WORLD (1939), available on DVD from the Warner Archive.

One of my goals in the last few years has been to catch up with unseen James Stewart films, as well as Stewart films I've not seen for a long time.

I don't think I'd seen IT'S A WONDERFUL WORLD since the '80s; although it stars two favorite actors, I had a vague memory that it wasn't that good. As I revisited it I hoped I'd find my initial impression was off,'s not that good.

It's a shame as all the key ingredients seem to be in place: Stewart and Colbert in their only costarring film; director W.S. Van Dyke (THE THIN MAN); and a script by one of the great screenwriters, Ben Hecht, based on a story by Hecht and Herman J. Mankiewicz. Unfortunately the hoped-for witty comedy amounted to the two leads running around doing a whole lot of shouting.

Stewart plays Guy Johnson, a private detective whom the filmmakers make no attempt to make likable for the better part of the film's first 86 minutes. Guy is going to Sing Sing for a year because he hid his client (Ernest Truex) while attempting to get him off on a murder charge.

On the train to prison Guy escapes from his goofy police guard (Nat Pendleton) and goes on the lam, taking hostage poet Edwina Corday (Colbert), who just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Eventually, once Edwina gets over her fear, she helps to protect Guy and solve the case.

The 39 STEPS-type theme is on the stale side here, especially as Colbert and Stewart don't really click chemistry wise; for an unexpected pairing which does work, check out WITHOUT RESERVATIONS (1946) a very cute comedy in which she was teamed with John Wayne. IT'S A WONDERFUL WORLD as a whole is simply kind of flat, even tiresome at some points.

IT'S A WONDERFUL WORLD was filmed in black and white by Oliver T. Marsh.

The supporting cast includes Guy Kibbee, Frances Drake, Edgar Kennedy, George Chandler, Sidney Blackmer, Hans Conreid, Cliff Clark, and Grady Sutton. Also in the film are Andy Clyde, Cecil Cunningham, Frank Faylen, and Phillip Terry.

The Warner Archive DVD has some noticeable flaws and scratches here and there, but on the whole is acceptable. The disc includes the trailer.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop or from any online retailers where DVDs and Blu-rays are sold.


Blogger Caftan Woman said...

I swear by my eyes that I thought this was a lot funnier years ago. I was disappointed because there was some cute slapstick that made me laugh out loud, but the pacing was way off.

6:21 AM  
Blogger Brittaney said...

I also found this one to be a disappointment. Which is sad considering the talent involved. It just isn't that interesting.

7:24 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks to you both for sharing your impressions of this film; I'm kind of glad to know I wasn't having an "off" night as I'd really hoped for more. (Interesting you found it less enjoyable the second time around, Caftan Woman. At least the "swear by my eyes" line was memorable! LOL.)

Ah well, at least they did make a lot of great movies, right?!

Best wishes,

9:15 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

Newer›  ‹Older