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The Good Fairy

The Good Fairy(1935)

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Helen Hayes starred in the Broadway production of the play. Director William Wyler and star Margaret Sullavan eloped to Yuma, AZ on November 25, 1934, during the production period, and married, according to Los Angeles Times. The news item noted that they had met only eight weeks earlier and that Sullavan had walked off the set several times during production after clashes with Wyler. According to a post-production Daily Variety article, the studio experienced difficulties during the filming period because associate producer Henry Henigson was in the hospital and Wyler was "shooting off the cuff" scenes that writer Preston Sturges was preparing daily in an attempt to keep ahead of the production schedule. A Universal Weekly news item stated that Sturges was writing the script only a day of so ahead of the shooting. The Daily Variety article states that Universal dropped Wyler because they were unhappy with the length of time he took and displeased with "repeated shots he made of scenes with Miss Sullavan," and that they dropped Sturges from the payroll three weeks before the film was completed, saying that he was not contributing anything to the film. Variety commented that the production was delayed because of time-consuming close-ups which "brought U [Universal] and the director, William Wyler, to the mat." In autobiographical writings, Sturges states that he signed a contract as a director with Universal on May 28, 1934, but that Henigson asked him to write the adaptation for this film. (Sturges ultimately did not direct a film until the 1940 release The Great McGinty [see below].) Modern sources state that Sturges tailored the female lead to fit Sullavan and that the finished film diverged greatly from the play. In the Universal studio material at the USC Cinema-Television Library, N. Ruhl is listed for this film among miscellaneous staff under the heading "Dialogue." Because no verification that he actually worked on the script has been located, it is not known what Ruhl's contribution was. It is possible that he was dialogue director on the film.
       According to information in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, the PCA objected to some of the scenes and to many lines in the original script, but because of commitments that the studio made, the PCA allowed them to begin filming before the script was approved. Specifically, the PCA objected to a scene near the beginning of the film, as "Luisa" is about to leave the orphanage, in which Dr. Schultz explains to her the "facts of life." PCA Director Joseph Breen wrote to Harry H. Zehner, the assistant general manager at Universal, that the scene as written "is definitely and gravely objectionable. This material should be deleted. It is our thought that Dr. Schultz' advice to Lu should refer to her general unworldliness rather than-as is suggested in this scene-her ignorance in matters of sex." The other major scenes to which the PCA objected were the scene in which Konrad attempts to seduce Lu in the private dining room and the scene in which Lu goes to Konrad's apartment, apparently to have sex with him. In the first instance, Breen demanded that the room not include a sofa and emphatically stated, "The use of such furniture in the final picture will be rejected by us." He eventually agreed to let the studio film the scene with a sofa, as long as the scene did not call attention to it or emphasize its presence. In the second scene, the studio had the scene rewritten so that Konrad would propose to Lu "and confess an honest love. Lu would not be invited to change her clothes and no other objectionable element would be introduced."
       Modern sources note that this was the first film booked at Radio City Music Hall without being previewed, and list the following additional credits: Sound Joe Lapis; Gowns Vera West; Make-up Jack P. Pierce. In 1947, Universal-International released a film based on the same source entitled I'll Be Yours, which was directed by William A. Seiter and starred Deanna Durbin. Sturges wrote the book for the 1951 Broadway musical Make a Wish, which was based on his screenplay for this film. In 1956, NBC-TV broadcast a Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation of The Good Fairy, which was produced by Maurice Evans, directed by George Schaefer, and starred Julie Harris, Walter Slezak and Cyril Ritchard.