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THE GOOD FAIRY, 1935
Movie Review

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THE GOOD FAIRY MOVIE POSTER
THE GOOD FAIRY, 1935
Movie Reviews

Directed by William Wyler
Starring: Margaret Sullavan, Frank Morgan
Review by Jen Frankel



SYNOPSIS:

A naive girl leaves the orphanage where she's spent her entire life to work as an usherette at a new cinema. Raised entirely on children's stories, she decides to become a "good fairy" to the New Yorkers she meets.

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REVIEW:

William Wyler, even by 1935, only ten years into his 45 year career as a director, sure knew how to tell a great story.

Starting with a slew of studio Westerns through the 20s, he also directed such classics as Bette Davis's Jezebel and The Letter, Roman Holiday (1953), Ben-Hur, and Funny Girl (1970).

The Good Fairy is a gem of a film, and I honestly can't say I've ever seen anything like it before or since. It's the kind of film that, if made today, would stun Hollywood, headline Sundance, and spawn a year's worth of unworthy copies.

The sweet Margaret Sullavan, who led such a tragic life herself, is cast as the luminously innocent Luisa Ginglebuscher (whose name almost deserves a credit of its own for the fun made of it). Sprung unexpectedly from the safety of the orphanage where she was raised by nuns, she finds herself alone and out of her depth on the streets of New York City.

Because she's a pretty young thing, she quickly finds no end of male suitors determined to take care of her. But here's where the film takes an unexpected turn that is at once so real and so romantically tender it's a marvel Wyler and company pull it off.

The only film I can think of that comes close to the magic of The Good Fairy is the French comedy Amelie. But even Amelie has a tawdry, worn feel to the characters which belies the magic it tries to weave, and its connection to reality is never sure.

What makes the film just so unique its the way it floats so delicately through the world of high society men who see a pretty girl as a very particular sort of commodity / necessity, and weaves it with the viewpoint of a young woman who is not stupid, just monumentally inexperienced. It's an ode to the power of goodness, pure and simple, and surprising as heck.

The screenplay was based on a Hungarian play by Ferenc Molnar, who was also responsible for the original idea for Carosel, another story that weaves fantasy and unvarnished reality for an unexpected result.

Also featured in the film is the venerable Frank Morgan, best known as the Wizard of Oz himself, great and powerful, as one of Luisa's suitors, and a very young Cesar Romero (TV's Joker in the original Batman series) in one of his very first film roles.

You may also, if you've got very sharp eyes, see Ann Miller (Essie from Capra's You Can't Take It With You) as one of the orphans in the opening scenes.This film won Best Director and Best Cinematography, and was nominated for five other categories. The screenwriter was nominated, and rightly so. Taken from a short story that first appeared in the Saturday Evening Post in 1933 by Maurice Walsh, Green Rushes, Frank Nugent was able to weave a story rich in subtext and conflict.

The collector’s edition of the DVD includes an interview with Maureen O’Hara where she reminisces about filming The Quiet Man, and is well worth watching.

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