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carole lombard 06

National Classic Movie Day: Going ga-ga for 'Godfrey'

Posted by vp19 on 2015.05.16 at 15:51
Current mood: pleasedpleased

Today is the inaugural National Classic Movie Day, and since it was a given that my selection for a blogathon on this topic would be a Carole Lombard feature, here's my selection for the Classic Film and TV Cafe (http://www.classicfilmtvcafe.com/2015/03/a-blogathon-in-celebration-of-inaugural.html) -- none other than "My Man Godfrey," the 1936 classic directed by Gregory La Cava.

Several Lombard films battled for the honor in my mind -- not just the other three members of her so-called "big four" ("Twentieth Century," "Nothing Sacred" and "To Be Or Not To Be"), but the somewhat unheralded "Hands Across the Table" and "Mr. & Mrs. Smith." In the end, however, the choice was "Godfrey." Here are my reasons:

* It defines the genre. "Godfrey" invariably ranks among the very best screwball comedies ever made, with only a few rivals to the crown. And unlike one of its prime competitors, Howard Hawks' 1938 "Bringing Up Baby"...

* It has a heart and soul to its humor. To be fair, such isn't the intent of "Bringing Up Baby," but "Godfrey's" contrasting of the silly rich with the luckless poor -- summed up by the title character, who's been in both places and frankly feels more at home with the downtrodden -- gives it more appeal to modern audiences. I've often quipped that "Godfrey," with its skewering of the 1 percent, would make it a great film for fans of the Occupy movement.

* A superlative cast, an unheralded director. From left, Alice Brady, Lombard, Mischa Auer and William Powell all were nominated for acting awards for "Godfrey"; none of them won, but all were deserving of nominations. (So, for that matter, were Gail Patrick and Eugene Pallette.) At right is director Gregory La Cava, also nominated but a non-winner -- he directed many fine movies over the years, including "Gabriel Over the White House" and "Stage Door," but this is his best-known achievement.

* Memorable scenes. From Godfrey pushing the snooty Cornelia into a pile of ashes (much to the glee of younger sister Irene) to Godfrey putting Irene in the shower (and her delirious reaction to it) to her marriage to Godfrey at the city dump turned nightclub site ("It'll be all over in a minute!"), "My Man Godfrey" has scenes that resonate with classic movie fans. And we haven't even touched on the scatterbrained Mrs. Bullock, her "protege" Carlo and the exasperated Mr. Bullock. It's out-and-out comic brilliance.

If you know someone who's not familiar with screwball comedy in general or Lombard in particular, this is a splendid introduction to the genre and to her. Their attention should be grabbed even before the movie begins, thanks to one of the most imaginative opening sequences in history:

"Godfrey" is in the public domain and relatively easy to find. If you can, however, get the Criterion Collection version, released in 2001. It has a first-rate print and all sorts of extras, including the 1938 "Lux Radio Theater" adaptation where Lombard, Powell and Patrick reprise their movie roles.

Otto Dyar took our latest Lombard LiveJournal header, Paramount p1202-654.


(Anonymous) at 2015-05-18 00:08 (UTC) (Link)

My Man Godfrey

MY MAN GODFREY is my favorite Carole Lombard movie for all the reasons you stated (though TO BE OR NOT TO BE is a close second). It was the first of Carole's movies that I saw and possibly the first movie I saw on a VCR (one of those HUGE VCRS with one-inch cassettes). It's a great story, but as the David Niven-June Allyson remake proved, the cast is what it makes it work. Thanks for participating in this blogathon and for promoting National Classic Movie Day!
R.A. Kerr at 2015-05-18 17:31 (UTC) (Link)
I recently ordered this DVD from amazon for my parents – I insisted they have a copy!

Yes, it's one of the best examples of screwball comedy, and your post is a lovely tribute to it.

P.S. Here's to William Powell in a beard!
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