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Good Fairy, The (1935)

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Score: 8/10

Genre: Screwball Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 38 min.

Release Date: February 18th, 1935 MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Director: William Wyler Actors: Margaret Sullavan, Herbert Marshall, Frank Morgan, Reginald Owen, Eric Blore, Beulah Bondi, Alan Hale, Cesar Romero

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purts of wonderfully inventive dialogue (“Alone I will negotiate yon precipice,” slurs a drunken doctor before descending a set of stairs) highlight this early Preston Sturges screenplay, which expectedly features laudable archetypes of classic screwball comedies. Mistaken identities, social mix-ups, and quite a bit of inappropriate innuendo (cleverly disguised as witty banter) populate the proceedings, along with some rather unconventional solutions to cleaning up the outlandish messes the characters get themselves into. While it’s missing the finesse and refinement of Sturges’ best works, “The Good Fairy” still provides its share of worthy additives to the genre.

Luisa Ginglebuscher (Margaret Sullavan), an easily confused young woman from the Municipal Orphanage for Girls, is quite the storyteller. Part of her asylum upbringing requires that she also do one good deed each day. Neither craft helps her when she’s recruited by Maurice Schlapkohl (Alan Hale) to be an usherette at his enormous Budapest theater. Before leaving her home, she’s warned about the male gender – and, as if preordained, employee Joe (Cesar Romero) makes a move on her after her first day of work. She’s saved by a baron, who turns out to be a mere waiter, Detlaff (Reginald Owen), and together they attend an exclusive party. From there, she gets caught up with the minister of futility, Dr. Metz (Eric Blore), and the extremely wealthy president of a South American meatpacking company, Konrad (Frank Morgan, complete with contagious laugh).

As she’s forced to create excuses to escape the over-the-top flirtations of the eccentric millionaire, Luisa finds herself lying about having a husband. Deciding to do her daily “good deed,” she chooses a random name out of a phone book to receive great wealth from Konrad in exchange for her companionship. The lucky man is the poor, unknown lawyer Dr. Max Sporum, an ethical, just, and justice-concerned man whose lifelong dream is to obtain a hand-crank pencil sharpener with multiple holes. Fortunately, he’s played by Herbert Marshall, a fitting romantic counterpart for Luisa – if only he would get rid of his frightening beard.

Directed by William Wyler (“Dodsworth,” “Wuthering Heights,” “Ben-Hur”), “The Good Fairy” succeeds on Luisa’s supreme naivety, which hysterically lands her in every questionable, risqué, and unbecoming situation imaginable – forcing her to lie her way out of and back into each dilemma. Also prominent is the inventive compounding of fabrications to cover up benign intentions that have unintentionally wayward outcomes, quirky characters, an odd lack of background music, and sticky situations that are so hairy, the only remedy is a matching, utterly illogical solution. But it’s the rapid-fire dialogue, tripping over words, stuttering, mixing up phrases, tricky doubletalk, nonsensical prattling, and poppycock metaphors (thanks to Sturges) that make this comedy so uniquely enjoyable.

– The Massie Twins

 



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