Guest Author - Karen L Hardison
Carol Lombard is always lovable and glamorous even when she is up to her hair-brained comedic antics. The socialites of New York are having a scavenger hunt to raise money for charity. One of the items on the list is a "forgotten man." One perky socialite knows where there are many forgotten men and tells her sister. Set in 1936, the Depression Era economy was playing host to a plethora of forgotten men who lived in cardboard and lean-to shanty towns at the city dump and other places.
Now the show starts. The sister, heartless, arrogant but beautiful Angelica Bullock takes unfair advantage of her sister's confidence and gets to the forgotten men one tire squeal ahead of her. Angelica goes boldly in and asks the first forgotten man she meets to go along with her to the scavenger hunt so she can win and she'll pay him $5, a very good wage for a full day's work in 1936. With the other sister, Irene Bullock, looking on, the forgotten man, brimming with dignity, tells no thank you and gives her a bit of a push which topples her into the ash heap in her sparkling evening gown and pristine fur wrap.
Well, off Angelica (Alice Brady) goes, but Irene (Carol Lombard) lingers and she and the dignified forgotten man (William Powell) get into a conversation that ends up with him volunteering to accompany her to the scavenger hunt so she can win. At the hotel, Powell's character gives a brilliant, low-key, truthful speech that puts those who can think to shame and departs to take his leave declining any remuneration. Irene chases after him and hires him as a butler because he has impressed her and she wants to do him a kindness and have him around.
Then the antics begin. The Bullock's show their true colors, calling to mind the morning scene in the Disney animated Cinderella, with horses in libraries and ice packs; the maid is sweet on Godfrey, for that is the forgotten man's name; Irene gets a crush; Godfrey's real identity is revealed; Irene gets engaged but not to the man she has a crush on and in the end lessons are learned, fortunes are saved, buildings are built, forgotten men are reclaimed and a wedding is performed by the Mayor of New York at the city dump.
Carol Lombard and William Powell are delightful together. Alice Brady is a cold calculating ruthless manipulating sister. The production was a great sensation in 1936 and it still entertains, amuses and instructs today. It was a great project that was well done. Some say that My Man Godfrey is just another "little brown bird" of a film calculated to tell the poor people of the Depression that they are happier than the rich people but that reveals a prejudiced viewing founded on erroneous preconceived notions.
If My Man Godfrey tells the poor people of the Depression (or of 2010) anything--it's speeches denounce the calloused rich who give pennies to charity and hoard for themselves--it tells them that good will, cooperation and philanthropic innovation can pull the forgotten men out of the city dump, transform the city dump, build a new enterprise and put the forgotten men to work. As Godfrey reveals, those forgotten men that he lived in lean-tos with were former judges, former bankers, former factory laborers, not begging vagabonds. This is a fun film with inbuilt inspiration and a message or two still relevant to today.
My Man Godfrey (1936)
George La Ceva - Director; Eric Hatch - Novel Author; Morrie Ryskind - Screenplay writer; William Powell - Godfrey; Carol Lombard - Irene Bullock; Alice Brady - Angelica Bullock; Gail Patrick - Mrs. Cornelia Bullock; Eugene Pallette - Mr. Alexander Bullock; Alan Mowbray - Tommy Gray.
My Man Godfrey was nominated for six Academy Awards: Best Leading Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Leading Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Best Director, Best Writer & Screenplay. Book My Man Godfrey by Eric Hatch.
[The DVD of My Man Godfrey is from the reviewer's own private library.]