This Golden Age screwball romance deserves to be better known. 3.5 Stars

Ferenc Molnar’s rather caustic comedy becomes a delightful screwball romance courtesy of the talents of screenwriter Preston Sturges in William Wyler’s The Good Fairy.

The Good Fairy (1935)
Released: 18 Feb 1935
Rated: APPROVED
Runtime: 98 min
Director: William Wyler
Genre: Comedy, Romance
Cast: Margaret Sullavan, Herbert Marshall, Frank Morgan, Reginald Owen
Writer(s): Jane Hinton (English translation of play), Ferenc Molnár (play), Preston Sturges
Plot: A naive girl just out of a cloistered orphanage finds that being a 'good fairy' to strangers makes life awfully complicated.
IMDB rating: 7.8
MetaScore: N/A

Disc Information
Studio: Universal
Distributed By: Kino Lorber
Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
Audio: English 2.0 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: English SDH
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 1 Hr. 37 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray
Case Type: keep case
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Region: A
Release Date: 01/14/2020
MSRP: $29.95

The Production: 4/5

Ferenc Molnar’s rather caustic comedy becomes a delightful screwball romance courtesy of the talents of screenwriter Preston Sturges in William Wyler’s The Good Fairy. With a cast of whimsical comic actors and first-rate handling by the talented director, The Good Fairy emerges as one of the more unsung comedies of the Golden Age of screwball farces. In Kino Lorber’s newly released Blu-ray edition, it’s well worth experiencing.

In 1930s Budapest, innocent orphan Luisa Ginglebuscher (Margaret Sullavan) becomes an usherette at the local movie house, determined to succeed in her first job and pledging to honor her promise to do at least one good deed every day thus becoming some lucky someone’s “good fairy.” Luisa’s well-meaning lies of being married get her caught between potentially lecherous businessman Konrad (Frank Morgan) and decent, penniless lawyer Max Sporum (Herbert Marshall). Through Luisa’s manipulations, Max is offered a lucrative official position in Konrad’s meat conglomerate while both men hope to win the comely lass over into a romance with one of them.

Writer Preston Sturges has taken some of the knowingness from the character of Luisa making her much more appealing as an innocent in the world in general and with men in particular. Though the number of gents who attempt to put the moves on the lovely lady are numerous (including a wolfish Cesar Romero in an upsetting cameo), she manages to protect her virtue through a combination of pluck and precociousness. Sturges also manages to insert several hilarious if somewhat talky confrontations between ace comic actors Frank Morgan, Reginald Owen (who plays Luisa’s guardian angel), and clueless Eric Blore (as lascivious Dr. Metz) where words fly so fast and furiously that one might need an instant replay to catch all the priceless comic wordplay. Director William Wyler handles it all at a quick clip (once we get past the situational orphanage scenes at the beginning) and manages to stage some striking shots that quickly seize one’s attention: a delightful sequence with Max behind the wheel of his first car gleefully tooting its horn, Luisa in a hall of mirrors modeling her new fur piece, and the climactic encounters where each character lays claim to the title of “good fairy.” Wyler and Sullivan clashed throughout production (and then married two weeks before its completion), but you’d never know it from the smooth results he garners, particularly with her.

Margaret Sullavan takes wonderful advantage of such a precious role, never overplaying its naiveté but maintaining audience sympathy throughout even in a silly scene of romantic tiff late in the film. Herbert Marshall is rather pitiful early on as the penniless and despairing attorney ready to chuck the profession, but he blossoms under the beneficence of Luisa and emerges as a charming and desirable leading man. Frank Morgan walks away with all his scenes with his magnificent way with words, able to take the wordiest and most befuddling speeches and spin them into comic gold. Reginald Owen takes a rather heavy hand to his protective waiter, but he does unquestionably have some funny bits of comic business. Many of the other famous faces in the cast get only a brief scene or two: Eric Blore hamming it up as an unsteady leach, Beulah Bondi as the head of the orphanage, Alan Hale as a theater owner in need of an usherette (which gets Luisa out of that confining orphans’ home), and Luis Alberni as an amusing barber.

