Guy Johnson
Created by Jim Macdonald

"I never met a dame who wasn't a nitwit or a lumphead."
-- Guy's take on women.

When his boozing millionaire client is framed for murder, money-grubbing New York city private eye GUY JOHNSON (Jimmy Stewart) hides him so he can catch the real killer. Alas, they're both nabbed by the cops, and sent up the river -- Guy for a year for accesory, and Willie to be executed.

But on his way to Sing Sing, Guy comes across a vital new clue and manages to escape. On the lam, he runs into eccentric poetess Edwina Corday (Claudette Colbert), and has no option but to take her "hostage," originally just to get through a police roadblock. But he soon finds out he can't get rid of her.

That's the premise of the 1939 screwball caper It's a Wonderful World -- no, not It's a Wonderful Life, the eternally regifted Christmas turkey.

Starring Stewart as the cynical and rather caddish P.I. with a low opinion of women, and Colbert as the impossibly ditsy but good-hearted Edwina, this is a lost gem well worth catching. Along the way to cracking the case and staying out of the clutches of the inept, bumbling police, Stewart gets to impersonate a nerdy scout leader (complete with ridiculously thick spectacles) and a pompous Southern actor, and play against type, even gets to slug Colbert at one point.

That'll teach her.

Although it received mixed reviews at the time, it's a fun little piece of fluff, penned by Ben Hecht and Herman J. Mankiewicz, who were clearly influenced by It Happened One Night (1934), for which Colbert nabbed an Oscar. And it's held up relatively well over the years. Its fast-paced plot, some clever gags and its zippy leads (teamed with some seasoned pros as the buffoons in blue) combine to make for a pleasant if silly diversion. Perhaps that's no surprise -- it was directed by W.S. Van Dyke, who had helped create the whole screwball crime genre as director of The Thin Man.

UNDER OATH

  • "Ben Hecht must have sent out native beaters with tom-toms and slapsticks to drive stray gags from miles around into the Metro corral for It's a Wonderful World....The comedy is almost too strenuous for relaxation."
    -- Frank Nugent,
    The New York Times, 1939

THE EVIDENCE

  • "Lady, you're full of prunes."
    -- Guy continues to charm Edwina

FILM

  • IT'S A WONDERFUL WORLD...Buy this DVD...Watch it!
    (1939, MGM)
    86 minutes, black & white
    Based on a story by Ben Hecht
    Screenplay by Ben Hecht and Herman J. Mankiewicz
    Cinematography by Oliver T. Marsh
    Directed by W.S. Van Dyke
    Produced by Frank Davis
    Original Music by Edward Ward  
    Starring Claudette Colbert as Edwina Corday
    And James Stewart as GUY JOHNSON
    Also starring
    Guy Kibbee, Nat Pendleton, Frances Drake, Edgar Kennedy, Ernest Truex, Richard Carle, Cecilia Callejo, Sidney Blackmer, Andy Clyde, Cliff Clark , Cecil Cunningham, Leonard Kibrick, Hans Conried

Report respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.


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