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This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

One Man's Trash is Another Man's Treasure

My Man Godfrey (1936) on IMDb
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Plot Overview

A New York cityscape emblazoned with movie credits narrows its field of focus to the city dump down by the East River. Dogs play off to the right while in the center stands a lone bum Godfrey “Smith” (William Powell) thinking about prosperity that's “just around the corner.” A motor­car pulls up disgorging a breathless three­some in evening attire. Cornelia Bullock (Gail Patrick) offers Godfrey easy money to accompany them to the Waldorf Ritz Hotel to be shown off as the “forgotten man” she needs for a scavenger hunt. He doesn't like her condescending manner and pushes her away.

Her younger sister Irene Bullock (Carole Lombard), used to playing second fiddle to Cornelia, persuades Godfrey to be her forgotten man so she can beat Cornelia. This suits Godfrey just fine, as does Irene's job offer as their family butler. He cleans up nicely. Irene makes him her protégé in imitation of her mother Angelica (Alice Brady) who supports the arts with a loser protégé Carlo (Mischa Auer.)

The man of the house Alexander (Eugene Palette) finds it puzzling that Godfrey a nobody is such a good worker. Cornelia is offended by Godfrey's frank remark calling her a “Park Avenue brat”—which she asked for—and plots to have him fired. Irene who finds him supremely attractive doesn't like being rebuffed so threatens to blind­side him later (“I'll do some­thing. You wait and see. You'll be sorry.”) A chance encounter with Harvard man Tommy Gray (Alan Mowbray) at a tea party lets slip that Godfrey's last name may be Park. The Misses Bullock returning from Europe on a cruise ship meet an old Bostonian family who know the Boston Parks whose ancestors came over on the Mayflower and are now very guarded about their reputation.


Angelica Bullock has it that, “My ancestors came over on the boat. Oh, not the Mayflower, but the boat after that.” That puts both the Bullocks and their butler descended from Pilgrim stock. And Irene Bullock is Godfrey's sponsor; he's her responsibility. It was pretty sad for a tough old Pilgrim to call it quits and seek to end it all in the river. That's how Godfrey ended up living there. And all over some Boston dame he was bitter about leaving him. A better option for a Pilgrim would be along the lines of what historian George F. Willison wrote:

The Pilgrims were … not monks or nuns in their intimate relations as their usually numerous families and more than occasional irregularities attest. Fond of the comforts of connubial bed and board, they married early and often and late, some­times within a few weeks of losing a mate. (7)

There is sort of an historical inevitability that Godfrey under the sponsor­ship of Irene will marry right quick. It's also consistent with how God works (Psalm 107:40-43):

He poureth contempt upon princes, and causeth them to wander in the wilderness, where there is no way. Yet setteth he the poor on high from affliction, and maketh him families like a flock. The righteous shall see it, and rejoice: and all iniquity shall stop her mouth. Whoso is wise, and will observe these things, even they shall under­stand the loving­kind­ness of the LORD.

Production Values

” (1936) was directed by Gregory La Cava. Its screen­play was written by Eric Hatch and Morrie Ryskind, based on a book by Hatch. It stars William Powell, Carole Lombard, and Alice Brady. The two leads had been married before in real life, but they'd parted amicably and here conducted them­selves like professionals. William Powell and Carole Lombard were superb. Gail Patrick gives a multi­faceted performance in a supporting part as a glamorous rich girl. Alice Brady and Eugene Palette are memorable as parents. Jean Dixon with her dry wit shines as the seen-it-all maid.

This 1936 film is not rated. The pacing moves it right along.

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

“My Man Godfrey” (1936) is a gem of light comedy being a precursor to the screw­ball comedy genre. It improves with multiple viewings. Your movie­going experience will suffer if you've never seen it.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Decent action scenes. Suitability for children: Not rated. Special effects: Average special effects. Video Occasion: Good Date Movie. Suspense: A few suspenseful moments. Overall movie rating: Five stars out of five.

Works Cited

Scripture taken from the King James Version. Pub. 1611, rev. 1769. Software.

Willison, George F. Saints and Strangers. New York: Reynal & Hitchcock, 1945. Print.