Video: 4.5/5

3D Rating: NA

The film’s 1.37:1 theatrical aspect ratio is faithfully delivered in this 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. It’s another velvety and appealing picture with just the right amount of grain present (perhaps more noticeable in the many close-ups). Grayscale is beautifully captured with lush black levels and crisp whites though there are a few slight scratches here and there which prevent the image from being completely pristine. Still, for a film of this age, it looks marvelous. The movie has been divided into 8 chapters.

Audio: 5/5

The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono soundtrack offers an era-appropriate mix with the snappy dialogue, occasional music, and expected sound effects combined professionally. Universal engineers have removed age-related hiss, flutter, crackle, and pops resulting in a most appealing listening experience.

Special Features: 1.5/5

Audio Commentary: film historian Simon Abrams has certainly done his research on the film as he continually reads from various volumes of film history and filmmakers’ biographies about the production of the movie and the principals before and behind the camera. Unfortunately, he doesn’t prove to be a particularly capable reader stumbling rather often over words and mispronouncing quite a few names of important personages (including producer Carl Laemmle, Sullavan’s agent Leland Hayward, actor Adolph Menjou, even the name of the Pantages Theater). It’s a sometimes aggravating listening experience.

Theatrical Trailer (2:46, SD)

Kino Trailers: The Great McGinty, Christmas in July, The Children’s Hour, The Big Country, Murder!, Gog.

Overall: 3.5/5

William Wyler’s The Good Fairy is an excellent comedy that deserves to be much better known. With sparkling playing particularly by Margaret Sullavan, Herbert Marshall, and Frank Morgan, crisp writing by Preston Sturges, and striking direction by William Wyler, this new Kino Blu-ray earns a hearty recommendation.

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Matt Hough

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Johnny Angell

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I’ve not seen this film but based on your review for the production (your writing makes me think is should be a 4.5), the video, and audio this should be rated overall as a 4. You’ve certainly got me interested in it. I don’t think a disc should be downrated for poor extras. Those are for extra credit.
 

lark144

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"...one might need an instant replay to catch all the priceless comic wordplay."

Matt, you're a poet, but do you know ir?
 
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Will Krupp

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You know, as much as I LOVE Preston Sturges' writing, I have NEVER actually seen this. I DID see the 1947 Deanna Durbin remake I'LL BE YOURS (from that lamentable period when Universal-International did NOT care what sub-par vehicles they prepared for her and she was just working out her contract) and didn't think much of it. The original has always escaped me, though. Based on this, I'm going to finally give it a shot now that I can see it in a worthy presentation.

Thanks for the review, Matt!
 
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timk1041

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You know, as much as I LOVE Preston Sturges' writing, I have NEVER actually seen this. I DID see the 1947 Deanna Durbin remake I'LL BE YOURS (from that lamentable period when Universal-International did NOT care what sub-par vehicles they prepared for her and she was just working out her contract) and didn't think much of it. The original has always escaped me, though. Based on this, I'm going to finally give it a shot now that I can see it in a worthy presentation.

Thanks for the review, Matt!
True, not one of Durbin's better films, but I like her enough that I would watch any of her films.
 

Will Krupp

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True, not one of Durbin's better films, but I like her enough that I would watch any of her films.
I hear that!! ;)

When I was a kid (back when knighthood was in flow'r), most of her Universal films were packaged on our local PBS Channel and ran pretty regularly. The ones that weren't in the package, SPRING PARADE, IT'S A DATE, and CHRISTMAS HOLIDAY were harder to track down over the years but I did manage it!

Though I have something of a soft spot for SOMETHING IN THE WIND, those last four are pretty rough, with it being pretty obvious that both Universal-International and Deanna were just going through the motions at that point. Her marriage was crumbling and she couldn't wait to get out of "Hollywood."
 
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Matt Hough

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I thought I had a copy of I'll Be Yours (any Deanna gets serious shelf space at my house), but upon checking, it was nowhere to be found, so that has been rectified. DVD arriving Thursday. Like Will, a local station had a syndication package of her films that ran constantly for several years, and I saw all that they showed including I'll Be Yours, but I haven't seen it lately, so I'll be looking forward to revisiting it.
 
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