Theodor Adorno may have denied poetry after Auschwitz, but I aver screwball comedy after Shoah. Almost anything would seem frivolous after Lanzmann’s epic, and with that in mind I decided I may as well do it properly. This is another one of those classics I suppose I really should’ve seen a lot of years ago, indeed I’m sure the library’s got it on DVD, but I haven’t until now (copy downloaded from the Internet Archive)… At any rate, we’re dealing with high 30s Hollywood comedy here, starting from a marvellously tasteful premise… Godfrey is a “forgotten man”, one of the many victims of the Great Depression, and also a designated object in a “scavenger hunt” for the amusement of an assortment of upper-class twits. “Rescued” from the city dump, Godfrey becomes butler to a family of said twits, and it’ll take a fairly special butler to withstand them. As the film unfolds, we discover Godfrey is indeed no ordinary butler. I suppose this is a near perfect example of the sort of thing it is, a comedy built on the sort of premise that could perhaps only have worked in the 1930s and which could never possibly be taken as realistic, and populated by figures as absurd as the situation. And yet somehow there’s a charm to the film that perhaps is also only of its time, and the characters are humanised by the people playing them; there is no denying that the film’s cast is its chief strength, all of the main roles are well played (I particularly liked Mischa Auer’s “gorilla” turn), though obviously the top honours go to William Powell as Godfrey and Carole Lombard as Irene, who adopts him in the scavenger hunt as her “protegé”. A lot of fun.
My Man Godfrey (1936)