All the elements that make 1930's screwball comedy enjoyable and endearing can be found in Gregory La Cava's My Man Godfrey. The juxtaposition of the rich to the poor, zany irrationality to logic along with a constant battle between dithering woman and confused men, rapid fire dialogue and a dash of haute monde slapstick comedy.
Screwball comedies rose out of the Depression in the 1930's as a way of depicting the idle rich through wacky tales in which they must learn to readjust their morals. It may have struck a cord with 1930's audiences because it let them see the rich in an incompetent light. And even though the comedies didn't help people directly during tough times they did provide then with a good number of laughs.
William Powell is Godfrey Parke a forgotten man who lives in a trash dump on the East River in New York. He is picked up by a slightly batty rich woman named Irene (Carol Lombard) who needs a 'forgotten man' for a game called a scavenger hunt in which the rich bring discarded items to a party. She wins the competition but out of guilt, pity and a little admiration for this interesting man she invites Godfrey to be her family's butler.
Godfrey accepts the position and thus enters into the wealthy oddball lives of the Bullock family – non of which, by the way, look anything alike. Godfrey not only serves them but must deal with their maddening eccentricities and schemes to make him leave: Notably Irene's sister Cornelias (Gail Patrick) who is determined to bring Godfrey down from his seemingly self righteous position. He too must continually deflect the passes that Irene makes at him so that he can keep his butler etiquette professional. In time the family finds out that Godfrey's enigmatic past has a similarity to theirs
Ostensibly, My Man Godfrey is about the obligations and responsibilities that people have toward one another but -- like so many screwball comedies -- it is lacquered with an off kilter love story and a sense of the absurd.
The radio show is The complete 1938 broadcast of the Lux Radio Theater adaptation of My Man Godfrey. This radio play stars Powell and Lombard and is a shortened version of the movie. Each chapter has a different still from the radio show's recording session, but it too can be heard without looking at the screen.
The Production Still Archive has 34 photographs, and there is a vintage trailer that lasts a minute and about five minutes of Archive News Footage that features a day in the life of a hobo in a Hooverville and a comparison between the rich and the poor in 1930's America. There is also a teaser of Rare Outtakes that looked like they had been pulled from a nitrate dust vault - which they probably were. I say a teaser because it is only about a minute long but has some great outtakes, which mainly consist of Powell and Lombard totally screwing up their lines and then throwing out expletives left and right. There are white subtitles for the hearing impaired and the film is 93 minutes with 21 chapters.