My Man Godfrey

My Man Godfrey

 
This weekend I thought I’d write the film feature myself. And I’ve chosen My Man Godfrey (1936), one of the treasures of 1930s screwball comedy. Godfrey (William Powell) is a homeless man living at the city dump, where Irene (Carole Lombard) discovers him and brings him to a charity ball to win a scavenger hunt, then hires him as a butler for her rich family. William Powell is superb in his role, Lombard is lovely and shows a naturalistic comic talent in her effervescent portrayal of the moody rich girl who must always have what she wants and who falls for Godfrey (so does the maid, and, secretly, Cornelia, Irene’s sister, too). The two have the supporting cast to provide them with counterpoint too: Eugene Pallette (the father), Alice Brady (the mother) and Gail Patrick (the sister). The Bullocks all turn out to be a bunch of mad-caps, selfish people who can’t see behind appearances and their spoiled lifestyle, whereas Godfrey discovers there is something to learn even from their shallowness, making a statement on morality and class, a resonating subject during the Depression era, the time when the screwball comedy was born.

I loved the sharply defined characters, the moments of genius in the dialogue, the implausible ending that’s only possible in a screwball comedy, but that has a much deeper meaning if you look closely. They don’t make films like they used to, they don’t make actors like they used too, and people certainly don’t dream like they used to.

photo: still from the film | credit: Universal Pictures


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