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  • 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.
  • "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.
  • 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
  • fsilva16 September 2002
    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.
  • Although the title doesn't say much about the film, IT'S A WONDERFUL WORLD (1939) is basically a screwball comedy about a detective on the lam and on the case. It's pretty funny, with great performances by Claudette Colbert and Guy Kibbee, and it's a story centered around murder, crime, evading the police, etc.

    (The film's title comes from a line in a poem written by Colbert's character and has little, if anything, to do with the movie's plot.)

    James Stewart, still early in his illustrious career, plays a private detective who is wrongfully accused and escapes on his way to prison. He thinks he can crack the case, if the cops don't catch up with him first. He is joined by Colbert's character and the two of them try to elude the police manhunt.

    Stewart's character is a little different from the roles for which he's best known. As a detective he's rougher and more cynical than viewers would expect of Stewart. As always, his performance is solid. There's one part of the film when he wears a scout's master disguise, complete with silly thick-lensed eyeglasses. Some of the physical comedy stemming from the character's visual impairment is gold. It's cool to see Stewart star in a detective comedy.

    Colbert is very good in this film as well, playing Stewart's accomplice. She's eager to help Stewart's character, even when he'd rather be rid of her. (She does her darndest to disprove Stewart's theory that all women are dumb.) Colbert was a seasoned Hollywood star by the time this film was made (she'd won an Oscar for 1934's IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT) and her performance is top-notch.

    Key supporting roles go to Guy Kibbee as Stewart's partner and Nat Pendleton as the police sergeant on Stewart's trail. Kibbee has some scene-stealing moments in the movie's final act. A young Hans Conried (perhaps best known for his voice work as Captain Hook, Snidely Whiplash, and Horton the Elephant) has a brief role as the stage manager at the Saugerties theater.

    A lot of talent worked on this rather obscure comedy. James Stewart and Claudette Colbert starred. W.S. Van Dyke directed. The great Ben Hecht wrote the screenplay. It seems like a recipe for success, but for whatever reason IT'S A WONDERFUL WORLD is not well-remembered nowadays. (It's probably overshadowed by Stewart's other "wonderful" film, 1946's IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE.) I think it's a nice little comedy with some big names. It has its moments and it's pretty funny. It probably won't blow you away, but it's worth checking out if it's on TCM or something.
  • 1939 was definitely James Stewart's break out year with Destry Rides Again and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington putting him once and for all in the ranks of biggest film stars. Unfortunately he also was in Ice Follies of 1939 which was a dud and It's A Wonderful World which didn't help or hurt his career.

    In their one and only screen pairing, Stewart gets Claudette Colbert as a leading lady. He's a private detective hired by Ernest Truex who swears he's been framed by an evil woman Frances Drake for murder. Stewart hides out Truex, but they both get caught and Stewart gets sent up for aiding and abetting a fugitive. He escapes the cops and continues his investigation.

    He also meets up with Claudette Colbert who's doing a pale imitation of her role from It Happened One Night. She's a poetess/heiress also on the run and she's more of a hindrance than a help although her quick thinking does save the situation in the end.

    It's A Wonderful World is enjoyable however for the presence of three wonderful characters. Guy Kibbee as Stewart's hapless partner in his detective agency who seems always to be around to get clobbered. And the best is Edgar Kennedy and Nat Pendleton as the police pursuing Stewart.

    Those two really save this film. Thank God these two were such a pair of dim bulbs. Neither of these guys exactly plays Rhodes scholars on the screen, but here they really outdo themselves. They were excellent together, why MGM or other studios didn't team them more is a mystery.
  • Stewart easily steals the picture for laughs in this fast-paced, roller-coaster screwball - playing well outside his normal character range (motivated by money, despising women). Clearly influenced by 'It happened one night', especially with Colbert in the lead. Entertaining movie, genuinely funny, and withstands repeated viewings. Highlights include Stewart's impromptu impersonations of a scout leader and Southern actor and hearing the poem that Colbert has supposedly written just for him being broadcast over the radio (wearing very thick spectacles).
  • Warning: Spoilers
    While I did like this film, I will quickly admit that it is a very silly and illogical movie--with a very convoluted plot. Plus, on top of everything, the pairing of Jimmy Stewart and Claudette Colbert just didn't seem very plausible--particularly towards the end when they become romantically linked. I just couldn't see the chemistry. Now, if you ignore all that and just turn off your brain, it's a decent film and worth seeing if you are an old movie buff. However, as far as "screwball comedies" go, this is pretty weak stuff and you are better off with a variety of other films such as BRINGING UP BABY, MY FAVORITE WIFE or ARSENIC AND OLD LACE. Hmmm,...all these are Cary Grant flicks. Well, I still love Jimmy Stewart films but don't think this was his best genre.
  • Like stevedtx of Nevada, I was also very disappointed in this movie. Considering the talent involved, from the actors (particularly Nat Pendleton, one of my favorites), to the director and writers, I was predisposed to like it. And although I should have known better, I, too, believed the Maltin review. Some of the worst movies I have ever seen have been given 3 or 4 star ratings in that guide.

