Tuesday, May 19, 2009

5/16: "My Man Godfrey" (3/5)

Saturday night I watched Frank Capra's "My Man Godfrey", and 1936 Universal picture.

From IMDB:
In the depths of the Depression, a party game brings dizzy socialite Irene Bullock to the city dump where she meets Godfrey, a derelict, and ends by hiring him as family butler. He finds the Bullocks to be the epitome of idle rich, and nutty as the proverbial fruitcake. Soon, the dramatizing Irene is in love with her 'protege'...who feels strongly that a romance between servant and employer is out of place, regardless of that servant's mysterious past.
For some reason, I thought that this picture was made later in the thirties (I had my heart set on 1939), so I was left a little disappointed in the quality of humor and direction. Of course, when I noticed that it was in fact made in '36, I cut it a little more slack. I found the direction of "Godfrey" a little sparse and tableau-esque (ie not enough close-ups). In fact, I don't think I could identify a picture of Carole Lombarde in a lineup, because there were little to no close-ups of her, and those weird side curls were always covering her eyes (this is my first Lombard picture).
I did really enjoy Irene's morose retorts after Godfrey turns her down. Everything in her life is meaningless. My favorite things about these scenes are the way she enters the room. She looks at the ceiling, her eyes glazed, and her feet barely lifting off the ground. Perhaps a little more intense direction would have made this even more hilarious.

My favorite part was the fantastic supporting cast. Alice Brady reprises her role as a ditzy, borderline mentally retarded mother who cares more about her the feelings of her piano protege (who only plays one song) than her emotionally unstable daughters. Gail Patrick also shines in this film as the devious and cold-hearted sister Cornelia (a role she would often take, especially in two of my favorites "Stage Door" and "My Favorite Wife"). She did a fantastic job in this picture, but surprisingly never scored larger roles.
Interestingly, this picture featured a few people who had worked or later worked for RKO (I just took a class about RKO so I'm enthralled by them at the moment). Greg LaCava went next to RKO to direct my favorite movie Stage Door, which featured Gail Patrick as Adolph Menjou's lady friend Linda, (one of the) arch-nemises of Ginger Roger's Jean. Franklin Pangborn, a great character actor played Harcourt in Stage Door, and is uncredited as the judge of the scavenger hunt. Alice Brady was also featured in a couple of RKO pictures in the early '30s, inluding the Gay Divorcee.
I liked this film, but found it seriously lacking some type of intangible charisma. It was not as good artistically as its screwball predecessor It Happened One Night, nor as funny as the Irene Dunne/Cary Grant screwballs of the later 30s.

Favorite Quote: "Godfrey loves me! He put me in the shower!"

Here is the 8th part of the picture, including the clip above. It really gets good around the 5 minute mark.

*Little known fact* Carole Lombard was known for having a particularly filthy mouth. My film professor showed me this clip in one of my classes, saying "I think you guys may have a skewed view of the past, because the code kept everything that was really going on OUT of the movies". Here are some very rare bloopers from My Man Godfrey, including a Lombard cursing storm. (NSFW)

Love it!

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