Film Review of My Man Godfrey: Carole Lombard and William Powell in 1936 Romantic Comedy

by DerdriuMarriner

In "My Man Godfrey" a comedic romance starts with a dizzy socialite's lark of a scavenger hunt for a forgotten man, who turns out to be quite unforgettable.

Disappointments can be embittering or inspiring. They sometimes discourage sufferers from doing their best. But oftentimes they also encourage others to retrieve their self-esteem elsewhere. It perhaps is to be expected that romantic deceptions will be:
• Less easily dominated -- in the first case -- when they are compounded by financial reversals;
• More quickly overcome -- in the second instance -- when they are felt by socio-economic elites.

But movies such as “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town” and “My Man Godfrey” suggest that -- to paraphrase Berlin-born cultural historian Dr. George Lachmann Mosse (September 20, 1918 – January 22, 1999) -- rain falls on us all, but sometimes powerholders share their umbrellas with the powerless.

A graduate of New York's American Academy of Dramatic Arts with experience in vaudeville and on the Broadway stage, William Powell was well prepared to find fame and fortune as a major star at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios:

the suave actor's home in Beverly Hills, on linen textured postcard, ca. 1930-1945
The Tichnor Brothers Collection, Boston Public Library
The Tichnor Brothers Collection, Boston Public Library


A derelict becomes a socialite’s My Man Godfrey by writer Morrie Ryskind; and writer/producer/ director GregoryLaCava. Ted Tetzlaff; Ted J. Kent and Russell F. Schoengarth; and Charles Previn and Rudy Schrager handle cinematography, editing and music. Filming showcases California’s University City Studios.

The 94-minute screwball comedy/romance adapts Eric S. Hatch’s (1901-1973) novel 1101 Park Avenue. Its distributor was Universal Pictures. Its USA-release date was September 6, 1936. It won no Oscars at the 9th Academy Awards of March 4, 1937, despite Best Director, Leading/Supporting Actors, Leading/Supporting Actresses, and Screenplay nominations.


Scene from "My Man Godfrey" with William Powell, Carole Lombard, and Jean Dixon

Universal Pictures film screenshot
Universal Pictures film screenshot

My Man Godfrey: highlights


The movie begins with socialite Cornelia Bullock (Gail Patrick) offering East River’s Sutton Place City Dump #32-dwelling Godfrey Smith (William Powell) $5.00 as Waldorf-Ritz Hotel scavenger hunt’s “forgotten” man. Godfrey pushes Cornelia into ash piles. Boyfriend/broker’s son “Faithful” George (Robert Light) rescues Cornelia. The romantic duo resent Godfrey’s helping Cornelia’s sister Irene’s (Carole Lombard) getting:

  • 20 points for Godfrey’s judge-certified (Franklin Pangborn) homelessness, non-criminality, and unshavenness;
  • 50 points for homeless/jobless find #1;
  • Winner’s silver cup.

Godfrey calls participants “nitwits” for:

  • Scavenging undesirables;
  • Treasuring desirables.

Irene gives Godfrey money for clothes. She hires Godfrey to buttle. Godfrey is helpful in giving pixie-chasing, Worcestershire-sauced tomato juice to Irene’s hung-over mother Angelica (Alice Brady). He is unhelpful in long-time maid Molly’s (Jean Dixon) pondering the crossword for a three-letter bird with the middle letter “r” (ern, Haliaeetus albicilla). He is unwelcomed by Angelica's husband, Alexander (Eugene Pallette), after Irene kisses Godfrey in the butler's room off the kitchen.

Irene hosts a tea party. Guest Tommy Gray (Alan Mowbray) helps Harvard classmate Godfrey pose as valet husband of a native American and father of five children. Irene heartbrokenly receives millionaire Charlie Van Rumple’s (Grady Sutton) proposal.

Godfrey and Tommy lunch. Godfrey recalls love's heartbreaks. He regrets 10 Parke generations of Bostonian wealth. He wishes his family to continue thinking him a South America-based rubber businessman.

Cornelia blames Godfrey for misplaced pearls. Police find nothing under the mattress where Cornelia hides them. Alexander persuades police to drop investigations by writing a check to the pension fund.

Irene breaks her engagement. She and Cornelia go to Europe. Godfrey and Tommy ideate plans to employ derelicts.

Angelica’s, Carlo’s (Mischa Auer), Cornelia’s and Irene’s extravagances claim 50% of Alexander’s money. The IRS claims 60%. Alexander dreads impoverishment … until Godfrey confesses to collateralizing Cornelia’s pearls for stocks short-marketed in Alexander’s name. Godfrey gives Cornelia her pearls. Cornelia regrets misbehaving. Godfrey resigns as the only butler who leaves the silver intact.

The movie ends with:

  • “The Dump” being a nightclub to employ derelicts and entertain the wealthy;
  • "The Office” designating Godfrey’s personal/professional space;
  • Irene having Clarence (Arthur Singley) stock Godfrey’s headquarters and kitchen with firewood and a week’s groceries;
  • Irene planning to replace the bedroom’s “bilious” green wallpaper;
  • Tommy sending Mayor Courtney (Reginald Mason) to join Godfrey’s and Irene’s right hands in marriage.


My Man Godfrey - Trailer

Published on YouTube on July 20, 2012 by chefducinema ~ URL:



My special thanks for:

  • Fine images that are made available on the Internet by talented photographers/concerned organizations;
  • Superior on-campus and on-line resources through Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.


My Man Godfrey (1936) [Romance] [Comedy] ~ full length: 1:33:06

Published on YouTube on August 26, 2013 by Timeless Classic Movies (TCM) ~ URL:
the end which is also the beginning
the end which is also the beginning

My Man Godfrey, Carole Lombard, William Powell, 1936

Godfrey: "I may have missed you a little more than I did Cornelia." Irene: "I'm glad because if you missed Cornelia more, you probably missed me less." Godfrey: "That sounds very logical."
My Man Godfrey, Carole Lombard, William Powell, 1936

My Man Godfrey ~ Amazon Instant Video: Rent or Buy with 1-Click®

A landmark screwball comedy from Hollywood's golden age, My Man Godfrey follows the madcap antics of a ditzy debutante (Carole Lombard) who stumbles upon a "forgotten man" (William Powell) at the city dump.
My Man Godfrey

My Man Godfrey (Color/Black and White)

My Man Godfrey is one of the top Screwball Comedies of all time.
Carole Lombard films; William Powell films

My Man Godfrey, William Powell, Carole Lombard, 1936

Godfrey: "I can take care of myself." Irene: "You can't look me in the eye and say that. You love me, and you know it."
My Man Godfrey, William Powell, Carole Lombard, 1936

Me and my purrfectly purrfect Maine coon kittycat, Augusta "Gusty" Sunshine

Gusty and I thank you for reading this article and hope that our product selection interests you; Gusty Gus receives favorite treats from my commissions.
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
Updated: 11/22/2014, DerdriuMarriner
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