My Man Godfrey Film Details
Overview: The spoiled daughter of a rich American family hires as butler an Austrian vagrant she finds on a pier, without knowing that he illegally jumped ship.
Tagline: She wanted her breakfast in bed – but not alone.
Review: Of course, the original My Man Godfrey from 1936, starring William Powell and Carole Lombard, is an absolute masterpiece, and never should’ve been remade. But I do like June Allyson and David Niven, so I had to see this 1957 version. It completely lacks both the laugh-out-loud hilarity of the original, as well as the more serious social commentary resulting from being set during the Great Depression and dealing with “The Forgotten Man”. Godfrey’s backstory has been altered to one of hiding in fear of deportation, having arrived in America illegally, for rather contrived and convoluted reasons. I don’t really understand why someone of his wealth and position couldn’t just go through the proper channels. As far as I can tell, the character’s not making some sort of statement, there’s no real point to the story, and the whole thing seems devoid of drama. What’s left, but to focus on the love story here, although that doesn’t necessarily make it more convincing than the Powell/Lombard version. Still, the lack of a larger message does leave the remake more time to devote to the relationship between Godfrey and Irene, and some viewers might prefer that. (His somewhat paternalistic fondness of this prattling child – who is somehow also maternal and domestic! – feels very 1950s to me.) Whereas 1936 Godfrey was sort of swept away by whirling dervish Irene, against his will, 1957 Godfrey seems to be making a more conscious choice to be with her. He also seems more amused by her family, less stunned by their behavior… but then, they come across as only mildly eccentric in this version, despite a fair amount of re-used dialogue. Must be because the pacing is more sedate, and most of the actors are calm and subdued. It’s interesting that the first film is stronger in both the comedy and the drama… Perhaps you can’t experience such highs, without addressing the lows? Basically, the remake is more bland, and more of a conventional romance. Lacking in substance, but it’s pleasant and enjoyable enough, if you can forget the madcap brilliance of the original. David Niven and June Allyson are charming, as always. They deserved better than the thankless assignment of appearing in a destined-to-be-forgotten, watered-down remake of a classic film they must’ve known could never be surpassed.
Duration: 92 min
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