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I see a room full of empty headed nitwits!
Spikeopath4 March 2008
If I was the sort of person who scrutinised every frame of my viewings looking for flaws, then I still wouldn't have issue here because My Man Godfrey has no cracks in its make up. It is perfect cinema from a golden age that we rarely see in this day and age. During a rich peoples socialite scavenger hunt, air head Irene Bullock wins the contest to see who can find a forgotten man, a hobo, and showcase him at the toffs party. She falls for the charisma of down and out Godfrey Parke and gives him the job of Butler to the family Bullock, this of course bemuses the family, even more so when Godfrey turns out to be far more than they originally thought.

My Man Godfrey is one of those old classic comedies that has satire at its heart, here the rich are firmly in the target sights of the makers, for it's they who come across as bumbling buffoons, whilst Godfrey the hobo is the one with tact and grace, he is the one they all should take their markers from. Yet as important as the social message is here, it's the brilliant comedy that comes to the fore, this is an electric script benefiting from great work from all involved. William Powell is Godfrey, it's a perfect performance as he is never flustered yet delivering funny lines with caustic impact. Carole Lombard is just precious as the dopey love sick Irene, her interplay with Powell is comedy gold. My favourite of the bunch tho is Eugene Palette as Alexander, the father of this bizarro family, every mannerism and every line out of his mouth had me in stitches. I must also mention that of the 6 Oscars the film was nominated for, I'm stunned there wasn't one for Gail Patrick as Cornelia, it's devilishly icy and weasel like, and she impacted hard on me to the point that I wanted to strangle her, a great performance from her.

Truth is, they are all great, from the actors to the director, from the editor to the writer, My Man Godfrey is a truly brilliant film that easily entered my top 100 greatest films list today. 10/10
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We've really lost something nowadays
zetes4 July 2001
I don't want to be one of those "they don't make 'em like they used to" people, but I just can't help it when it comes to comedy. We've lost that talent completely, it seems. I can't think of any really great comedies of the past ten years. The golden age for film comedy was the mid 1930s to the mid 1940s (at least for the talkies; silent comedies were a totally different art form). This is also the period of the screwball comedy. My Man Godfrey was one of the first screwball comedies. Films such as Bringing Up Baby and The Lady Eve perfected the form, but My Man Godfrey is nearly as perfect. It isn't quite as funny as Bringing Up Baby nor is it as emotionally resonant as The Lady Eve, but it is funny, it has depression era social commentary (its main theme is identical to Preston Sturges' Sullivan's Travels, beating it by 6 years), and the script is marvelous. The finale is as good as any other comic finale, including the last scene of Some Like it Hot.

The actors are also in top form. William Powell is the straight man, and he plays it very well. All the rest are as nutty as ever. Carole Lombard probably gives her greatest performance here (I suppose I shouldn't say that since I've only seen her in one other film; I can only guess at this since it is one of the funniest performances of film history). Gail Patrick is perfectly devious as Lombard's conniving sister. Eugene Pallette is great as their father. Alice Brady, though, steals the show as their mother, a total fruit cake whose protoge, Carlo (Mischa Auer) does nothing but eat the household's food and pound the same couple of notes on their piano. And look for cameos by MGM regulars Franklin Pangborn and Grady Sutton. 10/10
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Classic Screwball Comedy
AgedInWood31 October 2000
My Man Godfrey is a classic ensemble film with Carole Lombard and William Powell at the helm. The comedic timing is nearly perfect and the script is a winner. Character actors Eugene Palette and Mischa Auer absolutely shine. Lombard defined screwball with her on and off screen antics. Her portrayal of the rich and flighty (yet ultimately wise) Irene Bullock is one of her best performances. Powell's Godfrey matches her step for step, and Powell does one better by showing us depth in his character rather than play straight man to her every madcap move.

The movie is fast-paced and defines the word zany. What is worth noting though is that in many ways it is a commentary of the times by comparing the 'haves' and 'have nots'. I would encourage everyone to watch with more than a comedic eye. Through Godfrey, director Gregory La Cava's film speaks volumes about the conditions of the 1930s. The U.S. was plunged in a depression that forced thousands to the breadlines. The film opens with a treasure hunt and one of the items to find is a forgotten man. The rich set out to the city dump to locate him with no regard for his plight or his dignity. The man they bring back as the prize is Godfrey, who soon is employed by the Bullock family as their butler. Powell and Gail Patrick as Irene's snooty sister, Cornelia, are the antithesis of each other and some of the best social barbs are exchanged between them. Keeping their esteemed place in society is paramount to the Bullock family, and only the father (Pallette) ever seems to worry about money. However, La Cava does not allow the film to wallow in pity for those less fortunate. The film amuses throughout but it is a real art to weave social commentary into a comedy without banging you over the head. La Cava pulls it off beautifully.

La Cava, Lombard, Powell, Auer, and Alice Brady all deservedly earned Academy Award nominations. This movie will make you laugh and it should. It is very, very funny. It should also make you think. I suspect if you do both, Mr. La Cava and his wonderful cast will have done their jobs.
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Scavenger hunt
jotix1003 November 2005
The great depression of the 30s, in a way, created inequality in this country. On the one hand, great fortunes were made and many more were lost. In those days Hollywood's idea for escapism was the screwball comedy, with an emphasis in presenting how the privileged classes lived. This was in sharp contrast with what the majority of regular citizens were experiencing.

