Film / My Man Godfrey

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The rich girl Irene with her protege...er, butler

All you need to start an asylum is an empty room and the right kind of people.
— Alexander Bullock

My Man Godfrey is a classic 1936 Screwball Comedy directed by Gregory LaCava, starring William Powell and Carole Lombard. Later remade in 1957 starring David Niven and June Allyson.

The time is The Great Depression, and a number of men down on their luck are living in the city dump. By chance, a party of rich people, including Irene Bullock (Lombard), show up to claim one of the "forgotten men" to win a scavenger hunt. She chooses Godfrey (Powell) and wins the hunt, and afterward offers him a job as the family butler.

Hilarity Ensues as he is confronted with a mad household of spoiled brats and Cloud Cuckoolanders. While Irene falls madly in love with Godfrey, the feeling is not mutual (at first). However, Godfrey is keeping a secret from everyone and Irene's sister Cornelia is determined to find out what it is.

This film provides examples of:

  • An Aesop: Don't judge a book by its cover.
  • Brutal Honesty: Godfrey to the Rich People at the Scavenger Hunt.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: Irene and Mrs. Bullock.
    Irene Bullock: (looks out the window of Godfrey's club) Oh, it's a lovely view ... the view of the bridge. Is it always there? note 
  • Clueless Chick Magnet: Without really trying or having much awareness of it, adorkable Godfrey gets both Bullock daughters and the maid to fall in love with him.
  • Credits-Brand Products: The opening credits are on neon signs.
  • Cut Lex Luthor a Check: At the end of the film, Godfrey tells a humbled Cornelia that she ought to put her high spirits to better use.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Mr. Bullock. For Molly and Godfrey see Servile Snarker.
  • Did You Get a New Haircut?: When Godfrey arrives for his first day as the Bullock butler, Irene doesn't recognise him clean-shaven and in a suit. She doesn't know what it is at first, and then realises that she met him with shabby clothes and stubble. She sleepily mumbles that she misses his stubble.
  • The Ditz: Mrs. Bullock is so dizzy she is unable to correctly recall the man her daughter announced her engagement too mere moments earlier. Irene herself is also a bit empty headed, though she has a much more forceful personality than her vague mother.
  • Dysfunctional Family: The Bullocks. Man of the house Alexander dreads dealing with his wife and daughters. He apologizes profusely to the police after they fail to arrest anyone for stealing daughter Cornelia's necklace (which sounds more like he's begging them to arrest him to get out away from his family), and this exchange happens between him and Blake:
    Blake: Take a look at the dizzy old gal with the goat.
    Alexander Bullock: I've had to look at her for 20 years — that's Mrs Bullock!
    Blake: "I'm terribly sorry!
    Alexander Bullock: How do you think I feel?
  • Fainting: Irene pretends to faint in Godfrey's arms after he announces that he's leaving in order to make him stay longer. It works instantly as he desperately tries to wake her before anyone notices.
  • The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry: Irene vs Cornelia.
    • Irene is blonde and Cornelia is brunette. There isn't really a smart/pretty dichotomy but Cornelia is quieter than the energetic Irene.
    • When Godfrey rejects Cornelia's offer to be her entry in the scavenger hunt by making her fall into a pile of dirt, Irene takes him instead (mostly because she was much more polite). Even Godfrey is amazed when he discovers that the two of them are related.
    • Cornelia is arguably a bit more classist than Irene. When playing the scavenger hunt, she gleefully rushes to a homeless Godfrey and is disgusted when she finds out he's going to be the family butler, attempting to have him fired by accusing him of stealing. Irene felt sorry for him and immediately asks him to be the family butler because she didn't want to look like she was just dehumanising him for a point-and-laugh game in front of rich people.
      • This is why Cornelia spends the movie trying to find out Godfrey's history whilst Irene attempts to make him declare his love for her. Cornelia has feelings for him too, which adds to her and her sister's bickering.
  • Hangover Sensitivity: Mrs. Bullock usually has one in the morning. She sees "pixies".