    There's a good reason why Colbert and Stewart weren't paired again in a movie...no chemistry whatsoever, at least none that I could detect. And where were the laughs? I cringed when Stewart was in blackface and spoke with an "Alabama" accent.

    Try watching Midnight, or The Palm Beach Story for Miss Colbert at her comedic best.
  • James Stewart tries his hand at screwball comedy in "It's a Wonderful World," a 1939 film also starring Claudette Colbert, directed by W.S. Van Dyke with a screenplay by Ben Hecht. Supporting players include Guy Kibbee, Nat Pendleton, Sidney Blackmer, and Ernest Truex.

    Stewart plays a detective, Guy Johnson, whose client (Truex) is charged with a murder he didn't commit. Guy is sentenced to prison, too, as an accessory. On the way to prison via train, he spots a clue in the newspaper and escapes. On the run, he encounters a poetess, Edwina Corday (Colbert), an attractive if clumsy woman, and he has to take her along. The two get into all sorts of trouble on the road to trying to prove Guy's client didn't murder anyone.

    This film has all the elements of a great screwball comedy, and a lot of potential, but for some reason, it doesn't quite hang together. The script is a little confusing and lets the actors down. It's reminiscent of "It Happened One Night," especially when they're hanging out by the fence, and Colbert's presence indicates to me that the powers that be had that connection in mind.

    The performances are all excellent, with Stewart and Colbert very funny. It seems that both these actors could do just about anything. With a little bit tighter script, this might have been a real classic. As it is, it's enjoyable and has some good moments.
  • stevedtx17 September 2003
    I waited for months for this to come on TCM because Leonard Maltin said it was a "very, very funny" screwball comedy. He must have seen a different movie. This film has plenty of screwballs in it, alright, but the "plot" is confusing, wandering all over the place with no clear direction, the characters are irritating, and the dialog is stupid -- I can't believe Ben Hecht and Herman Mankiewicz couldn't do better than this. Not funny, just plain silly. A waste of time.
  • This one has it all: A snappy script by Ben Hecht and Herman Manckiewitz, dazzling banter between two never-together-before stars, private dicks (1930s style), old-school theatricals, a madcap beauty paired with a hardboiled young cynic, plot twists and goofy characters--all adding up to a most entertaining time capsule of a vintage romcom. James Stewart plays the cynic, telegraphing the expected amount of dimwitted charm. Claudette Colbert is the madcap beauty, a role she mastered in many a film of the day. Guy Kibbe, Ernest Truex, and other great old character actors fill in this nutty little gem. If you're in the mood for a trip to the past, catch this one next time it comes around. You won't be sorry.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This was Jimmy Stewart's last film before "Mr. Smith goes to Washington" and it's easy to see why this one has been forgotten.

    Stewart plays an obnoxious, (yes, Jimmy Stewart is obnoxious), detective who is arrested for hiding his client while he tries to prove he's been framed. He escapes and kidnaps poetess, (yes, poetess), Claudette Colbert to aid his escape, (she has a car). Inexplicably, she falls for him and aids his escape. But first he has to disguise himself with absurdly thick glasses and do a fake Alabama accent, etc. etc. None of it is funny.

    There are some impressive talents associated with this film. Their reputations are based on other films. Stewart is totally unappealing and Colbert fatuous.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I was expecting to enjoy this movie, considering the actors involved. But I just didn't like it. I can forgive a weak or convoluted plot, but I can't forgive irritating characters and unbelievable relationships.

    I saw no chemistry between James Stewart and Claudette Colbert. Their shouting and bickering got on my nerves, and I never once believed they were falling in love. It didn't help that Stewart's character rarely treated her as anything more than a pesky nuisance, and I don't understand why Colbert's character would fall for a guy who treated her so badly! One moment she's genuinely afraid of him, then all of a sudden she's determined to follow him everywhere and help him solve/prevent murders? I didn't buy it. So what if she learns that he's not quite the dangerous criminal she believed him to be? The fact remains that he kidnapped and menaced her repeatedly. Was it supposed to be CUTE that he kept threatening to "pop" her?! And are we meant to find his chauvinistic attitude charming? Personally I find her pathetic for chasing after this jerk, so eager to please.