With that background, Gregory La Cava, a man who knew how to entertain an audience, took the direction of "My Man Godfrey". In the film we are given, on the one hand, what appears to be a city dump near to Sutton Place, one of the richest areas in Manhattan. We are shown a destitute man, Godfrey, who comes in contact with a couple of rich girls out on a scavenger hunt. Godfrey will change their lives forever.

"My Man Godfrey" gathered a distinguished cast. William Powell and Carole Lombard were at the pinnacle of their popularity. Both actors exuded charisma in any film they graced with their charming presence. They both left a mark of distinction in this comedy. Both are elegant and sophisticated, and they make us care about the characters they are playing.

The best thing about those 30s comedies were the marvelous ensemble casts assembled to support the stars. Thus, one is treated to delicious performances by Gail Patrick, Eugene Palette, Alice Brady, Micha Auer, Jean Dixon and Alan Mowbray.

This is a classic film that will live forever.
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The 1st movie Oscar nominated in all 4 acting category.
dcurry-14 June 2003
Why it did not receive a Best Picture nomination is a mystery to me. This is an excellent screwball comedy with a sane & socially conscious message. Although the whole cast is flawless, I would give a slight edge to Alice Brady. She did not win the Oscar in 36, but did win in 37 for "In Old Chicago". She had one of the best lines in the movie when speaking to one of her daughters 'It took me all these years to realize insanity runs on your father's side'. Eugene Pallete is excellent as the father & should also have been nominated. This is the only movie I can remember watching with Carole Lombard & she illuminates the screen in every scence. A must! 10/10
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What an amazing film..
Danielle26 February 2005
"My Man Godfrey" is truly one of the greatest films of the 20th century. Between comedy and romance, a great moral and wise words are nestled. The film's theme can best be stated by Godfrey's own words: "The only difference between a man and a derelict is a job.." The movie really hits home the fact that men are men, job or not. William Powell does a magnificent job at portraying Godfrey, the butler who humanizes derelicts everywhere. The cast is just as fantastic as the story. Carole Lombard does an amazing job at portraying Irene Bullock, the histrionic and comedic daughter of Alexander and Angelica Bullock, played by Eugene Palette and Alice Brady, both of whom do an amazing job as well. Gail Patrick also does great work as Cornelia Bullock,the uptight and bratty sister of Irene. Jean Dixon and Mischa Auer absolutely steal the show as the Bullocks' hysterical maid and protégé (respectively). The film is definitely a it today!
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Forever enjoyable comedy
willrams13 March 2003
I've seen this comedy many times and never get tired of it. Saw it again today on TCM TV, and still get a kick out of it. The spoiled brats of wealthy family man, played by Eugene Pallette, have hired Mr Godfrey as their butler. Carole Lombard and Gail Patrick are the jealous sisters who contrive to win his affections. There is much clutter and romping and confusion, but it all comes out at the end. Mischa Auer plays his usually outrageously funny character. I remember what a hit it was in 1936, and heartily recommend it today!
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What we are missing in today's cinema
philipmorrison16 April 2000
Warning: Spoilers
This movie is my champion for the golden age of movies versus today's cinema. "Godfrey" has pratfalls and funny situations, yes, but, it values a sly remark and character development over the cheaply-gotten laughs which seem to inundate modern comedies.

A case in point is Carlo, the "protege" of the flighty matron of the family. Every time he is attacked by the gruff patriarch, who is rightfully angry at him for leaching off the family's good will, not to mention its money, Carlo utters a sigh so heavy and heavily-acted, that you'd think his dog had died. The mother of the family comes to his defense, admonishing the father 'You must remember that Carlo is sensitive.' Hilarious stuff!

The performance of the character actors in "Godfrey" alone merit several viewings, but the movie also sports "Mr. Urbanity", William Powell. Though I think he is wonderful as "The Thin Man," I often wish he had not done so many sequels, saving his talent for well-written comedies like this one. (By the way, another wonderful comedy of this ilk is "Libeled Lady" with Myrna Loy, who, in my humble opinion is the epitomy of class; these two together make a dazzling combo).

Powell is glorious in this role. Much of the comedy comes from the fact that he is a butler serving those in a social class to which he used to belong (before the stock market crash). They hire him almost as a joke, thinking him beneath the job, when, in reality, he is highly educated, and, from a family equal or higher than they in social status.

Carole Lombard is adorable in her role of the ditzy younger sister who falls for Godfrey and goes to outrageous lengths to win his heart. Much of what she says makes no sense at all, but she is so precious, you can't help loving her anyway.

The actress playing the older sister is great as well as the sophisticated but snobbish socialite who will stop at nothing to get what she wants, and then rationalize that she deserves it just because she was born into high society. She develops a crush on Godfrey as well which makes for interesting conflict in the film.

But, once again, the unsung stars of this film are the writers and director. There is so much humor packed into a single word or even a well-placed pause. All concerned have created an amazing piece of entertainment.

I long for the day when good writing will come back to comedy, but while wading through the drivel that is another inevitable and interminable Jim Carey/Adam Sandler/Chris Farley (they are all inter-changeable to my mind) debacle, I revel in the thought that movies like "Godfrey" have been made in the past, and just might be made again.
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Set Firmly In The Depression
bkoganbing5 February 2007
For his second Academy Award nomination for Best Actor William Powell was loaned to Universal for My Man Godfrey. At the time this film was made there was a lot of buzz about Powell working with Carole Lombard who only a few years earlier he had been married to. They needn't have worried. The split was an amicable one and Powell and Lombard got along great on the set and created along with Director Gregory LaCava one of the classic screwball comedies of the Thirties.

