Forgotten Man, Where Art Thou? – Taking Up Room
The series opened on Tuesday, June 22nd with My Man Godfrey () by before but has since become rare with any other subject except race- relations. It is part of the film's cleverness to leave us in doubt up until the end which of. Does My Man Godfrey have a happy ending? but perhaps what is missing here is clear communication of a relationship other than the battle. My Man Godfrey is a Screwball Comedy film directed by Gregory La with Godfrey, who begins the movie as a scruffy homeless man and ends as an elegant three-piece suit. . Mad Love: This sums up Irene's relationship to Godfrey.
She asks him if there is anything she can do for him, and he asks for a job. Irene offers him the job of family butler, which he gratefully accepts. The family is nuts: Mother Butler always wakes with a hangover and sees pixies. The rest of the time she giggles. Cornelia is pretty much a stone cold beyotch, glaring and posturing so beautifully that I wish I were more familiar with the rest of her movies.
She should have been a comic book villainess—she is a gorgeous, though not green, Maleficent. Irene is the consummate dizzy dame with a heart of gold, fluttering and screaming and having spells, but so much more empathetic than the rest of the family that she almost seems normal by comparison. Butler is by turns resigned, confused, frustrated, and furious by the women-folk in his life, and their ever-increasing monthly expenditures.
At a cocktail party, one of the guests calls Godfrey by another name, claiming they were at Harvard together. Godfrey manages the situation as well as he can, saying he was a valet at Harvard, not a student, and quietly promises his old friend that he will explain everything the next day. Unfortunately the story that the friend uses to smooth over the situation involves an imaginary wife and five children for Godfrey, a fact which launches Irene into a random—and quickly broken—engagement with an empty-headed young chap at the party, after which she spends the rest of the party sobbing in the staircase.
The next day it is revealed that Godfrey Smith, late of the City Dump and now buttling for the Bullocks, is actually Godfrey Parke, of the Parkes of Boston, whose family is just as wealthy and disconnected from reality as the Bullocks.
Of course, the Bullocks know nothing of any of this, and his family is to remain uninformed. In the middle of an impressive display of theatrics, she slumps against him, apparently out cold.
She immediately falls back, still pretending. He picks her up again and puts her in the shower. Rather than being furious, she screeches that this rare show of emotion means that deep down he loves her. He looks shocked and leaves the room immediately. She jumps on the bed a bit.
My Man Godfrey - Wikipedia
Downstairs more drama is afoot: A quick cut to a riverside shanty reveals a conversation between two tramps, warming themselves over a fire. Ironically, prosperity in the form of Cornelia and Irene Bullock is literally just around the corner in the film when Godfrey speaks this ambiguously amusing line. Sarah Kozloff identifies screwball language as specific and integral to the genre: A wide-sweeping Dickensian geography of the city suggests itself from time to time—nowhere more strikingly than in the movie;s opening images.
In other words, by adding chaos to a pre-existing structure, My Man Godfrey multiplies its humorous playfulness concomitantly with potential for novel transformation. Immediately following Mike and Godfrey's farewell, though, a shiny new car pulls up at the top of the hill leading down to the waterfront.
The silkily-clad Cornelia Gail Patrick emerges, trailed by her trusty but bland boyfriend, Faithful George Robert Lightdressed in a tuxedo. Both are soon followed by the sparklingly innervated and frustrated Irene Carole Lombard.
Propositioning him to participate in a scavenger hunt at the Waldorf-Ritz, Cornelia offers Godfrey five dollars to play along. Godfrey calmly but sternly refuses, verbally backing her into an ash-pile. The seriousness of the insult interrupts the game for Cornelia and George, but gives Irene an open opportunity.
Godfrey turns around to find Irene standing in the dump, essentially alone. Her introduction as an independent agent, arriving in her own cab with no partner, helps to define her as a potential match for Godfrey, who is also vitally independent. Initially, Godfrey speaks to Irene brusquely as if he expects her pride to match her sister's, but she is neither domineering nor haughty, and instead of kicking her out, he tells her to sit.
