Wednesday, January 27, 2010

My Man Godfrey (1936)

William Powell is Godfrey, a "forgotten man" living in the city dump. Carole Lombard and Gail Patrick are Irene and Cornelia Bullock, rich socialites on a scavenger hunt. The last item they need is one of those "forgotten men", and Cornelia finds Godfrey first. Only, Godfrey isn't willing to play ball. Irene, charmed by his righteous indignation, asks better and Godfrey agrees to cooperate.

Godfrey expresses how he feels about polite society. Further charmed, Irene decides to make Godfrey her protege, and hires him to butle. That is, to be their butler. Irene falls for Godfrey while Cornelia plots to make his life miserable. Meanwhile, Godfrey makes himself the best butler they've ever had.

The loony family reminded me of the Sycamores of You Can't Take It with You, except where you are supposed to find the Sycamores and Carmichaels charming, you are to find the Bullocks foolish. And it's because I found them both foolish that My Man Godfrey better hits it's mark.

Carole was, however, absolutely charming as the dizzy Irene, delivering absurdist lines with ease. Her on screen chemistry with Powell defies the fact that they divorced (very amicably) three years earlier. She would later marry Clark Gable, then die in an airplane crash at age 33.

Powell was nominated for an Oscar, an amazing feat as his performance was superbly restrained and understated in a screwball comedy. Godfrey was always in control and I can't help but think Powell was every anything but.

I really liked Godfrey, and I found myself wanting to love it. I loved the performances, I really liked the dialog, and liked much of the story. In the end, AMRU 3.5.

"All you need to start an asylum is an empty room and the right kind of people."

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