In fact My Man Godfrey got a whole host of nominations, for LaCava for Best Director, for Carole Lombard, for Mischa Auer for Best Supporting Actor and Alice Brady for Best Supporting Actress. In the very first year of the Supporting categories, My Man Godfrey had nominees in all the acting categories, but failed to win any awards. Curiously enough, it wasn't nominated for Best Picture.

The Bulloch sisters Carole Lombard and Gail Patrick a pair of ditzy society girls are on a scavenger hunt which takes them to the city dump where they are to find a forgotten man. The expression is taken from Franklin D. Roosevelt who called those who were out of work and without hope forgotten men. The phrase had a lot of currency back in the day.

In fact My Man Godfrey's origins are rooted in the Depression Years. When Powell turns down Patrick's invitation to be her trophy in the scavenger hunt, he accepts Lombard's. It turns out he's no ordinary forgotten man, he is the heir to a large estate held by a prominent Boston WASP family. But that's a fact he conceals from the Bulloch sisters when he's hired as their butler.

His time with the Bulloch family is a learning experience indeed for both of them. The Depression hasn't hit these two girls, but it almost does save for Powell's financial acumen.

As I said the film is firmly ground in those years of the Depression and the New Deal. It's hard to fathom, but when FDR took office on March 4, 1933, twenty five percent of the workforce was unemployed. Today if the number reaches above five percent the doomsayers are calling it a depression. I remember an uncle of mine telling me that when he graduated high school in 1937 a year after My Man Godfrey he could not get work for over 2 years until America went on a war footing before Pearl Harbor. After that he got drafted and didn't have to worry about a job for a few years. He might have been living just like the men in the city dump, but for the fact my grandparents had jobs and kept a roof over everyone's head.

Mischa Auer plays Carlo, a kind of permanent houseguest of Alice Brady as Mrs. Bulloch. In today's world long after the Code has been repealed, Auer might well have been more explicitly gay.

Eugene Palette is Mr. Bulloch who freely admits he lives in a house of scatterbrains. Though he got no nominations his playing of the Bulloch patriarch set a standard for him in playing a host of put upon fathers.

In 1957 My Man Godfrey was remade with David Niven and June Allyson co-starring. Neither of the leads lacked for the charm needed to put over the story, but instead of The Great Depression, David Niven is an illegal alien looking to get a visa. You don't quite feel for him as you do for the jobless and hopeless William Powell.

If My Man Godfrey is ever remade in the modern era, let's hope they keep the economic underpinnings of this classic screwball comedy, even if they don't take it back to the Depression Years.
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The butler did it!
Oblomov_8113 February 2003
"My Man Godfrey" successfully blends the two most prominent schools of film comedy from the 1930's: `sophistication' and `screwball.' It smears the conservative upper-crust milieu with the keen eye of `Dinner at Eight' and the pie-in-your-face irreverence of `You Can't Take It with You,' with as many witticisms as either and probably more sexual innuendos. Occasional predictability keeps it from being on par with "It Happened One Night" or "Trouble in Paradise," but it is still one of the most emblematic films of its era.

William Powell is pitch perfect as Godfrey Parke, the hobo-turned-butler, breezing effortlessly through every scene. Carole Lombard also turns in one of her most cherished performances as Irene Bullock, the spoiled socialite who pretends to enjoy her wealth but really just wants to be around someone human. As their relationship progresses, Godfrey's humility rubs off on Irene and ultimately frees her from her elite family, which offered her security but only made her unstable. `My Man Godfrey' has no mercy on the aristocracy of the ‘30's, skewing it as socially incompetent and morally bankrupt. `All you need to start an asylum is an empty room and the right kind of people.' How terribly true.
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One of these days I'm going to go gorilla hunting
theowinthrop19 November 2007
Warning: Spoilers
The "screwball" comedies of the 1930s was an attempt to try to lift the depressed feelings of millions of Americans who were out of work and facing near starvation - and a collapse of optimism and belief in the American Dream. Frequently they showed the wealthy were eccentrics who were facing bankruptcy (THREE CORNERED MOON) or bored and looking for excitement by solving crimes (THE MAD MISS MANTON, or THE THIN MAN), or trapped by their public persona into nearly ruinous scandals (EASY LIVING). These comedies, at their best, remain very enjoyable. Of course there were clinkers (for example, HE MARRIED HIS WIFE), but I always find pleasure in the best ones.

MY MAN GODFREY is among the best, and curiously thoughtful. One person I know, listening to it, called it a "morality" play. William Powell is a hobo named Godfrey who is living in a "Hooverville" on Manhattan Island. There is a scavenger hunt going on for a charity, and a woman named Cordelia Bullock (Gail Patrick) and her boyfriend show up - they need a "forgotten man" to win the contest. Powell dislikes Patrick's snobby demanding nature and rejects her offer. Shortly her sister Irene Bullock (Carole Lombard) shows up, and Powell willingly goes with her (she's a feather-head, but a nice one). After he goes to the hotel which is the center of the contest, he accepts a job offer from her. The Bullocks are a wealthy family on Fifth Avenue. Eugene Palette and Alice Brady are the parents. Since Brady has a protégé (Mischa Auer as "Carlo"), Lombard feels that she should make Powell her protégé too.

Powell finds that working for the Bullocks is difficult for three reasons. Lombard is falling for him, and he knows that socially a butler is not supposed to be the lover of an heiress (sort of the reverse of the plot of SABRINA). Secondly Patrick is gunning for him, unwilling to forgive his snubbing her offer - and she is treacherous. Finally there is a background matter that might turn up: Godfrey is not poor by fate but by his choice - he's from a wealthy Boston family, but he is trying to prove himself as a worthy person and not a spoiled brat.

