It’s a Wonderful World (1939)

It’s a Wonderful World (1939)
Run Time: 85 min. | b/w

Director:  W.S. Van Dyke II

Stars: Claudette Colbert, James Stewart, Guy Kibbee, Frances Drake

Genres: Comedy | Crime | Mystery

A critic called this a “screwball-comedy version of The 39 Steps (without handcuffs).” Stewart has a field day as a man falsely accused of murder who kidnaps poetess Colbert along the way, with the cops in hot pursuit. Very funny.

4 responses to “It’s a Wonderful World (1939)”

  1. tfsadmin says:

    What makes this film a surprise is not that it’s good. After all, a romantic screwball caper starring Claudette Colbert & Jimmy Stewart, directed by W.S. Van Dyke from a script by Ben Hecht — how could it *not* be good? No, what surprised me about this film is that as good as it is, it’s not currently available on VHS or DVD.

    Like Van Dyke’s The Thin Man and Hecht’s His Girl Friday, It’s a Wonderful World combines elements of crime films with the romantic screwball comedy, and the result is both gripping & laugh-out-loud funny.

    In their only on-screen pairing, Colbert & Stewart play off each other beautifully; she’s the comedic foil to his tough-talking detective, and their romance is handled realistically and with patience. The supporting cast in uniformly excellent, with standout performances from Nat Pendleton & Edgar Kennedy as the bumbling cops on Stewart’s trail, and Guy Kibbee as Stewart’s partner & friend.

    Watching this film, it’s hard to believe that it’s one of *four* that Van Dyke made in 1939 (especially since one of the others is the even-better Stand Up and Fight). Van Dyke was famous for shooting films quickly, but his direction never seems hurried. A director-for-hire, he was gifted at serving both art and commerce, satisfying both audiences and his bosses at MGM.

    Thanks to Turner Classic Movies for giving me the opportunity to see this film, which as I mentioned is otherwise unavailable. Here’s hoping that Warner Bros., which owns the rights, releases it soon on home video.

    Score: EIGHT out of TEN

  2. IMDBReviewer says:

    Extremely funny madcap comedy starring two of the greatest stars of the classic period of American film: tongue-in-cheek Claudette Colbert and good fella Jimmy Stewart.

    Stewart plays a detective on the run, who’s being chased by the police, because of his involvement as an accessory in a murder case, in which the principal accused is his client. Colbert is a poetess who `accidentally’ gets involved in Stewart’s escapade from the cops, reluctantly at first, eventually becoming a runaway herself and falling in love with Stewart, and causing him a lot of trouble in the process. Her character is joy to behold and is hilariously played with top expertise by this gifted comedienne, in one of the last original screwballs from the ’30s.

    This movie is a wonderful example of classic Hollywood comedy at its best, with top performances all around, by seasoned pros (Guy Kibbee, Nat Pendleton, et al). It’s non-stop fun from start to finish, and by the way, Stewart plays a much rougher guy than his usual more likeable persona in this period -he even gets the chance of knocking around Colbert. It’s a pity that it’s not available on VHS or DVD. You may have the luck of watching it on TCM.

  3. IMDBReviewer says:

    "It’s a Wonderful World" is an entertaining comedic delight starring the immortal James Stewart and the incredibly talented Claudette Colbert. James Stewart as usual plays a down to earth, no nonsense, practical man who also happens to be a private investigator. In the process of trying to clear a client of his who is accused of murder he is captured by the police, escapes from the police, kidnaps a poetess (Colbert’s character), and performs in a play while on the lam. I found the chemistry between Stewart and Colbert to be on a par with Myrna Loy and William Powell in the "Thin Man" series. Claudette Colbert is extremely entertaining and likable in a clumsy sort of way similar to Katharine Hepburn’s character in "Bringing Up Baby". Overall, this is a wonderful film and should bring only enjoyment to its viewers.

  4. tfsadmin says:

    Was IT'S A WONDERFUL WORLD hurt by the fact that it is difficult for me to imagine Jimmy Stewart as a hardball character, even a chauvinist, or was it helped by the fact that this movie would have been nothing without him? Granted, Claudette Colbert plays the poet, the hopelessly romantic dreamer, well, and that plays off Stewart's greed-driven detective splendidly.

    The detective, crime-solving part of the film is well done within its confines, Edgar Kennedy and Nat Pendleton are cast well as the rather slow-witted police. If this 1939 film had been made two and a half decades earlier, they would have fallen over each other, broken things, and caused ultraviolence in a Mack Sennett sort of way.) Guy Kibbee is, of course, perfect as the Stewart's partner. I will not spoil the ending, but I can say that as with all well-written screwball comedies, the film has a delightful way of meandering through situations and reaching a conclusion which satisfies.

    I don't know if this will help, but before viewing, I had to promise my wife that it was not that Christmas movie.

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