The Good Fairy (William Wyler / U.S., 1935):

The difference between this lustrous comedy and The Guardsman (or The Gay Deception, for that matter) rests in the way Preston Sturges scans Molnár for names like "Ginglebusher" and "Schlapkohl" or a baronial Frank Morgan declaration ("When I'm full of Dutch courage, I behave very Frenchly"). Nevertheless, writer and director are on the same page: A matron encourages "more freedom" at the orphanage patio, William Wyler's camera pulls back to reveal the bars on the gate. Alan Hale, a cinema impresario, comes looking for usherettes amid the personnel and spots Margaret Sullavan, pigtailed and fervent, swinging from the kitchen lamp in a fairy-tale demonstration. "Wrap her up!" The Budapest theater has authentic Hungarian on the marquee, Sullavan guides the customers with smile and wand; the weepy onscreen pastiche that makes her cry is pure Sturges, even more so is the twist of fate outside the theater that takes her from wolfish Cesar Romero to the swank party where Reginald Owen, her savior, waits on tables. "The air is full of revolution... and romance," says wealthy industrialist Morgan, and, to curb his passion, the ingénue pulls a husband out of the phonebook. Herbert Marshall, an honest thus poor lawyer, is the chosen one, becoming Morgan's confused beneficiary in the old man's attempt to bag Sullavan as a mistress -- a starchy romantic partner, except for his last moment alone with his precious beard. A shot of Marshall contemplating his office upgrading ("A pencil-sharpener with a handle. And different size holes. At last!") contains the seeds for Wyler's deep-focus, further elaborated when the heroine is reflected into infinity in the mirrored chamber; Morgan's thwarted seduction shows another formative Wyler stylistic, the faux-Euro elegance here blessedly goosed by Sturges' cyclonic American verve. With Eric Blore, Beulah Bondi, Luis Alberni, and June Clayworth. In black and white.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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