Tuesday, March 15, 2016
My Man Godfrey
Sit still, it'll all be over in a minute. This is the first of the great screwball comedies I'm reviewing. I thought I would review It Happened One Night first, as that codified the screwball comedy, but I own my own copy of that, while I found out my dad had a copy of My Man Godfrey when I was visiting this weekend. So I'd rather work on this one while it's fresh. Besides, it's somewhat related, since Carole Lombard was Clark Gable's favorite wife. This is one of two screwball comedies starring Carole Lombard on the Registry, the other being her final film, To Be or Not To Be, which was released just weeks after her death in a plane crash during a USO tour. If I'm remembering trivia rightly, she was honored as one of the first civilian casualties of WWII in the continental US, along with her mother and press agent, as her death was related to her war work. Another bit of trivia about Carole Lombard that is actually connected to this film is that at the time of filming, she and "Godfrey" (William Powell), had already been married and divorced, though they remained close friends. Apparently the conceit of this movie, that opposites attract, is true... but it doesn't hold. The film does seem very relevant today, but in a way that would never get made today. Spoiled super-rich socialites turn up in a tent city in a dump, and try to bribe a homeless man to come with them for a scavenger hunt. The younger sister is impressed with the pride and composure of the man they find, as well as the fact that he spooks her sister into falling into garbage, so she offers him a job as their butler, and immediately falls in love with him... as does everyone else, but that's fairly overlooked. Godfrey turns out to be a former First Family Socialite himself, who in his moment of crisis discovered the tenacity of men clinging on with their fingernails. As Godfrey says in the movie, but would never say if it was remade, "The difference between a derelict and a man is a job". Maybe I have more sympathy with that because my physical disabilities prevent me from most jobs, but it really is soul-sucking in a way that I don't think a lot of people understand to not be able to be productive. That would probably be called victim-blaming in the current climate, but as one of those oft-spoken-for "victims", I still say he's right. I wasn't really planning on waxing philosophical about the nature of a bum vs. the self-respect that comes with any form of productivity that one can take pride in. Instead, I was going to make the overall point that this is a charming film, full of sparkling dialogue and absurd situations in the best tradition of the screwball comedy. They don't make them like this anymore, but thankfully we have a great selection to choose from already.