There are great set pieces throughout the film: Auer's performance of what he does best - which is why Brady patronizes him - acting as a gorilla. Palette is pretty sensible, and he dislikes this leech. His comment about what he'd like to do to Carlo is in the "Summary Line". There is also the mystery of the missing jewelry, and how it blows up in Patrick's conniving face. There is the business of how Powell's college roommate (Alan Mowbray) has to lie to explain how he lost "Godfrey's" services as a butler after a serious tiff (except we never understand how the tiff developed to become serious!). There is Grady Sutton's amazement to hear he has just proposed to Lombard. And there is Palette's friendly willingness to show Powell (before he realizes he is the new butler) his boxing abilities.

A fable on materialist failures and proper use of wealth in a national crisis, MY MAN GODFREY may be set in the Depression, but it's meaning has never faded out of fashion. It remains a fine example of first rate movie making from the 1930s.
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Delightfully Naive and Funny
Claudio Carvalho25 December 2010
In New York post-Great Depression, the spoiled socialites Irene Bullock (Carole Lombard) and her sister Cornelia Bullock (Gail Patrick) are disputing a scavenger hunt where the winner is the one who brings a "forgotten man" first. They go to the city dump and Cornelia offers five dollars to the derelict Godfrey Smith (William Powell) to go with her and her companion to the Wardolf Hotel. The man pushes her in the garbage and Cornelia leaves the landfill with her companion. However, Irene talks to Godfrey that she wanted to beat Cornelia to it and he accepts to go with her to win the prize. Irene offers the position of butler to Godfrey and tells her parents Alexander (Eugene Palette) and Angelica Bullock (Alice Brady) that she has hired Godfrey to work for their dysfunctional family in their mansion. Irene has an infatuation on Godfrey and protects him while Cornelia hates him and wants to harm him. During a party in the Bullock's house, the Harvard graduated investor Tommy Gray (Alan Mowbray) recognizes Godfrey and salutes him. But the butler asks him to keep the secret of his past and schedules an encounter in the restaurant to explain what is happening.

"My Man Godfrey" is a delightfully naive and funny romantic comedy with magnificent performances of William Powell and Carole Lombard, who is wonderful in the role of a spoiled and reckless woman. The dialogs have great moments and one of the best quotes is when Godfrey Parker tells to Tommy Gray that "the only difference between a derelict and a man is a job". "My Man Godfrey" had six nominations to the Oscar in 1937 (Best Actor in a Leading Role: William Powell; Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Mischa Auer; Best Actress in a Leading Role: Carole Lombard; Best Actress in a Supporting Role: Alice Brady; Best Director: Gregory La Cava; and Best Writing, Screenplay: Eric Hatch and Morrie Ryskind). My vote is eight.

Title (Brazil): "Irene, a Teimosa" ("Irene, the Stubborn")
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Purely Escapist Screwball.
nycritic21 April 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Thank God for the Thirties and the Depression Era. Even though by today's standards many of the movies released in this time sound somewhat irritating and tinny and have what is considered mannered performances, there's no denying that many of the best comedies were produced in this time, Code or no Code.

MY MAN GODFREY hasn't a serious bone to its celluloid body and any deep analysis about character motivation or deep direction is really just being pretentious. All of the performances are uniformly good, and while not the lead, Gail Patrick steals her scenes from the rest of the cast with well-written lines, poise, and a good deadpan sarcasm. Fun, witty, silly, with plot holes that can be seen from space, but ultimately a comedic fantasy.
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Wonderful! Extremely well made and acted.
William19 November 2002
Warning: Spoilers
"My Man Godfrey" is truly a wonderful film! I was shown "My Man Godfrey" when I was in a highschool class on film. I resisted the idea of enjoying "such an old film" the same way Godfrey resists Irene, but in the end the film won me over with its comedy and charms. I have been enjoying it ever since, and the comedy still holds up very well. "My Man Godfrey" is about a poor, out of work man (William Powell) who lives at a New York City dump. Soon his quiet world is made a bit chaotic by the introduction of two sisters on a scavenger hunt. Godfrey has an angry run-in with sister Cornelia (Gail Patrick), but is soon offered the job of a butler by sister Irene (Carole Lombard.) The next day Godfrey shows up to start his job as a butler in the Bullock household. He makes friends with the sharp and snappy maid (Jean Dixon), and learns the personalities of The Bullocks. Irene is flighty, impulsive, and quirky, and soon develops feelings for Godfrey. Cornelia continues to have an attitude toward Godfrey due to the angry run-in that happened on the night they met. Mrs. Bullock (Alice Brady) is very polite, but also very giddy. Mrs. Bullock's protoge, Carlo (Mischa Auer), feels he is one of the family as he continually stuffs his face with food. Mr. Bullock (Eugene Pallette) seems to be the only level-headed person in the household, but is facing financial difficulties. Through the course of the film it becomes clear Godfrey has more of a background than just a poor man who lived on a city dump. Also during the film Godfrey tries to resist Irene's advances, Cornelia's revenge, and tries to help Mr. Bullock recover financially as Godfrey prepares to advance his life beyond being a butler. The plot and situations in "My Man Godfrey" offer a lot of comedy! --The humor ranges from flighty and giddy to clever and sophisticated. There's also dry sarcastic humor, puns, and some light physical comedy. Such a wide range of humor helps the film be a total delight! The characters themselves have their charms and interesting points, and were well written. The plot was also well written. "My Man Godfrey" was directed by Gregory La Cava, and it seems he and the rest of the production team put in great effort to make this a well made film. The sets, props, and costumes are all very interesting. The film is extremely well acted by the entire cast, and their timing and facial expressions are perfect. "My Man Godfrey" is simply one of the best comedies I have ever seen. Sadly, it seems Universal Pictures did not keep up with the film's copyright, and the film can now be found on video and DVD by several different companies.
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Powell and Lombard spark off a great screwball comedy!
gaityr12 October 2002
William Powell is the Godfrey of the film's title, at the beginning of the film apparently an unshaven bum living at the city dump. His peace is suddenly disrupted one fateful night by the Bullock sisters, Irene (Carole Lombard) and Cornelia (Gail Patrick), who each need a 'forgotten man' to win their scavenger hunt. Cornelia, haughty and rude, annoys Godfrey, and he volunteers to help the decidely loopy Irene beat her sister for once. Before long, Irene wants Godfrey as her 'protege', following in the footsteps of her zany mother Angelica (Alice Brady) who seems to have adopted the odd little Russian man Carlo (Mischa Auer). It isn't long, either, before Irene falls hard for Godfrey and tries her best, from faking engagements to faking fainting spells, to win him over. But Godfrey has his own secrets and reasons for working at the Bullock household. (As gleefully pointed out by Molly the maid, played by Jean Dixon, no *ordinary* butler lasts beyond their first encounter with the extremely eccentric female Bullocks.) It is through Godfrey's reevaluation of his own true identity, and the Bullocks' subsequent discovery of this identity, that every character in the film learns a little something about themselves and about life.

