My Man Godfrey
Another black and white film? C’MON! There are so many great films from today.
Words that flashed through my mind as I sat there plotting creative ways to kill the class instructor with a butter knife and a shoe, but let’s save that for another talk show and move on.
The opening scene immediately got my attention: it was a dreary city dump. And while this film came from the same era as the two before it, I noticed that when the leading man spoke, he was completely captivating: no affected speech and no overacting for the sake of indication; just simple reaction to the other actors. I’d never heard of Powell before (and we later learned that he never really took off as a leading man), but he was amazing in this role.
After we see the men living at the dump, we see a limousine pull up and two couples of rich people approach the men. They apparently were on a scavenger hunt, and their task at hand was to find a “forgotten man” and return with him to the hotel where the scavenger hunt is headquartered. The script handled this very offensive situation with grace and wit, and Powell’s character had quite a few zingers for the snobby and clueless socialites. I was homeless for two-and-a-half years before getting accepted to Tech, so I did my share of living in my car, in a crack house and on sofas with my two cats. I know what it’s like to be judged for your unfortunate situation, and I watched some of my so-called friends drop like flies once my social status also dropped.
The first time we see Carole Lombard is when she and her sister are fighting over Powell, but Lombard eventually wins him over when she takes herself out of the hunt. Her rambling and dizzy-headedness was portrayed to perfection, and she was immediately likable. Powell agrees to go with Lombard to the hotel, and as he’s being shown off on the table, he lobs a few more zingers to the rich and clueless snobs. It’s then that Lombard invites him to become their new butler the next morning. That’s when the real comedy ensues, as pretty much the entire family is bat-shit crazy, and Lombard herself doesn’t remember hiring him. Of course, later in the movie, we find out Powell’s character really isn’t a street bum, but a Harvard-educated philanthropist who fell on temporary hard times.
I had one major problem with this movie, and that was with the script. The very day Powell’s character starts working as a butler, he’s given many tasks to do, and he does them without question, as if he’d been a butler his entire life. We don’t hear if he worked previously as a butler, so how exactly, did he come by the information of social etiquette? In one scene, Lombard follows him into his butler quarters, and he says directly to her, “The family is not to be in here.” Who told him the family was bound by propriety to not socialise with the hired help or be seen in their private quarters?
Why does Powell not show any confusion about how to behave around the family? It seems logical to conclude that if he had never been a butler before, then he would at least show a level of being uncomfortable at certain times, and yet, in every single instance, Powell is cool as a cucumber; he doesn’t drop drinks, he doesn’t scorch pants, he doesn’t screw up at all. Nor do we ever see him actually beginning to fall in love with Lombard, and yet, we’re supposed to believe that he eventually leaves their employ because she got to him. Nope. Not even in an oxygen-deprived atmosphere would I begin to make that leap. Why the director did not have Powell portray that emotional sky dive is beyond me.
Other than that, I had no problem with this delightful movie. Probably wouldn’t watch it again, but it was a nice film.
We then watched a short episode of The Three Stooges (whose information I was unable to locate in the imdb), and finally, the famous Vitameatavegimin episode of I Love Lucy. I laughed until I gave myself an asthma attack, which in my world, means two lungs up!