The Great Depression was winding down by the time “My Man Godfrey” was released to theaters but people were still struggling to make ends meet and looking for hope. “My Man Godfrey” (1936) was the answer. “My Man Godfrey” reunited William Powell and Carole Lombard in this smash-hit comedy about a “forgotten” man being hired as a butler to an eccentric upper class family.
To date, “My Man Godfrey” is the only film to have six Academy Award nominations in writing, directing and acting without being nominated for Best Picture. One of the nominations was for “Best Screenplay” by Eric Hatch and Morrie Ryskind. Interestingly, Ryskind was always on set to directly rewrite problematic scenes and improvise much of the dialogue with the actors. The film did not win any of its nominating categories.
When it came to casting the role of “Irene Bollock,” a few actresses, such as Constance Bennett, were considered but Powell believed his ex-wife Carole Lombard would be perfect for the part. He was right. With William Powell as Carole Lombard’s “straight man” and Lombard’s impeccable comedy skills, they make a wonderful duo. For a less qualified actress, the immature, scatterbrained characteristics of Irene Bollock would have come off as annoying or redundant. There is no doubt in her performance why she received her Academy Award nomination for Best Actress in a Leading Role.
The rest of the supporting cast is perfect with Alice Brady as the flighty “Mrs. Bollock” in one of the two Oscar nominations she would receive for Supporting role. Gail Patrick as Irene’s sister “Angelica Bollock” plays equal parts of trying to rid the household of Godfrey, being a spoiled brat and playing a girl you love to hate.
A special way to enjoy the film is with a viewing of The Criterion Edition DVD. Along with the feature film, it provides an historical archival footage of The Depression and how it effected men who were in Godfrey's position. Also included on the DVD is an hysterical gag reel in which it is clear why Carole Lombard was called, “Hollywood’s Profane Angel.”
*I borrowed a dvd copy of "My Man Godfrey: The Criterion Edition from my local library.*