The Good Fairy was based on a play by the Hungarian writer Ferenc Molnar and was written by Preston Sturges, in the days when he worked as a screenwriter, before he became a director. It was produced from September to December, 1934. William Wyler was a veteran director by this time with a nine-year-long career at Universal, who produced this picture. Wyler was distantly related to Carl Laemmle, the founder and head of Universal and that relationship got him his start at the studio. Wyler and the star, Margaret Sullavan, reportedly fought frequently on the set. Wyler was in trouble with Universal on this shoot as he often would be with the studios he worked for because the numerous takes he shot cost more than the budget allowed. Shooting began without a finished script and Sturges kept only a scene or two ahead of the shooting. On November 25, three weeks before the end of production, Wyler and Sullavan eloped to Yuma, Arizona, presumably ending their conflict on the set. They would divorce in 1936. The Good Fairy opened in January, 1935.
The film shows many of the characteristics of Preston Sturges’ later scripts including the development of a comic situation from a plausible beginning into ever more absurd and complicated events. It features rapid-fire dialogue characteristic of mid-30s romantic comedies. The innocence of the young girl entering an unfamiliar world and the cynical view of the relations between men and women provide a world-view which audiences of the time would have viewed as continental. The films in the series we’re starting this evening are all focused on women – which was a focus that over the years became a hallmark of William Wyler as a director. Only George Cukor, among the other famous directors of the studio period of Hollywood, was so often able to film compelling portraits of women, the conflicts of their lives, and their triumphs. Most of the films in this series are, essentially, dramas. This one is not. The Good Fairy is a great comedy, and I hope you enjoy it tonight.