  • Happy Dance: "Mr. Godfrey loves me! He put me in the shower!" Cue Irene jumping up onto a nearby divan, flinging her skirts, and doing a merry stomp.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: Mrs. Bullock notes that Cornelia shattered a bunch of windows downtown because she was "very gay" last night.
    • Mr. Bullock asks Godfrey if he's noticed anything "queer" about him lately.
  • Heartbroken Badass: Godfrey. It's how Cornelia found him at the dump.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Cornelia at the end of the film.
  • Hideous Hangover Cure: "Pixie Remover," namely tomato juice and Worcestershire sauce.
  • Hidden Depths: Godfrey, who is more business savvy than he appears.
  • Idle Rich: All of the Bullocks except Mr. Bullock. The satirical bite of these Idle Rich going to a dump to find the "forgotten man" was strong in the Great Depression, when there were a lot of forgotten men.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: During a typical evening at home, Mr. Bullock takes a whole tray of martinis and then asks Godfrey to repeat the order in 30 minutes.
  • The Jeeves: Godfrey, except for the pardonable sin of being American.
  • Last Minute Hookup: In fact, last minute marriage.
  • Looped Lyrics: Carlo singing "Ochi Tchorniye," but none of the other lyrics, so it's close to a Single Stanza Song. Bonus points to Mrs. Bullock for not knowing the name of the song.
  • Love Makes You Dumb: Irene exercises this trope, especially with the rather silly engagement ploy.
  • Mad Love: This sums up Irene's relationship to Godfrey.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Irene is one of the first in film history, possibly the Trope Maker.
  • Modeling Poses: Irene's attempt to snare Godfrey's attention, called out by Cordelia.
  • Not So Different: As much as the Bullock sisters contrast, they both have crushes on Godfrey. Cornelia would probably be the last to admit it, though.
  • Only Sane Man: Mr. Bullock and Godfrey.
  • Operation: Jealousy: Irene attempts to make Godfrey jealous by announcing that she is engaged to a party guest. Even said party guest is confused as he's congratulated by several male friends.
  • Over-the-Shoulder Carry: The way Godfrey carries fainted Irene up the stairs.
  • Protagonist Title
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Godfrey mercilessly dissects Cornelia's character, telling her she is an overindulged Park Avenue brat. She is furious but also ashamed.
  • Rejection Affection: Irene can't stop hitting on Godfrey while he is constantly rejecting her advances.
  • Rich Bitch: Cornelia. She, like everybody else in the household, is improved by Godfrey.
  • Riches to Rags: Bullock goes broke, due to a combination of bad investments and his family's spending ways. It's averted thanks to Godfrey.
  • Scavenger Hunt: This is how the Bullocks first meet Godfrey. (Scavenger hunts first became popular in the 1930s).
  • Secretly Wealthy: Godfrey Smith (aka Godfrey Park of the Boston Parks).
  • Servile Snarker: The maid Molly is very deadpan, especially to the cops. Godfrey is sharper-tongued, but blunted by the adoring straight woman that is Irene.
  • Sexy Soaked Shirt: Godfrey figures out that Irene is faking a fainting spell, so he puts her in a shower and turns the water on. The results are pretty fanservice-y. This also causes Irene to realize that Godfrey cared enough to help her when she "fainted".
  • Shipper on Deck: Godfrey's friend Tommy, as well as the whole Bullock family for him and Irene.
  • Spoiled Sweet: Irene. While ditzy, she still is kind to Godfrey, which is why he agrees to go with her for the scavenger hunt, as opposed to her older Rich Bitch sister.
  • The Tramp: Godfrey. He started out rich, goes on to be a tramp, makes the money back and uses it to help the other tramps.
  • Tsundere: Cornelia, towards Godfrey. After falling in dirt, Cornelia is disgusted when her sister hires Godfrey as the family butler. She attempts to work out whether he's as innocent as the homelessness led him to be and even tries to accuse him of stealing from her. When he decides to leave, she is devastated and apologizes in tears, but Godfrey reassures her that his choice had nothing to do with her. Looks like she had a crush on him too, like her sister.
  • Turn the Other Cheek: Mr. Bullock until he finds out he is broke, and throws Carlo out the window, something that Godfrey praises him for.
  • Water Wake-up: Irene gets this treatment by Godfrey.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Film/MyManGodfrey