Film / My Man Godfrey
The rich girl Irene with her, 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.

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). Additionally, Godfrey is keeping a secret from Irene.

Remade in 1957 with David Niven and June Allyson.

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: (looks out the window of Godfrey's club) Oh, it's a lovely view - the view of the bridge. Is it always there?
  • 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.
  • 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: Where to begin?
    "Take a look at the dizzy old gal with the goat."
    "I've had to look at her for 20 years - that's MRS. Bullock!"
    "I'm terribly sorry!"
    "How do you think I feel?"
  • Fainting: Invoked by Irene to make Godfrey stay.
  • 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. Whee!
  • 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 & 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.
  • Only Sane Man: Mr. Bullock and Godfrey.
  • 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 loves her.
  • Shipper on Deck: Tommy, Godfrey's friend, 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.
  • 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.