He asks her what a scavenger hunt is, and Irene's circumlocutory explanation reveals as much about her own unconscious mind as it does about the society game. A History and Filmography, This sequence proves Irene is kind, yet scatter-brained, and that she swiftly benefits from the merest challenge to her status quo.
Her innocence is never deterred by Godfrey's frequent sarcasm, which he uses to facetiously test her ingenuousness. As she gets up to go, Irene laments that Cornelia has probably already won the game.
Godfrey, in response, establishes a new game for the two of them based upon the preexisting one: From the short exchange between them, he already recognizes Irene's status as the underdog in sibling rivalry, and Godfrey, having been belittled by Cornelia only moments before, sees a productive goal in their partnership. This sets up a playful pattern that works one off of the other, Irene off of Godfrey, as both resist Cornelia, resulting in the forward motion of the film —a dialectical coupling that drives the narrative, but also provides the structure of screwball comedy.
The antithetical theme underlying the entire film—the chaos introduced to transform the existing structure—is failure. While this is arguably a trait that exists in various forms across screwball comedies, here it has a real-world applicability by beginning and ending in the dump. It is no mistake that Cornelia, for her false pride, must fall into a pile of ashes.
This way he addresses her on a child's level, and at the same time gives her the first sign she's ever received that her cause, the cause of the powerless, is a good one to fight for. Here, Kendall implies that Godfrey condescends to Irene, but rather than patronize her, I believe he is beguiled by her innocence.
After all, she is obviously smart enough to understand his scathing remarks to the scavenger hunters from the dais at the Waldorf-Ritz. Irene, childlike as she may be, is far from dumb, as I discuss below. Bullock 6 Cornelia's failure rises Godfrey, a human being who confirms in a moment of temptation that his scruples and dignity are not for sale, even that they are valuable enough to help others.
Thus, Godfrey elects to join the game, but by his own rules, and he enlists Irene as his teammate. The inceptive failure preceding the film is Godfrey's own. Half way into the film, the spectator finally learns that Godfrey has a past, and that his residence in the dump resulted from a failed love affair, followed by the subsequent decision to end his life.
My Man Godfrey () – The Blonde at the Film
Only the perseverance of the forgotten men on the riverfront halted his suicide attempt. If those men could fail so massively and still survive, living off the detritus of consumerism, Godfrey resolves to do the same. His failure at the game of love endows him with a privileged vantage, one which situates him perfectly to recognize Cornelia's game and beat her at it precipitously.
Cornelia's failure is an echo of Godfrey's. Godfrey, however, is energized by Irene's screwball antics and his own reinvigorated self-worth in light of employment. Cornelia, who has nowhere to focus her valuable energy but on herself, is so shallow in the beginning of the film that she is willing to ruin a forgotten man in order to avenge her bruised pride.
Her first failure lands her in the ash-pile, but her second failure is in seducing Godfrey. First she tries to buy his partnership, then she tries to seduce him in the bar, finally she attempts to use the missing pearls to blackmail him into submitting to a sexual relationship.
Godfrey foils all three of these plots. But Godfrey, despite his drunken behavior, is shrewd enough to realize that his room is awry, and by the time the police arrive to search the house that night, the pearls are nowhere to be found.
My Man Godfrey (1936)
Money in this film is the key to navigating social structure successfully. Only when the Bullock girls return from their European trip does Cornelia attempt to blackmail Godfrey into a rendezvous by mentioning the pearls. Her hiatus teaches her nothing. Her pearls, though, are the most transitional object in the film, not only because their purpose morphs from birthday gift into a tool for revenge, but because of what they achieve when they fall into the right hands.
Godfrey converts the pearls into gold, then into stock, then back into pearls to return to Cornelia.
Forgotten Man, Where Art Thou?
This positive transformation saves the Bullock family in the end, confounds Cornelia's every assumption about Godfrey, and forces her to face the value of her position.