MY MAN GODFREY has just about as screwball a cast of characters as it can get: after all, the Bullock girls (consisting of a ditzy matriach who sees pixies when she has a hangover and a daughter who rides horses up the front steps and parks them in the library!) certainly do their very best to keep one constantly bemused. The actresses all do very well in their roles--Brady tosses off manic giggles as Madame Bullock so convincingly you wonder if she really *is* like that in real life. She handles the character's blithe irrelevance expertly, even as Mrs Bullock sees hangover-induced pixies, asks her pet Carlo to play gorilla to cheer her daughter up, and spouts non sequiturs like she was born to do so. Gail Patrick is also worthy of mention as the spoilt brat Cornelia, who sets out to make Godfrey's life as difficult as she can because he pushed her into an ash pile when they first met, and even as butler, he still refuses to pander to her every whim. Patrick really does a grand job playing the bitch (see STAGE DOOR for another example), but doesn't completely alienate the audience--quite a feat considering what she does with her pearl necklace in order to get Godfrey fired...!

The leads are on top form as well. In approaching the role of Irene with no reservations whatsoever, Carole Lombard gives an excellent portrayal of this kooky heiress who not only doggedly pursues Godfrey once she discovers he's actually single and *doesn't* have five children, but also drifts around striking tragic poses learnt at drama school to get Godfrey's attention when she *thinks* he's married with kids. Lombard doesn't try to live up to any kind of glamorous image; she just *goes* for it all, crying, fainting, jumping around the room and all over the bed because Godfrey sticking her in the shower somehow proves he 'loves' her... She has no problem with either looking or acting foolish, and this works entirely in her favour, as well as that of her character's. Good as she is, however, she can't quite stop MY MAN GODFREY from being a consummate William Powell film. Powell is absolutely fantastic: even though he doesn't quite carry off the street bum look (his natural elegance struggles through, and even that's probably part of the role since Godfrey isn't really who he appears to be), his Godfrey is wry, charming and witty. No one plays the lucid drunk better than Powell, and this film, along with THE THIN MAN series, acts as the best evidence of that. He handles his character's self-imposed detachment from the Lombard character with aplomb, playing Godfrey as simultaneously bemused and charmed.

Small wonder that the film picked up acting nominations in all four categories (male and female lead and supporting) at the Academy Awards--the cast of MY MAN GODFREY is really excellent, and they're ably supported by the script and assured direction of Gregory La Cava. All in all, it's a great film: certainly one of the best romantic comedies I've seen, though possibly not the best screwball (that honour still belongs to BRINGING UP BABY, which certainly recognises its debt to MY MAN GODFREY, at least insofar as Katharine Hepburn brings a lot of Lombard's inflection and lilt into her own performance). It's the kind of film you won't see emerging from Hollywood anymore, unless it's a remake (heaven forbid), and definitely one whose characters really need to be seen to be believed. The ending of the film is a bit rushed (though bizarrely appropriate!), and it certainly isn't perfect, but other than that, MY MAN GODFREY is first-class film-making with classy performances... and that's as good a reason as any to watch it.
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Godfrey is interesting, but all the women are 1 dimensional, stereotypical characters.
kyrat30 June 2000
Carol Lombard character was just a complete childlike, spoiled imbecile. I hope this was not intended as a romantic movie. I actually expected Godfrey (William Powell was good!) to end up w/ the gutsy sister Cornelia. They had much more chemistry and it would have been much more interesting. It would also have added to the social critique that was unevenly spread through the film. The ending was lame - both the interaction with the family, Cornelia's uncharacteristic & sudden reversal/reaction AND the horrifying final conclusion between Godfrey & Carol Lombard's character..... Where did that come from? Would it really happen? Is she totally insane? Did I blink & miss the instance in which he actually indicated the slightest interest? He seemed more interested in the maid, I thought.

