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My Man Godfrey (1936)

Starring:

Alan Mowbray

Alice Brady

Carole Lombard

Eugene Pallette

Gail Patrick

Jean Dixon

Mischa Auer

Pat Flaherty

Robert Light

William Powell

Directed by:

Gregory La Cava

Rating: 8/10

Running Time: 94 minutes

US Certificate: Unrated UK Certificate: U

Country: United States

With its all-star cast and timely Depression-era themes, My Man Godfrey expertly pulls off one of the first true screwball comedies in cinematic history. The film was nominated for every major Academy Award (Best Actor and Actress in a Leading Role, Best Director, and Best Screenplay), and though it missed out on the Best Picture nod—and didn’t win any of the prizes for which it did receive nominations—it nevertheless stands the test of time, proving that true comedy is timeless; even with its moments of drama, it never really lets up with the laughs.

A meeting at a city dump brings a job opportunity for Godfrey (William Powell), a bum in appearance who harbors a secret past, when flighty socialite Irene Bullock (Carole Lombard) first uses him to win a Scavenger hunt for the wealthy, then hires him to act as a butler for her loony and eccentric family.

The film itself holds up to this day, paving the way for modern day dysfunctional family classics like The Royal Tenenbaums. Quirky and infinitely quotable dialogue, delivered with quick-tongued intelligence by every actor involved, push this movie easily to be one the great classic of its time. The Great Depression may not seem like traditional comedy fodder, but this film uses the era as a catalyst to show that you should never lose hope and that great things can still happen. It also encompasses a story of how a stranger or unexpected event can change everything for the better—another theme that’s been much copied since. The film is funny and has some twists that you may not see coming—also, no matter your family situation, there’s a family member in here somewhere that every audience member can relate to knowing.

William Powell gives an outstanding performance, as he is quick with his dialogue and plays off each character as if he has known them for years, while Carole Lombard does a standout job as a crazy, lonely girl who is still likeable and relatable in her affections and relations. Alice Brady, who plays Angelica Bullock, mother of the Bullock family, is nutty and gives the term “airhead” new meaning, and Eugene Pallette as father Alexander Bullock, with his deep voice and witty remarks, sometimes seems to leave even his family unaware they may have just been insulted. The directing and overall performance of a great ensemble cast carry off the film, and unlike most of today’s so-called comedic fare, it never gives a dull moments. This is one of those movies that will leave you spouting out quotes for years, and it’s definitely one you’ll never tire of seeing.

It's Got: Great performances, major funny, perfect timing

It Needs: To be seen by every comedic actor and director aspiring to be funny

Alternatives:

His Girl Friday, Home for the Holidays, The Royal Tenenbaums

Summary

One of film’s first true screwball comedies, it’s also still one of the best, even over 70 years after its release.

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