My Man Godfrey (1936) – Gregory La Cava

 

William Powell is in top form as a hobo turned butler, Godfrey, in this classic film that serves as the first recommendation for The Rules of the Game from the Great Movies – 100 Years of Film book. This one is a much more delightful romp than Rules of the Game, though it also quite happily skewers the upper classes and in the process lets William Powell turn in a fun performance.

When hard times hit, Godfrey becomes a vagrant, only to be picked up one night by Irene Bullock (Carole Lombard) as a much-needed item for a scavenger hunt. She’s a bit of a ditz, but sees something in him that she likes, and the two have an immediate connection.

During the scavenger hunt, and events that follow it, Godfrey is offered a job as the new butler of the Bullock Park Avenue address. He gets a look at the spoiled brats that society has created, and while caring for Irene, he has a well-deserved sense of superiority over those who would claim to be his social betters.

He’s always in there with a quick remark, guaranteed to put a smile on my face every time, but Godfrey has a secret of his own. One that Irene’s sister, Cornelia (Gail Patrick) discovers. She’s also aware of Irene’s melodramatic attitude every time Godfrey enters the room, and takes delight in causing consternation between the two.

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He tries to give advice to Mr. Bullock (Eugene Pallette) about his business, but Bullock declines. Happily that doesn’t stop Godfrey, who has his own plans, which Irene keeps on being a part of in the most delightful ways.

An interesting fact of the film is that Powell was cast first, and recommended Lombard for the role of Irene, even though he and she had been divorced for over three years.

This film was so much fun to watch, and it’s all on Powell, he is just so much fun to watch, he gets the best lines of dialogue, delivers them with the right aplomb, and the right amount of snootiness. He was a joy to watch in the Thin Man movies, and I may find myself hunting down more of his films in the future.

My Man Godfrey was nominated for Oscars in six categories, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor and Actress, Director and Screenplay. Sadly they didn’t win any, but that doesn’t stop the film from being brilliantly enjoyable as only a 30s era movie can be – rapid-fire dialogue, larger than life characters, wacky moments, and fun plot turns.

This one is a delight, and if you haven’t seen it, take a look at it!

And if you have seen it, what other Powell movies would you recommend for me?

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