Wednesday, May 5, 2010

My Man Godfrey

Today I happened to catch the 1936 movie My Man Godfrey on my local TV station. It was a colorized version, and that was initially why I watched it, mesmerized by a silver-blue dress that Cornelia was wearing while she was threatening the butler. But I soon became engrossed by the plot itself and went googling the movie to try to learn about the beginning plot that I had missed.

The movie is a screwball comedy, and Godfrey's romance with the ditzy socialite Irene had overtones of Jeeves & Wooster, or any other romance crossing class lines. At first I was a little upset to learn that Godfrey was not in fact a real working class guy, and had a secret history as a well-to-do man, but then the movie made up for it. Perhaps because this movie came out during the depression era, Godfrey learned a valuable lesson. He had been so upset about a broken romance that he gave his money away and was about to commit suicide in the East River, but instead he came across the bums who lived in the city dump. He realized how insignificant his problems were compared to these fellows who were fighting to survive, and he found camaraderie living with them.

Irene's family, the Bullocks, believe Godfrey is a bum or "forgotten man", and they hire him to be their butler. Irene is in love with Godfrey, but he refuses her because it's inappropriate (and his heart had been broken previously). He is proud now to be earning an honest living as a butler, and he doesn't forget his old homeless friends either. On his off days from work he goes to help his friends and set up a nightclub at which they can work and find shelter. He also helps the Bullock family out of a financial crisis. It's so good to see a positive message out of such a film, that would otherwise be escapist comedy. This must be why it was selected for preservation by the National Film Registry.

Godfrey also tells Irene that he had been doing good things because he wanted her to be proud of him. And of course in the end Irene finally wins over Godfrey. On the way to the happy ending, we also enjoy the antics of Irene's devilish sister Cornelia, their silly mother Angelica, Angelica's "protégé" Carlo, and the exasperated father.

It's a very entertaining classic, and it's available to download at the Internet Archive.

No comments: