March 27th, 2015

carole lombard 05
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2015 TCMFF, day 1: 'Godfrey' + group = greatness

Few would dispute the glory of "My Man Godfrey," arguably the greatest screwball comedy ever made and the film that provided Carole Lombard her only Academy Award nomination. Yes, some might make a case for "Bringing Up Baby," but "Godfrey" has far more depth to it than "Baby" and is just as clever as another Howard Hawks contender with Cary Grant, "His Girl Friday."

But as good as "Godfrey" is when you watch it on TV or video, its magnificence amplifies when you see it in a theater with several hundred other fans, as I did last night at the opening evening of the TCM Classic Film Festival.

The 500-seat Chinese Multiplex House 1, largest of the Chinese's auxiliary theaters, was nearly full for the 10 p.m. showing (actually, it didn't get going until 10:12 or so with those fabulous Streamline opening credits, the best this side of Saul Bass). But no one complained, since the film was introduced by occasional TCM presenter and friend of the channel Illeana Douglas (granddaughter of Melvyn Douglas), whose enthusiasm for "Godfrey" was obvious from the get-go.

Douglas was briefly interrupted by "Godfrey"-related cheers throughout her intro, including a nice hand for Lombard. She called her the forerunner to later funny, sexy comic actresses such as Goldie Hawn and Sandra Bullock.

And then came the film.

The collective enthusiasm you get from an audience watching a really good film is one you simply can't duplicate at home, no matter how big your screen or how fancy your equipment. That certainly was the case with "Godfrey." They cheered Godfrey pushing Cornelia into an ashpile (and Lombard's Irene Bullock explaining that was something she always wanted to do), adored Carole's rapid-fire responses early in the film, and hooted at Alice Brady's delightful obliviousness.

Some non-verbal humor you may have taken for granted watching by yourself gains impact on the big screen, such as when Godfrey carries the "fainted" Irene up the stairs before the pivotal shower scene. Fascinating to examine. While we'll never be able to precsely replicate the 1936 audience's experience watching "Godfrey" -- try as we may, we'll never possess that mindset -- it was good to remember why filmgoing in groups has its own very special pleasure.

Better be getting some about 6 1/2 hours, day 2 of the 2015 TCM Classic Film Festival will begin. For an idea of the myriad of choices, visit

Our latest Lombard LiveJournal header is an odd bird -- Paramount p1202-630A. The gown Carole's wearing is rather unusual, too.
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