Stick to the Thin Man movies that William Powell did. Much better & with more realistic women.
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Excellent film to watch and re-watch
vgs189518 September 2005
I can't add much to what others have said, but this is a wonderful film. From the very beginning (the credits are done extremely well, especially considering it was made about 70 years ago!) to the end, this is one funny/sad/satirical movie. The sets are obviously from the 30's, but the dialogue is still relevant. We have watched it four times and still catch new things. Don't miss 'minor' characters during the show--check out their facial expressions and their actions (especially Carlo).

Some versions have outtakes and other features. The outtakes aren't G-rated, so this isn't for children (who have probably heard much worse anyway, unfortunately)--but most kids might not be able to keep up with the fast-paced dialogue anyway.
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About as close to perfect a light comedy as you'll find from the 30s
MartinHafer14 July 2006
This is a marvelous film and is a perfect example of light comedy from the 1930s. The writing and acting by the wonderful ensemble cast is absolutely dynamite and hard to beat.

William Powell plays Godfrey, a hobo brought home as part of a scavenger hunt. One of the girls in the family, ultra-dippy Carole Lombard, arranges for him to become their new butler and he is absolutely perfect at his job in every way and does a lot to get this rich but totally flighty family to function well, as when the movie starts it is like a madhouse instead of a family home. The zaniness going on is a lot of fun to watch, but you really have to feel for the father (Eugene Palette) having to put up with freeloaders like Mischa Auer, a stupid wife, one even stupider daughter and another who is a cold little thing. And, on top of everything else, the family is spending him into oblivion.

Where the film goes I don't want to tell as it would ruin it. However, be prepared for some of the funniest characters and dialog you've seen in a long time. This film is a wonderful example to young whipper-snappers that they DID make terrific movies in the olden days!
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Brother, can you spare a dime?
blanche-211 March 2006
It's not unusual to find madcap rich people in '30s films, more specifically, madcap heiresses. They abound. Meet the Bullocks in "My Man Godfrey," about as mad a family as you'll ever meet, complete with a madcap daughter who will someday become an heiress, played by Carole Lombard. William Powell is Godfrey, one of the Depression's forgotten men, whom Lombard decides to remember after he agrees to be the prize find in a scavenger hunt. She hires him as the family butler.

As Irene, Lombard wanders around with her hair in her face looking as though she's having trouble seeing, while her sister, the beautifully put together, bitchy Cornelia (Gail Patrick) tries to frame Godfrey for stealing her necklace in between cocktail parties, and her mother (Alice Brady) talks baby talk to her dog, and her protégée Carlos practices his art by nearly eating the family into poverty. The head of the house, Eugene Palette, understandably has trouble coping. Godfrey sails effortlessly through it all.

This is a wonderful film that manages to show the sadness and rough times brought on by the depression as well as plenty of comedy. Lombard is one actress whose voice, for some reason, never mixed well with the old-fashioned studio sound system, so sometimes her crying and high-pitched protests are grating, though she is certainly very likable in the role of a kind-hearted, sensitive woman. Gail Patrick gives a multilayered performance as the glamorous Cornelia, making the most of a supporting part. Alice Brady and Eugene Palette are wonderful as the parents. Jean Dixon, as the dry-humored maid, nearly steals the movie with her deadpan comments.

William Powell is sheer perfection. Nothing new there. He is in the beginning a dignified, serious bum who is down on his luck, and then turns into a smooth, efficient butler who carries with him a touch of sadness and irony. Like all of Powell's performances, it looks effortless, but it's brilliant.

Certainly a well-remembered and loved film, with good reason.
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Magical Lombard Plus Dapper Powell Sparkle in Comedy Classic
Ed Uyeshima14 December 2005
Warning: Spoilers
During Hollywood's golden era, Carole Lombard was probably the most strikingly beautiful actress of her generation and arguably the most talented comedienne. She managed to be both hilariously free-wheeling and uninhibitedly down-to-earth, even as she plays the flightiest of madcap heiresses. One can only speculate what brilliant career lay ahead of her had she not died tragically early in a 1942 plane crash. Fortunately, we have this 1936 screwball classic, likely her most famous film, as a reminder of her beauty, charisma and sheer likability. Her character Irene Bullock feels like a first cousin to Katharine Hepburn's Susan Vance in "Bringing Up Baby", a scatterbrained, motor-mouthed, persistent-beyond-reason socialite living with her equally eccentric family on Park Avenue. If not for Lombard, this character would try anyone's patience with her impetuous behavior and the childish competitiveness she displays with her sister.

What makes this movie different though is its social consciousness about the thoughtless rich and the put-upon downtrodden, the contrast of which made this particularly apt during the Great Depression. But the grand statements one would expect from a Capra never seem leaden in this comedy as directed by the underrated Gregory LaCava. Instead, they are fully integrated into a story that starts with a society "scavenger hunt" for a "forgotten man". In the city dump, the Bullock daughters find one in the form of Godfrey, portrayed with typically dapper élan by William Powell. Godfrey is an erudite hobo with whom Irene becomes quickly enamored, and in short order, she convinces him to become the family butler. As it turns out, of course, he turns out to be the scion of a wealthy Boston family who decided to shuck it all once he was betrayed by love. He becomes the catalyst for improving the lives and characters of the Bullocks, all the while ensuring he takes care of his hobo friends on the riverfront. Only Powell could play a character that moves so fluidly between bum and butler, though he does falter slightly in his drunken scenes which seem really to come out of nowhere to move the plot along. Powell and Lombard were previously married and divorced prior to this film, and there is a subtle familiarity in their burgeoning relationship that makes their rapport sparkle (ironically, off-screen, he was in love with Jean Harlow at the time, she just beginning with Gable).