Indeed, the pearls are a metaphor for Cornelia, who finally realizes that she has been playing the wrong game. Erroneously believing herself to be strategically competent, she has only seen the short view from move to move.
Godfrey, it turns out, has played his own game with a wider perspective, and even manages to commandeer her game in order to teach her a lesson. The reason Godfrey wins, though, is not because Cornelia fails, but because he does not allow her to lose.
He turns her very failure into her opportunity for redemption. When she realizes this, that Godfrey has selflessly helped not only her, but also her family, Cornelia's false pride fizzles and her humility rises to the top in her admission that she planted the pearls.
The larger social implication of this, the central conceit of the film, is that with great power comes great responsibility.
Like a mythical hero, Godfrey is a mild-mannered man with great Bullock 8 powers, and, learning from his own fall from grace, uses those powers for good instead of evil. In a country beset by the Great Depression, good means work and evil equates with selfishness and squandering resources. Those resources can be money, or talent, or energy, or self-worth; and the only way to redeem them is to transmute them from something that nobody wants into something that benefits the country.
Failure is not implicitly transformative, though. Rather, failure is the result of one transformation, but in conjunction with a ludic spirit, the alternate perspective afforded by failure primes one to recognize opportunity when it presents itself. In the beginning, Godfrey is inclined to remain a failure, resolved to live as a bum in the dump.
He has forgotten the world, and apparently, it has forgotten him. With the arrival of Cornelia and Irene, his life once again connects to to the outside world.
With his first small victory over Cornelia, he is immediately inclined to help others —he offers to partner Irene in the scavenger hunt, the very game that propels the Bullock sisters to the dump in the first place.
According to many accounts, Maxwell was born in an opera box in Keokuk, Iowa during a performance of Mignon. In the same way, she declares, her parties are really organized to bring intellects together in an informal atmosphere. She is proud of having invented such games as Treasure Hunt and Scavenger Hunt, because of their psychological importance. Not unmindful of science In the Treasure Hunt … intellectual men were paired off with great beauties, glamor with talent.
In the course of the night's escapades anything could happen. A famous party was a scavenger hunt staged in Paris inwith a gallon of Patou perfume awarded to the player who brought back the most unusual items.
I find it provocative that Maxwell's games combined powerful people, great thinkers, and matchmaking. Bullock 9 concomitant crossing of boundaries. For example, the location of the dump at the base of a bridge is representative of just such a limit mediation. The scavenger hunt is contemporaneous with and thematically similar to screwball comedy —both are arenas for transformation and topsy-turvydom.
Irene describes the game to Godfrey in the dump: After exchanging a few pleasantries, Duke nudges her away, literally—right into an ash pile. Irene has better luck. Duke who introduces himself as Godfrey goes to the scavenger hunt with her out of curiosity, or so he says. The two of them end up in a chaotic ballroom at the Waldorf Ritz with a melee of other people in evening dress hauling in everything from nanny goats to bellows to produce carts.
Godfrey is, of course, the hit of the night, and the well-heeled throng look at him rather curiously. He stays long enough to call them all nitwits before making a break for the door. Long story short, suddenly the Forgotten Man is no longer forgotten, and he shows up at the Bullock mansion the next day having no idea what to expect.
The Bullocks are filthy rich, and they live in the proverbial opulent bubble. Heaven forbid any of them talk to someone of a lower class than theirs. The Bullocks give parties for a hundred without batting an eye, and are used to the finest of everything. Oh, and he eats like a horse. Cornelia is a selfish, to-the-letter snob and disdainful big sister, but Irene is a diva.
A well-meaning but spoiled and manipulative diva. Irene has the idea that Godfrey is her Carlo, which Godfrey backs away from, but not before explaining to Irene that the proprieties must be observed.
However, Irene has met her match in Godfrey. He lets her help him do the dishes one night, and they have an actual conversation instead of her trying to work an angle.