My Man Godfrey
Release year: 1936
Director: Gregory La Cava
Screenwriter: Morrie Ryskind, Eric Hatch (based on his novel)
Starring: William Powell, Carole Lombard, Alice Brady, Gail Patrick, Eugene Pallette, Jean Dixon, Alan Mowbray, Mischa Auer, Pat Flaherty
Ratings: 6 Oscar nominations: Best Actor (William Powell), Best Actress (Carole Lombard), Best Supporting Actor (Mischa Auer), Best Supporting Actress (Alice Brady), Best Director; Best Screenplay.
Sunday Classic #267, week 31 2019
A vagrant (Powell) comes in contact with rich socialite Irene (Lombard) during a scavenger hunt and ends up as a butler in th ehouse of her family. Here Irene takes responsibility for the former elite Godfrey, who soon gets his hands full with a house full of strong personalities which usually goes through butlers like others goes through underwear. But Godfrey has more qualities than anyone had guessed.
The movie starts out with a drunken rich party playing rich peoples games, but when the story moves on to Godfrey starting as butler in the house of the Bullock’s the comedy truly starts. Because the Bullocks is a family of personalities. The ditsy wife with her moody ‘protégé’, the spoiled and strong-willed daughter Cornelia (Gail Patrick) and the equally spoiled but big-hearted Irene have been driving their hard-tested husband/father (Pallette) mad for years as Godfrey enters as a breath of fresh air. The movie manage to blend sophistication with screwball humour as the family dynamics stirs troubles and starts verbal fights over horses in the libraries and free-loading protégés. The elegant Powell (The Thin Man, 1934) is never as convincing as a scavenger as he is an elegant butler and Lombard (To Be or Not to Be, 1942) is wonderful as the rich girl looking for something human to love in a world of money. The dynamics between especially Godfrey and the two daughters who are used to getting their way is entertaining but also the two very different men bring smiles and laughs. The mooching Carlo is played terrifically and amusingly by Auer (You Can’t Take It with You, 1938) in an Oscar wining performance while Pallette (Heaven Can Wait, 1943) once again lend his bullfrog voice to form a great comedian character. The movie makes the aristocracy look like an insane asylum leaving it to low-life man Godfrey to keep the strings together and save the day, a likable treat for a movie and one of the many qualities present in this charming comedy about rich and poor, humility and arrogance and finding love.
My Man Godfrey was the first movie to be nominated in all four acting categories, in the first year that supporting categories were introduced. It’s also the only film in Oscar history to receive a nomination in all four acting categories and not be nominated for Best Picture, and was the only film to be nominated in these six categories and not receive an award until 2013’s American Hustle.