Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2021) on… The Good Fairy (1935)

Today, we’ve got another double-feature! This one will be focusing on two movies that were written by Preston Sturges. The first one is the 1935 film The Good Fairy, starring Margaret Sullavan and Herbert Marshall! But first, we have a theatrical short to get through!

(available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of The Pink Panther Cartoon Collection: Volume 1 (1964-1966) from Kino Lorber)

(Length: 6 minutes, 24 seconds)

The Pink Panther tries to get himself into the orchestra at a concert, but the conductor keeps throwing him out. Of course, the fun here is in the orchestra trying to do Beethoven’s 5th Symphony, but the Panther keeps trying to do the Pink Panther Theme. The chemistry between the Panther and the Little Man as the conductor is still as good as always, and makes for a great deal of the fun. Throw in a quick cameo at the end from Henry Mancini (through live-action footage), and this one is a lot of fun to come back to every now and then!

And Now For The Main Feature…

When Maurice Schlapkohl (Alan Hale), the owner of a big movie theater, comes to the municipal orphanage (for girls), he hires orphan Luisa Ginglebusher (Margaret Sullavan) to be one of his ushers. The head of the orphanage, Dr. Schultz (Beulah Bondi), tries to give her advice, both on how to deal with men, as well as the hope that she will try to do good deeds for those around her. One night, when Luisa leaves the theater, she is accosted by a man, and her only hope is to pretend that the passing Detlaff (Reginald Owen) (whom she had met in the theater) is her husband. After she explains herself and her situation to Detlaff over sandwiches, he gives her an invitation to a fancy party. When she arrives, she finds out that he is the waiter there (and therefore cannot speak to her very easily without getting in trouble). She at first confuses the owner of a South American meat packing company, Konrad (Frank Morgan), for a waiter, until he tells her who he is and tries to seduce her. To get herself out of trouble, she again claims to be married, but Konrad is still interested, and promises to help make her “husband” rich (if only to get him out of the picture). Figuring it to be a possible way to do a good deed for others, like Dr. Schultz had suggested, Luisa picks a random name out of the phone book when Konrad is distracted. The next day, he goes to see her “husband,” a lawyer named Dr. Max Sporum (Herbert Marshall) to offer him a five-year contract that would take him to South America (but he obviously doesn’t give the exact reason why he is doing this). Dr. Sporum believes this is essentially karma, as he has long tried to be honest and ethical in all his dealings, and finally things are going right for him. A bit later, Luisa tries to see him to tell him the truth, only to see how happy this has made him, and she can’t bring herself to disillusion him. They spend some time together, spending the money he has been given due to his new account, and they fall for each other. However, Luisa still has to meet with Konrad later, so that Dr. Sporum will be able to keep his position. Will she be able to go through with it, or will everything still work itself out for all involved?

The movie was based on the 1930 play A jó tündér (or The Good Fairy) by Ferenc Molnár (which had been translated and adapted by Jane Hinton for the 1931 Broadway show). Preston Sturges adapted it for the big screen, and tailored the script for actress Maureen Sullavan for her third film. In spite of many behind-the-scenes issues (such as Preston Sturges generally getting the script to everyone a day before they would shoot it, or quarrels between Maureen Sullavan and director William Wyler), the movie turned out to be a hit. The screenplay would be the basis for the 1951 Broadway musical Make A Wish, and the story would be remade onscreen as the 1947 Deanna Durbin film I’ll Be Yours and a 1956 TV movie for Hallmark Hall Of Fame.

I’m coming off my first time seeing this movie. I was willing to try it, having seen a few other films that Preston Sturges was involved with, and this one sounded like fun. Having Frank Morgan in the cast didn’t hurt, either, as he is usually fun to see (outside of in Fast And Loose, although I blame that one on the early sound technology and how it affected everybody’s acting). And, having seen it, I still maintain my opinion of Frank Morgan, as he is just as fun (and funny) here as I would expect! And he’s not the only one. Reginald Owen as the waiter Detlaff, who takes on an almost fatherly role for Margaret Sullavan’s character, provides some humor as well. Margaret Sullavan herself is quite a bit of fun, able to handle most of the comedy well as her character tries to navigate the whole situation. Eric Blore makes an enjoyable (if not altogether too short) appearance as the drunken Dr. Metz, the Minister of Arts and Decorations. I will admit, Herbert Marshall seems to be the weak link for me in the main cast, but even he’s enough fun (especially when he is being pushed to get rid of his facial hair at Luisa’s insistence).

It’s an understatement to say that this movie has a number of memorable moments within it! I know I get a chuckle out of the “movie-within-a-movie” scene early on, with its melodramatic tone and one character basically saying “Go” with different inflections the whole time (seriously, it seems like the type of thing that Singin’ In The Rain made fun of). And, honestly, the dynamic between Frank Morgan and Reginald Owen’s characters (Konrad and Detlaff, respectively) provides quite a few laughs throughout the movie. Of course, the two standout moments for this pair are when Konrad tries to order dinner for two (and Detlaff keeps looking for reasons to get Margaret Sullavan’s Luisa out of the private dining room to get her out of trouble), and the end, when everything gets explained. Plain and simple, I really enjoyed this movie, and had quite a few good laughs with it! So I would indeed recommend this one!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2020) with… The Good Fairy (1935)

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber Studio Classics, featuring a new 4K master. This transfer looks wonderful! The detail is superb! There are a few (very few) specks here and there, but so few that it’s hardly worth mentioning. It’s safe to say this wonderful film has been given the treatment it deserves, and the Blu-ray is well worth it!

Film Length: 1 hour, 38 minutes

My Rating: 8/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Margaret Sullavan – The Shop Around The Corner (1940)

Herbert Marshall – Mad About Music (1938)

The Cat And The Fiddle (1934) – Frank Morgan – Naughty Marietta (1935)

Stingaree (1934) – Reginald Owen – Rose-Marie (1936)

Eric Blore – Top Hat (1935)

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