The Good Fairy (film)

The Good Fairy is a 1935 romantic comedy film written by Preston Sturges, based on the 1930 play A jó tündér by Ferenc Molnár as translated and adapted by Jane Hinton, which was produced on Broadway in 1931. The film was directed by William Wyler and stars Margaret Sullavan, Herbert Marshall, Frank Morgan and Reginald Owen.

The Good Fairy
video cover
Directed byWilliam Wyler
Produced byCarl Laemmle Jr.
Written byFerenc Molnár (play)
Jane Hinton (translation)
Preston Sturges (screenplay)
StarringMargaret Sullavan
Herbert Marshall
Frank Morgan
Reginald Owen
Music byDavid Klatzkin
Heinz Roemheld
CinematographyNorbert Brodine
Edited byDaniel Mandell
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • January 31, 1935 (1935-01-31) (New York City)
  • February 18, 1935 (1935-02-18) (U.S.)
  • March 12, 1935 (1935-03-12) (Los Angeles)
Running time
98 minutes
CountryUnited States

Sturges' screenplay diverges significantly from the Molnár play, and later became the basis for the book of the 1951 Broadway musical Make a Wish.[1] In particular, Sturges added a movie-within-the-movie in which the actors communicate in one-syllable sentences.[2]


Luisa Ginglebusher (Margaret Sullavan) is a young, naive orphan who is given a job as an usherette in a Budapest movie palace. Detlaff (Reginald Owen), a waiter she meets in the theatre, takes her to an exclusive party where, to hold off the advances of Konrad (Frank Morgan), a meat-packing millionaire a little too fond of drink, she picks a name from the phone book to be her "husband", hoping to do a good deed and divert some of Konrad's wealth to someone else.

When the lucky man, stuffy but poor Dr. Max Sporum (Herbert Marshall), gets a 5-year employment contract and a big bonus from Konrad, he thinks the millionaire is interested in him because of his ethical behavior, diligent hard work and integrity, but actually Konrad plans to send the "husband" to South America so that he will be free to seduce the girl. Many complications ensue when Lu gets curious about Sporum, and pays him a visit.[2][3][4]


Cast notes:

  • Future film musical star Ann Miller, who it was once claimed had the world's fastest feet when tap dancing, has an uncredited bit part, her second film appearance.[5]
  • Future child star Jane Withers appears as a child in the orphanage sequence. At only nine years old, it was already her seventh film appearance.[6]
  • Matt McHugh of the McHugh acting family has a small uncredited part as a moving man.[7]


The Good Fairy was in production from September 13 to December 17, 1934.[8] During filming, director William Wyler and star Margaret Sullavan, for whom writer Preston Sturges had tailored the lead role, clashed frequently, with Sullavan walking off the set several times. When it was brought to Wyler's attention that Sullavan's work was better on the days when they didn't fight, he started to go out of his way to avoid clashing with her. Then, on November 25, Wyler and Sullavan eloped to Yuma, Arizona and got married.[1][9] Their marriage would last two years.

There were problems between the studio, Universal, and the film's principals. Despite complaints that Wyler was taking too much time because of multiple retakes of scenes involving Sullavan, especially close-ups, Sturges was keeping only a day or so ahead of the shooting, writing new scenes and feeding them to Wyler to shoot "off the cuff". Eventually both Wyler and Sturges were dropped from the studio payroll.[1]

Filming had begun before the script had received formal approval from the Hays Office, which objected to some scenes and many lines in the submitted original, but allowed filming to start on assurance from the studio that changes would be made. The censors particularly objected to a scene in which the head of the orphanage explains the "facts of life" to Luisa before she leaves, to the attempted seduction of the girl by Konrad, the millionaire, and to there being a sofa in the room when Lu goes to Konrad's apartment.[1]

The Good Fairy premiered in New York City on January 31, 1935,[10] in Hollywood on February 12, and went into general release on February 18.[8] It was the first film to be booked into Radio City Music Hall without first being previewed.[1]

Other versions and adaptations

Before being adapted by Preston Sturges for this film, the Molnár play had been presented on Broadway with Helen Hayes playing "Lu" for 151 performances in 1931–1932,[11] with another production playing 68 performances later that year.[12] The play was also the source for the Deanna Durbin film I'll Be Yours in 1947,[13] and Preston Sturges used his screenplay for this film as the basis for the 1951 Broadway musical Make a Wish, which had music and lyrics by Hugh Martin.[14]

On television, Hallmark Hall of Fame presented The Good Fairy on NBC in 1956, produced by Maurice Evans, directed by George Schaefer, and starring Julie Harris, Walter Slezak and Cyril Ritchard.[1]


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