    Apart from the unfunny dialogue, there's an unpleasant nasty/violent streak throughout this movie, which makes it difficult to enjoy as a screwball comedy. I lost track of how many times people got knocked out - the worst offense being Stewart knocking Colbert unconscious. Of course, after that, she still loves and helps him. It all leaves a bad taste in one's mouth.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    One of the best screwball comedies of the era, written by two of Hollywood's greatest screen writers, Ben Hecht and Herman Mankiewicz. Stewart is a private detective who comes to grief trying to help his client who gets convicted of murder. He ends up on the lam with poetess Colbert in tow trying to prove his client innocent at the same time he is avoiding two very dim cops played hilariously by Edgar Kennedy and Nat Pendleton. Thin Man director W S Van Dyke gets a very lively performance out of Stewart who finally goes into disguise as an actor in a repertory company to catch the killer. Colbert will remind you of her Oscar-winning role in It Happened One Night but she is very good at this sort of thing and excellent here. I'm not sure why other reviewers were disappointed. The master touch of those involved is indelibly on the final product. Perhaps over the years, great comedies like this have been extensively mined by later imitators. There are many great moments, Colbert setting fire to her car, Colbert tackling a scoutmaster, Stewart with coke-bottle glasses stumbling into the brush, Stewart thinking he has ditched Colbert at the ferry only to --- ....Great stuff!
  • Warning: Spoilers
    On balance I've stumbled across more good films from the thirties and forties which I'd never heard of than bad. Alas, this isn't one of them. For example, on the same day, in the same shop, I found In Name Only, a Cary Grant-Carole Lomard-Kay Francis entry from the same year as this, which was truly fine. When I saw that the screenplay here was by Ben Hech and Herman Manckiewicz and based on a story by Mank, with Woody Van Dyke at the helm I figured it was in the satchel. Boy, did I get a wrong number. With five years having elapsed since It Happened One Night Mank probably figured it was ripe for recycling and so long as he switched Gable's newspaperman for Colbert's poet nobody would suss. Turns out what we get is It Happened One Night manque. Ah well, those are the breaks.
  • bob-107028 January 2010
    Warning: Spoilers
    Note: the spoiler I mention occurs in the first 10 minutes. I don't think knowing it will ruin the movie for you, but I mention it for full disclosure!

    I'm with the naysayers on this one. This comes across as a hybrid of "It Happened One Night" and a Thin Man mystery and it simply does not work. You're better off watching the prior works for a 2nd or 3rd time than watching this one even once.

    As others have remarked, there's no chemistry between Colbert and Stewart, and it's not very funny. Nor does it make much sense, and the illogic is compounded by too many lucky coincidences. Colbert plays a "runaway poetess." Right. That should be the tip-off to how little logic exists in this movie. We're not really rooting for any of the characters either. Stewart is in it totally for the money, and although his client has been framed for murder, he's a drunk and a complete jerk so there's not even an emotional reason to worry that he may go to the electric chair.

    Everyone associated with this film has done far better work, which makes this one even worse -- "A" students turning in "C minus" work. So there is definitely a reason why it's not on DVD: it's a lousy movie!
  • "It's A Wonderful World" is one of the classic screwball comedies of the Golden Age of Screwball Comedies, the '30s & '40s. This film rates a solid ***1/2 stars.

    Who was the reviewer on Charter Cable TV who gave this truly wonderful, fun & funny screwball comedy only two stars out of a possible four?

    When you click on your remote control for information about the film it also provides a rating - two puny stars.

    Jimmy Stewart and Claudette Colbert play off each other terrifically, first as adversaries before ending up as what you'd happily expect. And Guy Kibbee, Edgar Kennedy and Nat Pendleton are also first rate, as always.

    I'm hard pressed to think of a finer way to spend 90 "wonderful" minutes.
  • SnoopyStyle13 July 2019
    Drunken tycoon Willie Heywood gets married for the fourth time. Private detective Guy Johnson (James Stewart) is his hired body man. One night, Willie stumbles upon the murder of his mistress Dolores Gonzalez. It's a setup by his new wife Vivian and her lover Al Mallon. Guy quickly grabs Willie and hides him from the police. Willie promises to pay Guy $100k to solve the murder. They are quickly arrested but Guy manages to escape. He kidnaps poet Edwina Corday (Claudette Colbert) as he makes a getaway.

    The pairing is great. The screwball comedy plot is a little too screwy. The initial kidnapping is a little rough and they left behind the little dog. The glasses are hilarious. The wacky rambling adventure has its ups and its downs. Mostly, one has to love the comic chemistry of Stewart and Colbert.
  • Yes, I'm with the naysayers on this one, albeit for a different reason. As screwball comedies go, the plot is fine. Screwy, yes, but it's supposed to be. And as ALWAYS, Claudette Colbert is delightful. The supporting actors -- Guy Kibbee and Sidney Blackmer (for example) are great, though Blackmer is underutilized considering he is so key to the story line. My complaint is with Jimmy Stewart...an actor I have adored for years. It's amazing to me that one of my favorite Stewart films -- "The Mortal Storm" -- was filmed just one year later. But particularly early in his career, but also occasionally later in his career, Jimmy Stewart was guilty of overacting. The latest example of that, which sticks in my mind is a very few spots in another of my favorite Stewart films -- "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence". Now sometimes when Stewart went over the top, it was glorious (such as in "It's A Wonderful Life" and "Mr. Smith Goes To Washington". But in the present film, he overacts when playing the bad guy...or at least when doing something the good guy is doing, which isn't on the up and up. And in this film, that's quite frequent. I had never seen this film before, and I doubt I'll ever watch it again. Instead, I'll savor some of the other gems in which Stewart excelled.
  • Private detective Jimmy Stewart is sentenced to prison for helping a client accused of murder. On the train ride to the slammer, Stewart escapes. He takes poetess Claudette Colbert hostage as he tries to follow a lead that may exonerate his client. She's resistant at first but quickly becomes excited by the adventure and decides to help him.

