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My Man Godfrey (1936)

Reviewed on 2011 September 5

An old screwball classic, back when absurd didn’t mean grating and shrill, about a scavenger hunt that changes a whole family.

It’s the Depression and there are many homeless “forgotten men” in New York, but you’d never know it if you spent an evening with the Bullock clan. During a scavenger hunt at one of their crazy parties, ditzy daughter Irene (Carole Lombard) brings home one of the items on her list — a forgotten man. It would be easy to dismiss the tribe as callous for this, but the Bullocks aren’t that bad, just Faulkner-crazy. Irene wants to make a project of Godfrey (William Powell), her newest treasure, pleading with her parents to hire him as a butler.

The indulgent mother, Angelica (Alice Brady), is too busy being charming and mixing cocktails and fussing over her own protege to object, but Godfrey wins over patriarch Alexander (Eugene Pallette) and manages to stay out of the crossfire between Irene and her bratty, sneaky sister, Cornelia (Gail Patrick). The family is soon so collectively smitten with him that they forget to ask: where did their forgotten man come from?

See, I think Hollywood should be doing more (new) stuff like this, instead of Final Destination installment XXIVZVVZVXX or remaking Straw Dogs, which was kind of a frustrating movie to begin with (but that’s another issue entirely). The “pixie remover” bit is classic, and so is Mischa Auer’s portrayal of Carlo, the mooch Angelica takes under her wing. If you like vintage movies, this is for you. If you just want to see a glimpse of New York that is no more, this is for you. If you just had a rough day and want to snicker at people more touched in the head than you, this is for you.

Four chocolate morsels. They don’t make ’em like this any more, probably because they’ve no clue how.


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