Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB.
USA, 1936. Universal Pictures. Screenplay by Morris Ryskind, Eric Hatch, based on the novel by Eric Hatch. Cinematography by Ted Tetzlaff. Produced by Charles R. Rogers. Music by Charles Previn, Rudy Schrager. Production Design by Charles D. Hall. Costume Design by Travis Banton. Film Editing by Ted J. Kent, Russell F. Schoengarth. Podcast: My Criterions. Academy Awards 1936.
Between this and The Awful Truth you can do no better for screwball comedy. During a rampantly wasteful ball in Depression-era New York City, a wealthy heiress (Carole Lombard) brings a “forgotten man” (i.e. tramp, played by William Powell) as part of a scavenger hunt. His witty manner inspires her to take him on as family butler, which he does, in the process turning the whole house upside down with his frank resourcefulness. Not that he is made very welcome; father Eugene Pallette is sick to death of his family’s ease with spending his money, mother Alice Brady is a feather-brain, and daughter Gail Patrick is an impossible snob. You’ll have such a marvelous time watching as Lombard, giving her signature performance, forces them all to accept Godfrey as she gradually realizes she’s in love with him. Top marks for writing, direction and especially sparkling performances, this is one of the milestone classics of its era and the perfect comedy.