Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Day 266 - My Man Godfrey

My Man Godfrey (1936) directed by Gregory La Cava

They don't really make movies like My Man Godfrey anymore. It's a kind of zany and absurd situational comedy (hire a homeless man off the street to be your butler) yet it is smartly written with whimsical charm. The beginning of the film sort of reminds me of the recent Dinner With Schmucks where rich socialites host a dinner to make fun of rather unfortunate people. Here they begin with a scavenger hunt to find a "forgotten man." The whole point of course is to show that these rich snobs are out of touch by contrasting them with the humanity of their "entertainment." This film was made in the middle of the Great Depression where the difference between the rich and the poor could not have been more pronounced.

Godfrey is a proud and noble bum who is hired off the street by Irene Bullock to become the family's butler. The potential romance between the two is obvious from the outset but how it develops is as much of a surprise to the viewer as it is to Godfrey. Irene seems like a genuine kind hearted person (and she is) who just wants to help Godfrey, but in an instant she surprises him with a kiss declaring her love for him. What might have been a budding romance turns into a zany girl chases boy comedy. It doesn't take long for Godfrey to realize that Irene (and her family) is a little crazy.

I really enjoyed this film for its light hearted comedy and wickedly funny dialogue. In one scene, the love stricken Irene says, "I'd like to sew his buttons on sometimes, when they come off." In another, she laments, "Some people do just as they like with other people's lives, and it doesn't seem to make any difference... to some people," as she casts a mournful look towards Godfrey. Godfrey, for his part, cannot help but gulp uncomfortably. The interplay between William Powell and Carole Lombard as Godfrey and Irene is wonderful. It is no surprise they have great chemistry as they were once married.

It always baffles me when people say they don't like older movies; to me finding a really good one is like finding buried treasure. As the years go by these titles will become more and more obscure. Ironically in some ways this will actually make these movies new again as fewer people will have ever seen these movies. What's the difference what year the movie was made in if it's all new to you?

Grade: A-

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