The supporting cast is impeccable in characteristic roles for the actors - Eugene Palette in typical comic, fog-horned bluster as the frustrated patriarch (though actually more restrained here than his other similar roles of the period); Alice Brady in full daffy flightiness as the arts-loving mother with her own live-in protégé in Mischa Auer, who plays Carlo as the high-maintenance leech he is (his chimpanzee impersonation scene is priceless thanks to his manic agility); Jean Dixon as the smart-mouthed maid Molly who develops her own crush on Godfrey (though the script gives her short shrift in this development); and best of all, Gail Patrick, who epitomizes the upper-crust bitch-princess as the talon-bearing sister Cornelia (of course, she and Lombard do not look remotely like sisters). It all wraps up nicely though rather fancifully, for instance, Cornelia does an about-face only a Hollywood producer would find credible. And one could argue that the portrayal of Godfrey's hobo brethren is on the sanctimonious side. But it doesn't matter, as the movie glides over the heavier implications of wealth, class distinctions and social injustice with a velvet glove. A true and deserved classic.

I am generally not a fan of colorization, though I have to admit the digital technology seems to be improving as the new discount-priced DVD provides a surprisingly nice transfer with soft, pastel colors except for some of the more elaborate evening gowns at the beginning. The package includes the original black-and-white version for purists and a colorized trailer as well. This is a good alternative to the Criterion Collection DVD priced at nearly four times the price (granted with additional features.
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Not screwball comedy at its best
BoodleH4 November 2001
Saw this movie last night and was sorely disappointed. I had just seen and enjoyed "I Love You Again" starring William Powell and Myrna Loy and wanted to see more of Powell's work. Well, he's great, and has a pretty well-written character in "My Man Godfrey," but, as someone else has pointed out here, the women's characters are two-dimensional. What a waste of female talent!

When I think of the screwball comedies that are really good, I think of "Bringing Up Baby," a film where both the male *and* the female leads had snappy dialogue and wonderfully written characters that had a native intelligence, not simply a childish persistence, such as Carole Lombard's Irene had in "My Man Godfrey."

And the dialogue ain't all that great, either. A lot of the laugh lines seemed to be Powell's sarcastic remarks which were too obvious and too many. The actors make the most of it that they can, but the lines just aren't good enough.

The plot also had holes in it, loose ends, and an unconvincing emotional throughline.

As for the social commentary on "the forgotten men," please. Actually it started out quite well with the uncomfortable scene in the city dump, but after that it seemed as if the writer wanted to take care of that issue with lip service. Why bring it up if you're not going to do it justice? Preston Sturgess managed to solidly and economically show us the dark side of human nature, yet still expertly weave in the nutty characters and big laffs.

I'm not one of those viewers who loves modern comedies like Adam Sandler stuff. I've been seeing these old films for decades. So don't consider this the commentary of someone who just doesn't "get it."

I'd advise people who want to see Powell to see him in "The Thin Man" or "I Love You Again" (and I'm sure there are more), and to get the best screwball comedy by checking out some of Katherine Hepburn's and Cary Grant's films, something with George S. Kaufman's name on it, or a Preston Sturgess film. I'm sure there are many more, and would love to see a comprehensive list of *really* good comedies of this genre someplace.
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Feels Like Capra, Looks Like Capra...But It Ain't Capra!
Jem Odewahn23 April 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Carole Lombard and William Powell are a hoot in this 1936 screwball comedy classic. With one of the finest supporting casts assembled for a film ever, one of the sharpest scripts you'll see and one of the most deftest, original set-ups, 'My Man Godfrey' never disappoints.

This is another one of those Depression-era comedies that send-up the idle rich, and make heroes of the underdog. Carole Lombard is excellent as Irene Bullock, the spoiled society girl. This was Lombard's only Best Actress nomination (Why?), and she's terrific in every scene. Irene is competing with her snotty sister Cornelia at a society scavenger hunt, one of the rich people's favourite 'pastimes'. One of the things on the list required is a 'Forgotten Man'. It's almost implausible that anyone could ever forget the delightful William Powell, but his Godfrey has been forgotten, and is currently residing at the dump. Powell of course is too suave to be a derelict, but let's let that minor flaw pass by, shall we? Cornelia spots him first, but her snobby demeanor and bossiness instantly off-put Godfrey, who ends the encounter by pushing her in a dust-pile. Irene is next on the scene, and finds the whole situation terribly funny (Love the trademark Lombard cackle!). Still, she'd love to beat Cornelia, and Godfrey finds her inherently charming, so she takes him along to the Scavenger hunt. She wins, and insists he be the new family butler. And that's where the havoc begins.

Irene has obviously fallen head-over-heels for the tramp/butler, and makes no secret of it in her outlandish, yet lovable antics. Her sister finds the whole set-up revolting. Their henpecked father doesn't really care either way as he is having too much trouble controlling the females of the family to worry about the new butler. The mother (delightful Alice Brady) finds Godfrey a great help, but it rather tied-up with her interest in 'sponsored' protégé (really, a toy boy!) Carlo (a wickedly funny scene-stealing performance from Mischa Auer).

We should really hate Lombard's character, spoiled little society brat that she is, but we love her! She's not a snob like her sister, and Lombard fills her with that spontaneous charm that makes her so difficult to dislike. She throws tantrums, yes, but she never really means to hurt anyone, apart from getting back at her sister. Lombard was a comedienne never afraid to have a laugh at herself. Here she gets put in the shower by Powell, bawls hysterically and even fakes a turn in order to kiss the butler! She's great, and I absolutely adore Lombard because of this performance.

