Classic Cinema: My Man Godfrey (1936) – By: Jason S. Lockard

Screwball comedies are harder to pull off than people realize. In the thirties Hollywood was churning these out like butter and that didn’t come much better than My Man Godfrey. Which starred our star of the month William Powell.

William Horatio Powell was born on July 29, 1892 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Nettie Manila and Horatio Warren Powell. Powell showed an early aptitude for performing. In 1907, he moved with his family to Kansas City, Missouri, where he graduated in 1910.

After high school, he left for New York to study at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. In 1912, Powell graduating from the AADA, he worked in vaudeville and stock companies. Than after his success the Broadway stage, in 1922 he began his Hollywood career, playing a small role as an evil henchman of Professor Moriarty in a production of Sherlock Holmes with John Barrymore.

Powell found fame in Hollywood starring in many great films. He probably is best known for his roles in film series The Thin Man which started in 1934, for which he earned his first Academy Award nomination. Two years later he would earn another nomination our film for this month My Man Godfrey.

My Man Godfrey follows a ditzy socialite Irene Bullock (Carole Lombard) with a heart of gold, who finds a "forgotten man" Godfrey Smith (William Powell) in a scavenger hunt. Than takes him in as the family butler than the crazy antics begin. What kind of antics? You have to watch the film to find out. My Man Godfrey was deservedly nominated for 5 academy awards.

William Powell married three times. The first time in 1915, to Eileen Wilson, the second in 1931, to Carole Lombard and the third in 1940, to Diana Lewis (27 years his junior), whom he affectionately called "Mousie. Their marriage lasted forty-four years to the time of his death.

In 1937, Powell was diagnosed with cancer of the rectum. He underwent surgery and experimental radium treatment which put the disease in full remission within two years and than continued to make classic films.

Than on March 5, 1984, Powell died of heart failure in Palm Springs, California, at the age of 91, some 30 years after his retirement. He is buried at the Desert Memorial Park in Cathedral City, California.

If you have never witnessed the genius of William Powell Now is the time and a good place to start is with My Man Godfrey. Until next month this is Jason S. Lockard reminding you if you want to see a good film check out a classic!

Moral Rating: Nothing offensive
Audience: Family
Genre: Comedy
Length: 95 min.
Released: 1936
Our Rating: A