Review: My Man Godfrey
According to the system used on the Decent Films website, here are my ratings for this movie.
Entertainment value: **** (out of four)
Moral/spiritual value: +1
Overall rating: A
Starring William Powell, Carole Lombard.
My Man Godfrey is about a rather unusual butler who works for a more-than-rather unusual family. When the movie begins, with Godfrey (the butler in question) is living in a dump. Two young women jump out of a car. The first one, Cornelia Bullock, runs up to him and asks him if he’s a “forgotten man”, and offers to pay him five dollars if he’ll come to the hotel with her, since she needs a forgotten man in order to win a scavenger hunt. Unsurprisingly, he nearly pushes her in the ash heap. The second one speaks to him with considerably more politeness and nearly bursts herself with laughing at the thought that Godfrey has nearly done what she has always wanted to do – push Cornelia in an ash heap. He is impressed enough with her that he offers to accompany her to the scavenger hunt, so they can ‘beat Cornelia’. This young lady is known as Irene Bullock.
The rest of the movie is indescribable. Irene wins the scavenger hunt, and in a fit of gratitude engages Godfrey as their new butler, in replacement of the one that left that morning. He appears, his whiskers shaven, leaving only a pert moustache. The maid greets him as the butler, and he wonders how she knew he was the butler. “Oh, butlers come and go, day and night,” she tells him. “Keep your bags near the front door so you don’t forget them when you leave.”
Most (but not all) of the humor in this screwball comedy comes from the inconceivable insanity exhibited by the Bullock family. It consists of Mr. Bullock (relatively sane), Mrs. Bullock (exceedingly thick-headed), Cornelia Bullock (the definition of the word “shrew”), Irene Bullock (bears resemblance to her mother’s stupidity, but is nuttier than a fruitcake), and Carlo (Mrs. Bullock’s protégée, who apparently lives with them and eats continuously, including when he’s practicing his music).
Irene, of course, falls in love with Godfrey and throughout the movie, in order to catch his attention after he has informed her that her antics will get him fired, she moons around the house striking bizarre poses, saying dramatic phrases meaningless to everyone but Godfrey, and refusing to eat. Cornelia snips at her and threatens to tell their father that she’s in love with the butler, their mother is amusingly ignorant of everything, Mr. Bullock behaves with irritated sanity, and Carlo continues to eat.
The movie is lightly plotted; what plot there is mostly involves Godfrey not being who he seems to be. As far as the appropriateness goes, it was rated G on TCM and made in 1936; there’s a very mildly awkward moment when lovestruck Irene goes into Godfrey’s room and he rapidly shoos her out. Of course it’s up to you, but my nine-year-old sister enjoyed it. I doubt most kids younger than that would find it interesting. It’s easily one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen; not quite It Happened One Night but I enjoyed it more than Bringing Up Baby (which I never enjoyed quite as much as I thought I would, funny though it is). If you have Netflix streaming, it’s on there; go watch it sometime. If you don’t have Netflix, watch it anyways.