Home1-2526-5051-100101-50151-200201-250251-300
-
MY MAN GODFREY
1936 - Gregory La Cava
United States
64
Opening Shot

After a stylish title sequence (flashing neon lights over a waterfront) the image pans and eventually transforms into a harsh New York waterfront setting where we see a homeless man standing by a fire. The transition from the glamorous title cards into this grim world immediately sets in place the two contrasting worlds of the film.

The Film

The screwball comedy was not a rarity in Hollywood during the 1930s and 40s. Filmmakers like Howard Hawks, Preston Sturges, and Frank Capra were among the masters of it, but Gregory La Cava's 1936 film My Man Godfrey also belongs mention among the finest and most definitive screwball comedies ever made. La Cava's free-spirited filmmaking style perfectly blends with the tone of this film. While maintaining the many screwball conventions, My Man Godfrey (like the best of Hawks, Sturges, or Capra) reaches far beyond conventions of many other screwball comedies produced by Hollywood at the time. Through all the wackiness and fast-paced dialogue lies a socially conscious complexity that make it in the mode of the definitive screwball. From its opening moments the film establishes a contrast of two worlds- the glamorous world of the rich, and the harsh world of the American depression (a far more common world). The flashing lights over the waterfront in the opening title sequence becomes relevant in the end, as the two contrasting worlds converge. La Cava's direction really lets this film to be great. The camera does not cut very often, instead allowing the performances and the chemistry to develop and reach its magical heights. And what a wonderful ensemble cast to rely on, lead by William Powell as "the forgotten man" Godfrey, and Carole Lombard as the zany heiress who takes him in as the family butler. There are few Hollywood actresses I admire more then Lombard, an incomparable and genuine star, and this is one of her most memorable performances. My Man Godfrey is a joyous film that grabs you, takes you in, and never lets you go. In the end all you can do to appreciate its blend of conventional screwball comedy and socially conscious complexity is let out a giggle... "Stand still Godfrey, it will be over in a minute".

The Filmmaker

Pennsylvania born filmmaker Gregory La Cava began working as in animation. In 1915 he was hired to run an animation studio created by William Randolph Hearst, which was used to promote the comic strips printed in his newspapers. Financial issues forced Hearst to sell the the rights over to other studios and this prompted La Cava to move to Hollywood. He began making live-action short films by 1920. In 1926, La Cava directed W.C. Fields in the silent comedy So's Your Old Man. The two became close friends and it was perhaps here that La Cava developed his definitive improvisational filmmaking style. He continued working with Fields throughout his career including 1927's Running Wild as well as other films he assisted on but did not get credited for (he was often brought on to assist directors that had trouble working with Fields). As sound developed La Cava became known for his comedies of the 1930s. His first acclaim came in 1934's The Affairs of Cellini (a period comedy), which was nominated for four Academy Awards. La Cava's definitive comedies came in 1935's She Married Her Boss (starring Claudette Colbert) and then in 1936 with My Man Godfrey, which stands among the all-time greatest screwball comedies. The film was nominated for six Academy Awards including the first nominations for Gregory La Cava (Best Director) and Carole Lombard (Best Actress- her only nomination). My Man Godfrey also received nominations for Best Screenplay, Best Actor (William Powell), Best Supporting Actor (Mischa Auer), and Best Supporting Actress (Alice Brady). Unfortunately it did not win any Oscars, but it gave La Cava to expand his filmmaking beyond comedy. His next film was the drama Stage Door, which featured a star-powered cast and was nominated for four Academy Awards including Best Director for La Cava. Following 1937's Stage Door, La Cava did not work as steady in the 1940s. After 1942's Lady in a Jam, his next film Living in a Big Way (a musical comedy starring Gene Kelly) came in 1947. Though he worked uncredited afterwards it was his last film prior to his death in 1952.

Images
Zoom in
Zoom in
Zoom in
Zoom in
Zoom in
Resources
clip (youtube) profane angel (my website dedicated to Carole Lombard)
-