30.4.11

The Good Fairy (1935)




I recently watched this delightful film. Since I only just got wind of it, I thought it's possible others interested in classic films hadn't seen it either, so I just had to hit the keyboard. It features a stellar cast, with Frank MorganMargaret Sullavan, Herbert Marshall and Reginald Owen, and with small roles by Caesar Romero and a comedic favourite Eric Blore. Not to mention it was written by Preston Sturges and directed by William Wyler. But it is nice to be surprised with a "new" gem every so often. Preston Sturges really funny one liners are good for chuckles and the entire script is pretty zany. But instead of it being as screwy as lets say Palm Beach Story its toned down by William Wyler in a way by emphasizing on the brilliant actors and using scarce amount of music. It's technically simplistic but cozy 'n' sweet at the same time. Sullavan plays Luisa Ginglebusher a life long orphan who enters the real world for the first time after being randomly plucked out of her asylum to work as a movie usherette. Ginglebusher loves fairy tales and doing good deeds but she learns that being a Good Fairy to benefit total strangers can have it's downside. 
Ginglebusher now alone in the world she befriends a kooky and kindly waiter named Detloff (Reginald Owen) who becomes the closest thing she has to a paternal guardian. He does his best to protect her from the cities shifty characters. Detloff introduces her to the fancy life at a hotel party he is working at. But while Detloff is working the tables, a meat packing millionaire named Konrad (Frank Morgan) begins to make a bee line towards Ginglebusher's table, he relentlessly tries to pursue her. So he lures her up to a private dining room and starts talking about what kind of fur he should buy her. Ginglebusher pretends she is married to a poor lawyer and randomly picks a name out of the directory. Her plan is to help out a struggling man by using Konrad who will give him a high paying job at his meat packers. By doing this Konrad will be able to send the hubby away on trips, which means he'll be able to be with Gingle. The chosen lawyer is Dr Max Sporum (Herbert Marshall), poor: yes but he's also quite stuffy. His unsuccessful career as a lawyer has led him to grow a funny parted beard (which he hastily combs now and then) because he thinks it makes him look like a professional. When he hears of his future wealth, he becomes obsessed with getting a new desk pencil sharpener, like that's the most exciting thing. 
Later on when he describes the story of his surprising fortune to Ginglebusher, Sporum points to his pencil sharpener and says  "Hence the Magnificence" (! How can you not Love this movie :)
Ginglebusher's plan later unravels when the inevitable occurs and Konrad finds out. Other than that I found the movie pretty unpredictable. Loved it, wouldn't call it a "masterpiece" but it's defiantly one I'll come back to, yay (:  
The Good Fairy is very good, largely because of the charismatic performances and quirky characters. Margaret Sullavan is splendid and believable as the young naive orphan, Luisa Ginglebusher, the role had been tailored by Preston to suit the actress.
Frank Morgan is superb of course. He and Margaret would soon work together again in Ernst Lubitsch's The Shop Around The Corner (1940). And I have to say that it was kind of  strange watching the "Wizard of Oz" getting drunk and coming on to younger girls. But Morgan really played him vigorously, and I felt sorry for him in a part where Reginald knocks him over, but never fear, in the end we learn he's a pretty good guy. But I just couldn't get his roles in Oz out of my mind! 
Another bonus is the magnificent distinct voices that come from all the actors! Margaret, Frank, Herbert and Reginald, maybe that's why there's little to no musical score. They all make Preston Sturges script something really memorable.
If you love Preston Sturges and screwball comedy and haven't yet come across this film I defiantly recommend it. It's nice to see where the creator of Sullivans Travels and The Lady Eve started out ( Easy Living and Remember the Night are also worth a watch or two). This film feels different to his own directed masterpieces, but you can tell from the script its Preston, even though it's not an original Preston Sturges story (it was based on a 1930s play by Ferenc Molnar). In the thirties Sturges did only script work for Hollywood until he got fed up with with the way Hollywood directors were treating his material. Which makes me wonder if he was happy with this one? So he started directing as well, his directorial debut was with a script he had written in around 1933 called The Great Mcginty (1940), he was so eager to direct that he asked paramount to pay him only a dollar in return. 
Sounds silly doesn't it? A little boy Without a Beard  (lol)
This film's  star Margaret Sullavan and director William Wyler had just been married the year the production of The Good Fairy began in 1934. The two were constantly feuding and she'd walk off the set, until Wyler realised that she worked better when they didn't fight (genius). None of that shows in her performance at all. I have only seen her in this film and The Shop Around the Corner and I'm eager to see her act dramatically. Before The Good Fairy She had played two roles in dramatic films, "Little Man, What Now?" (Frank Borzage) and "Only Yesterday" which was her first film in 1933 (John M. Stahl). So The Good Fairy was her first attempt at comedy and I thought she was a pro, timing was excellent. It's unfortunate for us that she only played comedienne twice in her career, but its fortunate that Sullavan's roles were in The Good Fairy and The Shop around the corner.
As the unassuming love interest is Herbert Marshall (Trouble in Paradise) who looked so handsome (I thought) couldn't believe he was around 45 when he took this role, the same age as Frank Morgan!. The suave Brit acted the part like I never seen him act before! honestly its difficult not to enjoy this guys performances. He is also fantastic in the comedy Trouble In Paradise but that's a whole other character. So yeah I think that sums it up, Watch The Good Fairy and you can here.
Herbert Marshall admiring her furs face.
H.M: "Who Is this Nobleman?"
M.S: "oh isn't it beautiful?"
H.M: "Yes but what is it?", 
M.S "A Genuine Foxine"
H.M: "uh huh, probably related to a Fox or something"
(wish it magically had an audio button , its not the same just reading the joke.)

1 comment:

Robby Cress said...

I haven't seen this one but it sounds like a hoot. The fact that it has Frank Morgan is enough for me to check it out. He may at times be a little too zany for some people, but I always find him hysterical. The rest of the cast sounds pretty stellar too.