my-man-godfrey-dec-15th“One of the treasures of 1930s screwball comedy” (Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times) in which Carole Lombard, taking part in a ‘scavenger hunt’ comes upon William Powell at the city dump. He’s down on his luck, she’s rich and wins the competition when she produces him at a society ball. She appoints him her butler and the relationship begins to develop. With much clinical dissection of 1930s Depression America. (Cert U)
Dir: Gregory La Cava 90 mins USA 1936
This screening will start at 7.30 p.m.

Programme Notes

My Man Godfrey
USA 1936 90 minutes Cert. U

It is the season to watch light-hearted films! So to coincide with such a cinematic occasion, the society presents this screwball comedy, which, in the words of Graham Greene – the author (and film critic) – “for three-quarters of its way, is acutely funny.” (The Spectator, 2nd October 1936). High praise indeed!

My Man Godfrey has a simple premise. Take one tramp, played by William Powell (The Thin Man, Life with Father); give that character a purpose, through being discovered by a socialite for a party game and then employed as the new butler to her household of upper-class twits; then watch as that tramp appears to be the only sane person, amongst all the posh family tomfoolery.

In a film history context, this became the first film to be nominated for all the ‘new’ acting categories at the 1937 Academy Awards. The film also received nods for Best Director and Best Screenplay. It failed to pick up a single gong at that ceremony, losing out to The Story of Louis Pasteur, The Great Ziegfeld (but not for Powell’s role in that film), Come and Get It, Anthony Adverse, and Frank Capra’s Mr. Deeds Goes to Town. It did achieve a place in the US National Film Registry in 1999, along with such films as Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing (1989), Chuck Jones’ Duck Amuck (1953), Spielberg’s Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), and George A Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968), inducted in the same year.
Godfrey – William Powell
Irene Bullock – Carole Lombard
Angelica Bullock – Alice Brady
Cornelia Bullock – Gail Patrick
Alexander Bullock – Eugene Pallette
Molly – Jean Dixon
Carlo – Mischa Auer
Mike Flaherty – Pat Flaherty
Faithful George – Robert Light

Director – Gregory La Cava
Screenplay – Morrie Ryskind, Eric Hatch, and Gregory La Cava (uncredited). Based on short story by Eric Hatch.
Cinematography – Ted Tetzlaff
Original Music – Charles Previn (uncredited), Rudy Schrager (uncredited)
Producer – Gregory La Cava

“[Carole] Lombard creates a ditz so rare, a creature so otherworldly in her oblivion to what others call reality, that she comes off less as a thing of flesh and blood than as a shimmering cloud of butterflies flying in perfect, girl-shaped formation.” Hazel-Dawn Dumpert, The Village Voice

“Director Gregory La Cava was a master of the sustained comedy… he took good material, and competently and efficiently fleshed it out.” Jeffrey M. Anderson, Combustible Celluloid

“As I see it, this screwball comedy asks, ‘What is a man?’ And by its occasionally surreal style, it also asks, ‘What is real?’ The answer is: what you don’t throw away; what you value. This is a film about valuing.” Norman Holland, A Sharper Focus (

“So long as we live in a world of vulgar inequalities, Godfrey will have relevance. The story of a mysterious butler who carbonates a household of madcap swells is ageless…” Matthew Kennedy, Bright Lights Film Journal


“This was a fantastic Christmas extravaganza. I was a bit scathing when I saw the programme but three cheers for the Selection Committee. Thank you !!”

“A most enjoyable romp”

“Great fun!”

“Brilliant escapism”

“Lovely old rot – a treat!”

“Corny but delightful”

“A wonderful end to a dull season!”

“Hooray! At last some real entertainment.”

“Excellent. Christmas comes but once a year but when it does, it brings a film without peer!”

“What a tonic!”

“A tonic – wit, charm, humour and ethical financiers.”

“Good pre-Christmas tonic!”

“Very amusing – a great change from the gloom of recent weeks.”

“A delight all through – but they might have given William Powell a whistling coach!”

“Good, for what it was – fun, with a bit of social stuff.”

“A very entertaining film – we could do with a few more like that.”

“Some weak bits but delightful overall”

“Surprisingly relevant in these straitened times. I suggest an additional screening in a village hall near Witney!”

“I’m torn !! I didn’t like its attempt at lightness or its (kind of) comedy but I recognised its serious message about austerity, applicable to the present time. Perhaps the real film about 1930s America would be The Grapes of Wrath or Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck adaptations.”

“Gave me hope to see a middle-aged man with a big conk [sic] [being] treated like the bee’s bollocks by a 19 year old sex siren! Great flick.”

“Great décor and a suave performance from William Powell but not as witty as it promised. Too much shrieking and rushing about.”

“With everyone wanting to re-visit films like this, expect to be disappointed by such a dated class comedy – although it did have its heart in the right place. Good thing that it was such a short film, otherwise those two-dimensional characters would have gotten on your nerves!”


A:16, B:18, C:7, D:1, E:0 to give 79%