“The jokes come fast and hard…”
As a general rule, the older a movie is the less of a chance there is of me liking it. I know that this makes me “ignorant” and “sheltered” and “a hack who shouldn’t be reviewing movies in the first place. Seriously man, how can you say you like movies if you wan’t even give old ones a shot? You’re a disgrace”, but it’s just a fact. Unfortunately sometimes I am subjected to movies made before the 80’s, and usually they are terrible; or at least terribly boring. Luckily My Man Godfrey was an exception to this rule.
My Man Godfrey is a film from 1936 wherein a homeless gentleman is recruited as a butler for a wealthy New York family. Though it is a comedy at heart, there are some politically charged messages throughout which I found to be interesting if a little on-the nose.
My Man Godfrey as a comedy exists as a kind of parabolic arc. The beginning of the film is not funny in the slightest. The first interaction between Godfrey (William Powell) and the two Bullock sisters, Irene and Cornelia (played by Carole Lombard and Gail Patrick respectively), is just really sad. We see the skewed view of the world held by socialites at the time, as well as their complete disregard or human life and lack of empathy.
Luckily as the film goes on the parabola begins to climb, and My Man Godfrey get’s pretty funny. It starts slow, getting you acclimated to the gross exaggeration of these characters and scenarios, until it crescendos beautifully during a scene that takes place in the parlour. At this point you’re already used to how these characters behave, but then the film turns it up to eleven and really gets weird. This is a shock to both us as the audience and Godfrey himself.
During this portion of the film My Man Godfrey is so tightly written I was honestly surprised. The jokes come fast and hard, and every single character is so unique but also connected by this overarching commentary of the ruling class. There is no pause for laughter, the jokes come at breakneck speed and leave you doubled over for minutes at a time.
Unfortunately this attribute is fleeting as My Man Godfrey begins to drag its feet after this point. It seemingly doesn’t know when to end, or how to end. The episodic plot featuring the antics of the Bullock family and Godfrey’s reactions proved to be comedy gold but not much in the way of storytelling. The film then ends with a weird forced marriage and a bunch of contrived knots that attempt to tie up the loose-ends presented throughout the film. It was kind of lazy if I’m being honest.
Overall My Man Godfrey wasn’t a terrible movie for the 30’s, but it did have some issues. Luckily the middle of the film is so strong that it excuses most problems I had with it.
I give My Man Godfrey a B