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Movie Review: My Man Godfrey
Never has the Great Depression been so funny. Set in 1936, My Man Godfrey contrasts the hard times most Americans were experiencing with the wealthy and privileged world of dingbat socialite Irene Bullock, played to perfection by Carol Lombard.
Irene happens upon Godfrey, played by William Powell, in the city dump, when she and her moneyed friends are in the midst of trying to find a forgotten man as one of the items in a scavenger hunt. Seeing that her rude and spiteful sister Cornelia, played by Gail Patrick, also wants to bring Godfrey back only makes Irene more determined to have him as her prize.
Once Irene spends a little time with Godfrey, she decides she'd like him to be her protégé. There's precedent for this, as her mother also has a protégé -- the useless and hilarious musician Carlo, played by Mischa Auer. (Auer's imitation of a gorilla alone is worth watching the movie for.) So she makes Godfrey the family's butler, because the last butler in a long line had just quit the day before. It seems no one wants to live with the crazy Bullock family.
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But Godfrey is unphased by the lunacy that surrounds him, even though Irene and Cornelia fight over him, the family matriarch sees pixies, the father is a gruff but ultimately reasonable man who often yells with a booming voice, and police officers have come to find out which one of the crazy family members stole a policeman's horse and rode it up the front steps of the Bullock mansion.
The more sturdy Godfrey behaves, the more the women fall in love with him. Not only is Irene smitten but the maid falls hard for him too. Hilarity ensues as they -- especially Irene -- fall all over themselves to be with him. Little do they know that Godfrey is hiding a secret, one that will change everything when revealed.
My Man Godfrey trivia
- William Powell and Carol Lombard had been married and divorced before this movie was shot. Powell, however, insisted that Lombard play the ditzy Irene, knowing she would be the best person for the part. He was right. I can't imagine anyone else playing that role but her.
- My Man Godfrey is the only film in Tinseltown to ever win Oscar nominations for directing, writing and all four acting awards without also being nominated for Best Picture. It's also the only film to get those six nominations and lose them all.
My Man Godfrey is available on DVD in the original black and white form, as well as in a computer colorized version. See the images to the top right of this page for some of the options available.
For additional facts about the movie, including cast bios, on-set goofs, trivia and behind-the-scenes information, visit the My Man Godfrey page on the Internet Movie Database.
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Please vote in the My Many Godfrey poll above and scroll down to see two videos from the Carole Lombard Archives: home movies with Carole Lombard and Clark Gable and early photos from Carole's life.