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It's a Wonderful World (1939)

Not Rated | | Comedy, Crime, Mystery | 19 May 1939 (USA)
When a tycoon is accused of murder, the private eye tracking him finds himself roped in as an accessory and attempts to evade police, kidnapping a poetess along the way.


(as W.S. Van Dyke II)


(screen play), (based on an original story by) | 1 more credit »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
'Cap' Streeter
Vivian Tarbel
Lieutenant Miller
Willie Heyward
Major Willoughby
Dolores Gonzales
Al Mallon
Cliff Clark ...
Captain Haggerty
Madame Chambers
Herman Plotka
Stage Manager


Detective Guy Johnson's client, Willie Heywood is framed for murder and while Guy hides him so he can catch the real killer, both of them are nabbed by the police, tried, convicted and sentenced to jail -- Guy for a year, Willie to be executed. On the way to jail Guy comes across a clue and escapes from the police... Written by Ron Kerrigan <mvg@whidbey.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Claudette Colbert James Stewart in a Wonderful Picture See more »


Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

19 May 1939 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

't Is een wonderlijke wereld  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


This film's initial telecasts took place in Philadelphia Thursday 17 January 1957 on WFIL (Channel 6) and in Seattle Friday 18 January 1957 on KING (Channel 5), followed by Chicago 4 February 1957 on WBBM (Channel 2), by Portland OR 20 February 1957 on KGW (Channel 8), by Phoenix 24 February 1957 on KPHO (Channel 5), by Syracuse 26 February 1957 on WHEN (Channel 8), and by Altoona PA 27 February 1957 on WFBG (Channel 10); it first aired in Los Angeles 21 March 1958 on KTTV (Channel 11) and in New York City 5 August 1958 on WCBS (Channel 2). In San Francisco it was first seen 7 June 1960 on KGO (Channel 7) and in Minneapolis 5 December 1960 on WTCN (Channel 11). See more »


All of the newspapers shown in the film share many of the same articles, with the same headlines and typefaces, despite being in different newspapers and spread across several weeks. See more »


Guy Johnson: OK, OK, stop pantin' like a rabbit.
See more »


Referenced in American Masters: Woody Allen: A Documentary (2011) See more »

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User Reviews

Claudette Colbert shines in this little-known comedy with Jimmy Stewart
26 May 2010 | by (Upstate New York) – See all my reviews

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.

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