"My Man Godfrey" is arguably among the four essential films every Carole Lombard fan must see (the others are "Twentieth Century," "Nothing Sacred" and "To Be Or Not To Be"), and the good news is that because of "Godfrey's" public domain status, it's been pretty easy to find. The trade-off is that you also get what you pay for, and in most versions of "Godfrey" on the DVD/video market, it hasn't been much in either department. Lackluster prints and muffled dialogue lessen the film's impact.
But six summers ago, that all changed when Janus Films, as part of its Criterion Collection of first-rate film reissues, presented "My Man Godfrey" in a wonderful digital transfer from a 35mm print, with easily the best audio and video of any DVD version. Here's a still from the DVD showing Lombard, as dizzy Irene Bullock, in all her ethereal glory:
If a completely restored "Godfrey" was all the package held, it would be fine, but would it be worth the $20 to $30 it sells for at stores or online? That would be up to you to decide, and fortunately that question is moot because Criterion's "Godfrey" is teeming with extras, such as
* An archive of production stills (examples below):
* The "Lux Radio Theater" adaptation of "Godfrey" from May 1938, starring Powell and Lombard (and, in a supporting role, David Niven, who would play Godfrey opposite June Allyson in the 1957 remake). The audio quality is quite good, and there are some rare photos from the radio production. Host Cecil B. de Mille is in the second picture, and that's Gail Patrick in the third. (Also, note Powell is sitting in both photos; earlier that year, he had been diagnosed with colon cancer, which he fortunately was able to beat. However, the illness prevented him from what might have been one of his greatest roles -- playing opposite Greta Garbo in Ernst Lubitsch's "Ninotchka." That honor instead went to Melvyn Douglas.)
* An audio commentary track by film historian Bob Gilpin. Some can take or leave this feature, but every now and then he provides something to think about. For example, Constance Bennett was reportedly Universal's initial choice to play Irene, but Powell insisted that his ex-wife Lombard be borrowed from Paramount. Bennett was a pretty good actress, but one doubts she would have brought the humanity Lombard gave the role. (In 1938, Bennett did an ersatz "Godfrey," the overlooked "Merrily We Live.")
* The original theatrical trailer, though this version was apparently for a reissue (and seemingly unchanged).
* Some outtakes, featuring a few choice comments from Lombard and Powell.
* Excerpts from WPA films of the era, contrasting the "forgotten man" with the idle rich. A good feature for those unfamiliar with life during the mid-1930s.
The Criterion version of "My Man Godfrey" is a solid package, and a worthy prize in any Lombard collector's scavenger hunt.