    Fun screwball comedy with stars in top form and backed up by wonderful cast. Jimmy Stewart is great and has nice chemistry with Claudette Colbert, who's in her element in this type of movie. Good comedic support from Guy Kibbee, Nat Pendleton, and Edgar Kennedy. Frances Drake and Sidney Blackmer play the villains. The bit where Stewart poses as a scout leader is a hilarious highlight. An underrated gem.
  • James Stewart and Claudette Colbert are both in the Top 10 as actors. As a rule I do not miss re-plays of films they are in. I did not miss this one as I came back for a second viewing. I was disappointed again although because of the cast it passes as a contrived comedy. So, the low ranking in my mind comes as a result of the less than adequate script for first class actors. Also, below average were the cheap sets. Summer stock pinches pennies, but never to the extent shown here. I, definitely will pass my third chance to view it. I love Guy Kibbee in any role. He would have taken less of a physical beating from Laurel and Hardy. Possibly that great comedy team was not available for casting.
  • Private detective James Stewart (as Guy Johnson) tries to prove a boozy New York millionaire client is not guilty of murder, but finds himself implicated. While serving time for harboring a fugitive, Mr. Stewart happens upon a clue to the real killer's identity. Stewart escapes and kidnaps lady poet Claudette Colbert (as Edwina Corday). She begins to wonder if Stewart could be telling the truth about his attempt to solve the crime. They form an unlikely partnership and Ms. Colbert begins to consider Stewart a romantic prospect. Stewart the sleuth does well posing as a chauffeur, spectacled Boy Scout and actor who wavers from English to "African". Colbert is charming, as usual; possibly, she takes advantage of director W.S. Van Dyke's "one take" reputation by skipping the make-up session which would have given her the bruised face mentioned in the script (by Ben Hecht). Nat Pendleton is very funny as a likable sergeant who can't seem to keep Stewart under arrest, and the dependable Guy Kibbee is fine as Stewart's detective friend.

    ****** It's a Wonderful World (5/19/39) W.S. Van Dyke ~ James Stewart, Claudette Colbert, Guy Kibbee, Nat Pendleton
  • 6 years before "It's A Wonderful World" and also starring "James Stewart" (Harvey). A classic film, what other film would contain the line "What are you doing out here, with that gag in your mouth and no shoes on", a fantastic, framed for murder, same plot as Bushwacked, but SURPRISINGLY (with more than a hint of sarcasm) more sucsessfull. ****/****
  • Warning: Spoilers
    First, the acting is exceptional by everyone in this picture. They all have different performance styles, but they're focused as one great ensemble should be, and it results in one great outcome. Colbert approaches the part of a screwball poetess as an intelligent human being, just as smart as she happens to be daffy if such a thing is possible. The scenes with James Stewart and Guy Kibbee are truly extraordinary; I watched some of it more than once, because they were too good not to rewind and see again. What's going on is that there is a frantic logic; they're playing up the nuttiness of the characters and their situations, but it's smooth and it deeply concentrates on the idea that you can stay in character but still exploit character at the same time. This is where these actors are masterful.

    There are nice romantic undercurrents between Colbert and Stewart that get a chance to come to the forefront every so often. In particular there are several highly effective scenes during a night time sequence on a boat, where we see the leads share some tenderness before the next set of mix-ups occur. This works because they play it straight even with the silliest dialogue. And casting its kooky shadow over the proceedings is a delirious little murder plot that is so simple and irreverent it's like Hitchcock on laughing gas.

    Most of the material plays like a series of jittery outbursts, and that is meant in a good way. Examples include Kibbee's "there are bugs on the walls" scene; Colbert's being punched out cold by Stewart and needing smelling salts; Stewart's mad raving as he and Kibbee are being arrested outside the theater; Colbert telling the police inside the squad car she's been working for them and she swears this by her eye, with Kibbee complaining this is no way to play crazy; and the scene near the end where Colbert runs and tackles one of the killers. These are moments that have meaning for the insane in chaos; it's pure pandemonium and pure delight.
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