Powell is the sane one in this zany family. He's our hero, the calm onlooker who manages to bring order to the Bullock household. In their interaction with Godfrey, eventually the members of the idle rich take a good hard look at themselves. It's got that Capra feel to it, but this is a Gregory La Cava production. It's classic screwball comedy, and along with 'Bringing Up Baby', may just be the best one ever produced by Hollywood.
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Everything You Could Ask For In a Screwball Comedy
Snow Leopard14 October 2004
This has just about everything you could ask for in a screwball comedy: a family of eccentrics, the rich versus poor theme, far-fetched but enjoyable plot developments, and more. William Powell is right at home, Carole Lombard is lively and sympathetic, and the supporting cast pitches in with some fine performances of their own.

The opening sequence, with Lombard and Gail Patrick (as her sister) meeting Powell while on their scavenger hunt, is unusual and keeps you a little off-balance, and yet it sets up the main part of the story rather well. Besides introducing the characters and initiating the action, it also presents some interesting themes that are later developed more fully.

As "My Man Godfrey", Powell's dry wit and charisma work perfectly, and he plays well off of Lombard's more bubbly performance. Patrick fits well into the role of the spiteful sister, Eugene Palette is very amusing as the harassed father, and Mischa Auer has a couple of good scenes that fit his talents well. Jean Dixon and Alice Brady also have some good moments when they get the opportunity.

The fine cast and director Gregory La Cava's careful touch keep things on-track even through the silliest developments, making it an enjoyable and sometimes thoughtful picture.
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The screwball comedy of all time and one of the biggest head-scratchers in Academy Award history!!!
Robert Reynolds5 December 2000
This film is an absolute joy to watch! With an exceptional cast, four of whom were nominated for Oscars (one in each of the four categories, although I personally think Eugene Pallette should have been nominated instead of Mischa Auer for Supporting Actor), a delightfully witty script that was also nominated for an Oscar and with excellent direction by Gregory LaCava, who made it six nominations all told for the film. Here comes the head-scratcher: no nomination for Picture in a year when TEN films got nominated!!! For one nominee (libeled Lady), Picture was the only nomination it got!!! All in all, one of the more peculiar actions in Academy history. Ironically, William Powel was in both My Man Godfrey and Libeled Lady. Bells and whistles go off and cannons roar and peace and joy reign all throughout the land! Most Recommended!!!
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Screwball comedy with a Depression era message
calvinnme23 November 2014
Warning: Spoilers
This movie was Universal's first endeavor at the "screwball comedy" genre which up to that time included films such as "The Front Page" and "Dinner at Eight". The bread and butter of Universal in the 30's was classic horror, so this film does well not only as Universal's first film of this type in the talking era, it is just a great film, period. What makes it work so well is William Powell in the starring role. He was at the peak of his acting prowess in 1936, and a master at playing the wily sophisticate. Here he plays Godfrey Smith, a man living in the New York City dump when a couple of wealthy sisters approach him one night and offer him five dollars to accompany them to a scavenger hunt. He quickly rebuffs Cornelia Bullock when she treats him like a broken vase, and sends her packing. However, her sister Irene is genuinely interested in why Godfrey is living in the dump, as though this is a personal choice for the men living here in the depth of the Great Depression, and Godfrey becomes intrigued with her sincerity and the situation in general. Thus, he agrees to accompany Irene and enables her to win first prize and beat her sister. Out of gratitude and a budding romantic interest, Irene offers Godfrey the job of family butler - a job in which nobody seems to last very long, and when you meet the Bullocks at home you find out why. They are truly a self-involved and high maintenance bunch. The mother is a kind soul a bit taken to drink. Cornelia is ever bit the lizard on two legs that she seemed on her and Godfrey's first meeting, and Irene, like her mother, is a kind soul, but taken to episodes of the dramatic. Eugene Palette, with his trademark frog voice, plays the long-suffering Mr. Bullock who spends most of his time paying for the damages caused by the exploits of his idle rich daughters and for the food bill of his wife's artistic protégé Carlo.

Godfrey goes the distance as butler, though, navigating touchy situations with the skill of someone who seems to have an intimate knowledge of the world in which the Bullocks live. It soon becomes clear why Godfrey is so patient and wise with his charges, and his own story enables a happy ending for all concerned - for the Bullocks when Mr. Bullock plays the market and loses everything that belongs to him and some that doesn't thanks to a little hopeful embezzling on his part, and also for Godfrey's comrades at the dump when Godfrey is able to find employment for all of them and lift them out of poverty. Of course, the not too subtle yet not heavy-handed message of this Depression era film is that while the idle rich look for ways to occupy their time such as giftless protégés and pointless games, there are real problems that need solving with human lives in the balance.

Lombard is great as Irene. Rather than just play the part as a dizzy blonde, she gives the part wit, and strangely enough, manages to give depth to a rather shallow character. Without that wit and depth, Irene would have been just one more inmate in the Bullock asylum, and it would be a real stretch to believe Godfrey would find her interesting. The only thing that seemed a little forced and pat was the ending. Although I could easily believe that Irene was in love with Godfrey, Godfrey seems very formal with Irene and only lets down his facade when he is dealing with her as one deals with a spoiled child when she gets over-dramatic with him. I never felt he was returning her romantic sentiments at all. However, this is a minor criticism in a film with a terrific cast that is one of the great witty comedies of all time.
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