The Good Fairy Screen 5 articles

The Good Fairy


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  • Most of this dramatic complexity is dulled or obscured by Wyler's direction, which isn't uninteresting, but which invests too heavily in cinematic experiments with form and in the established personas of his stars to find its way into the deeply theatrical, symbolist leanings of the piece . . . It shrouds itself in layers of gauze that romanticize the material at the price of revealing it, and which require its allegiance to established generic protocols instead of to its own internal life.

  • 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.

  • Much of the comedy hinges on misunderstandings and thwarted seduction, and it's enlivened by scriptwriter Preston Sturges's wicked sophistication and sardonic digs at class pretensions. Wyler's direction is stage bound, and Molnar's notion of courtship may seem quaint. But Morgan's good-natured lecher is a hoot, and Sullavan's blend of determination and vulnerability is incandescent.

  • A masterstroke: in The Good Fairy, Wyler uses a rare close-up when Herbert Marshall rejects Margaret Sullivan. It’s a bog-standard rom-com second act curtain moment, the lovers’ quarrel. But this one shot of an anguished Sullivan, using the visual language of tragedy in a light romantic comedy, gives the story the emotional weight needed for the audience to care about the outcome. Remove it, and the continuity will still work, but we will not care.

  • Margaret Sullavan’s star personality is an important element in the light-hearted tone, but so is the script by Preston Sturges, still five years away from making his own directorial debut, and clearly showing his light comedic touch with its tongue-in-cheek absurdity not that far removed from reality.

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