It's a Wonderful World (1939 film)

It's a Wonderful World (1939) is a romantic screwball comedy-mystery, starring Claudette Colbert and James Stewart and directed by W. S. Van Dyke.

It's a Wonderful World
1939 original movie poster
Directed byW. S. Van Dyke
Produced byFrank Davis
Written byBen Hecht
Herman J. Mankiewicz
StarringClaudette Colbert
James Stewart
Music byEdward Ward
CinematographyOliver T. Marsh
Edited byHarold F. Kress
Distributed byMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • May 19, 1939 (1939-05-19)
Running time
86 minutes
CountryUnited States


Private detective Guy Johnson (James Stewart) is well paid to watch over Willie Heyward (Ernest Truex), a wealthy man who likes to drink a bit too much and gets into trouble as a result. However, when Heyward's recent ex-girlfriend Dolores Gonzalez (Cecilia Callejo) makes a public nuisance of herself over their relationship, a drunk Heyward goes to see her. It is a setup. Dolores is being held at gunpoint by a man, and when Heyward enters her apartment, the mystery man kills Dolores and frames Heyward for the murder. The only clue is a half of a dime incorporated into a piece of jewelry that the victim managed to snatch from her assailant. Guy hurries to the scene soon after and hides his client so he can catch the real killer, but both of them are nabbed by the police, tried, convicted and sentenced: Guy to prison for a year, Heyward to be executed.

It is revealed to the audience that Heyward's new wife Vivian (Frances Drake) and her lover, Al Mallon (Sidney Blackmer), are behind the whole thing. She stands to inherit Heyward's millions. In addition to her lover, the unfaithful woman discovers that her husband Ned Brown (George Meeker), whom she thought was dead, is alive. Brown, an actor, unexpectedly arrives from Australia and starts blackmailing her.

On the way to jail, Guy comes across a clue, a newspaper personal ad from "Half a Dime" asking to be contacted at a certain location. Guy jumps from the moving train into a river, taking along the bumbling policeman handcuffed to him, Sergeant Fred Koretz (Nat Pendleton).

His struggle with Koretz is witnessed by noted poet Edwina Corday (Claudette Colbert). After knocking Koretz out and freeing himself from the handcuffs, he has no choice but to kidnap her to prevent her from sounding the alarm. At first, she believes him to be a dangerous criminal, but she soon discovers he is telling the truth about his mission, and insists on sticking with him, much to his annoyance, as he has a low opinion of the intelligence of women.

The trail leads to a small theater group run by Madame Chambers (Cecil Cunningham) in Saugerties, New York. Guy gets himself hired as an actor to better figure out who knows about the half dime. Guy brings in his associate, "Cap" Streeter (Guy Kibbee), to help with the investigation, only to have Edwina mistake him for a policeman and knock him out. Meanwhile, Vivian and Mallon decide it is better to silence her husband rather than submit to his demands. However, Mallon kills the wrong actor, a last-minute replacement, during a performance of What Price Glory?. Guy is arrested by the police, but Edwina tricks them into going to where Brown lives to look for a diary that implicates Guy in the first murder. When they drive to the address she gives, they catch Vivian and Mallon in the process of taking away a bound and gagged Brown.


Filming locations

San Diego, California


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