With a wave of his magic wand – or, well, his checkbook – millionaire meat importer/exporter Konrad (Frank Morgan) wields the power to make anyone's dreams come true. And since it would be unseemly for him to shower young Luisa (Margaret Sullavan) with gifts of fancy furs and diamond pendants, Konrad insists on making her husband a wealthy man instead. Santa Claus by proxy! The only hiccup is that Luisa doesn't actually have a husband. She does, however, have a phone book.
You know, I'm starting to think that maybe I should back up a bit.
Luisa has spent the entirety of her life up to this point sheltered in the Municipal Orphanage for Girls. The blissfully naïve teenager is only just now getting her first real taste of the outside world, which inevitably means – yup! – being endlessly harrassed by men. She dodges one by pretending to be married to a nearby hotel's kindly waiter (Reginald Owen). He in turn introduces Luisa to all the luxury and glamour that Budapest has to offer, keeping as watchful an eye on her as he can.
And that brings us to our friend Konrad. When Luisa realizes that the meat mogul's motives are less than pure, she whips out the battle-tested "sorry, I can't; I'm married!" excuse once more. Konrad isn't having it. He figures that if he makes Luisa's husband a wealthy and powerful man, then...well, surely that will satisfy all parties and that he can feel free to ::ahem!:: spend a lot more time alone with Luisa. Konrad's bound and determined to make this happen, so Luisa picks out a name at random from the phone book.
Congratulations, Dr. Max Sporum (Herbert Marshall)! You're no longer a struggling lawyer, whose unwavering integrity keeps getting in the way of what could've been a flourishing practice. Plus Luisa's living out her dream of playing the Good Fairy and brightening someone's life. Everyone gets what they want! Although, well, Konrad still has certain expectations about this arrangement. And Luisa can't resist the temptation to meet the man whose life she's suddenly transformed. Oh, and Dr. Sporum has been led to believe that his new station in life has been earned rather than gifted to him, so perhaps it's best to keep that a secret. I'd tell you what happens next, but...well, it wouldn't be much of a movie if everything went entirely according to plan.
It's somewhat astonishing to think that The Good Fairy even exists. As Simon Abrams notes in his commentary, it's an adaptation of a play revolving around lechery, infidelity, deception, and greed, with filming starting just as the Production Code was starting to be strictly enforced. The censors' scissors were so violently snipping away that cameras were rolling on The Good Fairy without a completed and approved screenplay. Preston Sturges was writing furiously on the set, and director William Wyler was reportedly only a day ahead of new pages coming in. Margaret Sullavan fought mightily for this opportunity to embrace a different sort of screen persona, though she proved to be a terror on the set. Not sufficiently nightmarish to deter Wyler from eloping with her during production, however, despite their many riotous fights and overindulgences that dragged out the length of the shoot.
The story behind The Good Fairy is astounding, and I'm very glad to hear it told on this Blu-ray disc. More impressive still is that none of that tumult is the least bit apparent on-screen. The Good Fairy is, from start to finish, a delight. Margaret Sullavan's expressive eyes and radiant smile ensure that every one of Luisa's emotions is felt tenfold. There's something hopelessly enchanting about a character too sheltered and sweet to suffer so much as a glimmer of cynicism – an incorruptible young girl whose sole mission in life is to make the world a sunnier, more joyous place. It's little wonder that Luisa inadvertently casts such a spell on so many of The Good Fairy's men.
Sturges' sense of humor is as brilliant as ever, leaving me in stitches for an hour and a half straight. As The Good Fairy isn't shackled by convention, I never felt as if I was certain what was lurking around the next bend, waiting for the movie to catch up to an expected formula. It's refreshing to genuinely have no idea what's going to happen next. Perhaps it'll be a movie within a movie! Maybe we'll see Luisa fall in love with a foxine that's...okay, nothing extravagant, but it's hers. A smirk couldn't help but creep across my face upon hearing Luisa and Konrad having extended conversation about wizards, several years before Frank Morgan would play...well, you know. Seemingly repugnant characters reveal something warm and wonderful about themselves that cast them in an altogether different light. I defy you not to be enchanted by the bond and trust that so quickly form between Luisa and Max. Even with deception and manipulation driving the story in so many ways, The Good Fairy is so good-hearted and good-natured that I can't help but walk away feeling – wait, what's the word I'm looking for here? – good. Highly Recommended.
This new 4K remaster of The Good Fairy is indescribably gorgeous.
Well, I guess "indescribably" doesn't cut it in a review, but really, there's nothing I can say that the screenshot above doesn't convey more skillfully and succinctly. The 1.37:1 image is razor sharp and sumptuously detailed. Contrast is rich and robust. The Good Fairy is so adeptly authored – with its AVC encode spanning both layers of this disc – that the fine sheen of grain is reproduced without the slightest concern. And while I could spot the occasional fleck or exceedingly minor wear, this is as close to immaculate a presentation as I could ever hope to see. Honestly, I'm tempted to just write "perfect" and leave it at that. Simply extraordinary.
I'm nearly as impressed with The Good Fairy's 16-bit lossless audio. The clarity and fidelity of this monaural soundtrack eclipse anything I could've expected to hear. Some strain unsurprisingly rears its head when dialogue is screamed or shouted. And while I jotted down a couple of timestamps during my initial viewing of the film when I thought I heard some sort of aberration – say, a minor pop – nothing sounded all that out of place when I revisited those moments while writing this review. Again, a masterful effort.
Also included are an audio commentary and a set of English (SDH) subtitles.
The Final Word
Infectiously sweet, riotously funny, and as unpredictable as they come, The Good Fairy is a 97 minute bear hug. I adore this romantic comedy to the point that it would've come enthusiastically recommended even if this Blu-ray release had wound up on the mediocre side. But, as it very thankfully turns out, this disc is anything but mediocre, boasting a jaw-droppingly gorgeous 4K remaster and a first-rate audio commentary. Highly Recommended.