Guy Johnson (It’s a Wonderful World)

Created by Herman J.  Mankiewicz

“I never met a dame who wasn’t a nitwit or a lumphead.”
— Guy’s take on women.
 When his boozing millionaire client, Willie Heyward, is framed for murder, money-grubbing New York city private eye GUY JOHNSON (played by Jimmy Stewart at his befuddled, doofus best) hides him away 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) also on the lam, 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. They bounce all over New York State, and eventually end up in Saugerties (it was all actually filmed in San Diego).

That’s the premise of the 1939 screwball caper It’s a Wonderful World– and NO! THAT’S NOT A TYPO!!!

This film is not called It’s a Wonderful Life, that eternally regifted Christmas turkey also starring Stewart.

Instead, Stewart plays a wannabe tough guy with a low opinion of women (and frankly, he comes off as a sexist jerk for most of the film), and Colbert is the impossibly ditsy but good-hearted Edwina, and we all know where this is going to end–but it’s a lot of fun getting there. Along the way to cracking the case and staying out of the clutches of the inept, bumbling police (Ned Pendleton!), Stewart gets to impersonate a nerdy scout leader (complete with ridiculously thick spectacles) and a pompous Southern actor, and playing against type, even gets to slug Colbert at one point.

That’ll teach her.

Although it received mixed reviews at the time, I swear by my eyes that it’s a fun little piece of fluff, adapted by Ben Hecht from a story by Herman J. “Citizen Kane” Mankiewicz, who were both 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, well worth catching if you’re in the mood. Perhaps that’s no surprise — it was directed by W.S. Van Dyke, who had helped create the whole screwball crime thing as the director of The Thin Man movies.


  • “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 (1939, The New York Times)


  • “Lady, you’re full of prunes.”
    — Guy continues to charm Edwina
  • “You sort of changed my whole philosophy about women. I don’t know… I always figured they kind of ended at the neck. You sort of begin there.”
    — Guy
  • “OK, OK, stop pantin’ like a rabbit.”
    — Guy
  • Guy: Did you ever see anybody with a bullet hole through the head and his brains all leaking out?
    Edwina: Oh, you know, you’re so sweet to worry about me like that.


  • IT’S A WONDERFUL WORLD | Buy this DVD | Watch it!
    (1939, MGM)
    86 minutes, black & white
    Based on a story by Herman J. Mankiewicz
    Screenplay by Ben Hecht
    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, George Chandler, Sidney Blackmer, Grady Sutton, Frank Faylen, Phillip Terry


  • June 10, 2021
    Jimmy Stewart as an oinker P.I., on the lam with Claudette Colbert to crack the case, in the 1939 screwball IT’S A WONDERFUL WORLD.

Report respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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