MY MAN GODFREY (1936) B/W 90m dir: Gregory La Cava
w/William Powell, Carole Lombard, Alice Brady, Eugene Pallette, Gail Patrick, Mischa Auer, Alan Mowbray, Jean Dixon, Robert Light, Pat Flaherty
Lombard's most unforgettable screwball performance as the madcap heiress who finds gentleman-bum Powell on a garbage heap while on a scavenger hunt. He becomes her family's butler and brings a touch of common humanity to the filthy rich. Marvellously funny, and the actors are uniformly excellent.
From The Movie Guide: "A silvery romp. The flaw is that it never delivers on the satire it starts with, dissolving into Cinderella fantasy along the way. But the leads are so impeccable that the seam never shows and the greatly underrated La Cava directs with precision. Of all the great comediennes, Lombard's innocently unflappable center was unique. She's like an eternal playmate --- a quality only Harlow shared. It's a pity the two never played sisters.
"Anyway, MY MAN GODFREY is comedy with a social conscience, although the message's subtlety has to be unearthed from all the humor. ...
"The rich are made to look very foolish and the poor appear very noble in this film, something that Depression audiences must have appreciated. Two years later, a film inspired by this one, MERRILY WE LIVE, was released, but it and the flat 1957 remake of MY MAN GODFREY were inferior attempts at recreating the chemistry of this film. Powell and Lombard, married in 1931 and divorced in 1933, were still friendly enough to make a marvelous onscreen team. One of the better, if not the best, of the famous screwball comedies of the era, GODFREY stands as an excellent example of witty scripting, direction, and editing. With Eugene Pallette (growling some of the best lines, and certainly one of the strangest, funniest men ever), Alice Brady (great in these dithery roles), and Mischa Auer (in his famous monkey imitation) among the congress of nitwits. Look fast --- there's Janie Wyman in the party scene."
MY MAN GODFREY was nominated for six Oscars: Best Director, Actor (Powell), Actress (Lombard), Supporting Actor (Auer), Supporting Actress (Brady), and Original Screenplay [Eric Hatch (who wrote the short story the film was based on, "1101 Park Avenue'), Morris Ryskind].
For more information about director La Cava, see LIVING IN A BIG WAY.