A few words about…™ My Man Godfrey — in Blu-ray

Just grab a copy, and enjoy. 4 Stars

Had it not been for a supposed error in renewing the copyright for My Man Godfrey in 1964 (one can’t blame it on the 1957 Henry Koster re-make) we might have seen a restoration of this brilliant screwball comedy earlier. It’s only been in the past few years that the studios have seen fit to restore presumed PD works, but thank the stars, Universal has seen fit to save this one!

There are probably a dozen or so truly brilliant screwball comedies, that made arrived primarily in the 1930s and early ’40s, and My Man Godfrey, by director Gregory La Cava is one of the finest.

With scans derived from extant original nitrate camera negative as well as fine grain masters, the Criterion release is literally something that I thought I’d never see.

It’s beautifully done, with perfect grain structure, black levels, and a wealth of original shadow detail. Resolution is superb.

One of the great films of its era.

Just grab a copy, and enjoy.

No further discussion, lest those who have never enjoyed the film, remain untainted.

Save to mention that the leads are William Powell and Carole Lombard.

To those who might think of stealing a rip of this disc, best not to, as this is easily identifiable, and one could get slapped with a suit for what’s the concept? Conversion?

Image – 5

Audio – 5

Pass / Fail – Pass

Upgrade from DVD – You’d better believe it!

Very Highly Recommended

RAH

Published by

Robert Harris

editor,member

77 Comments

  1. I would argue that no other actor of Hollywood's Golden era ever had a year better than William Powell did in 1936 – My Man Godfrey, After the Thin Man, Libeled Lady, The Great Ziegfeld, and The Ex-Mrs. Bradford. Even the least of these films – arguably Bradford – is still a solid Thin Man-like film. I'm eagerly awaiting to see what Criterion and Universal have wrought with this film. Take note WAC – we need a lot more William Powell on blu!

  2. Arthur Powell

    I would argue that no other actor of Hollywood's Golden era ever had a year better than William Powell did in 1936 – My Man Godfrey, After the Thin Man, Libeled Lady, The Great Ziegfeld, and The Ex-Mrs. Bradford. Even the least of these films – arguably Bradford – is still a solid Thin Man-like film. I'm eagerly awaiting to see what Criterion and Universal have wrought with this film. Take note WAC – we need a lot more William Powell on blu!

    Except for "The Great Ziegfield" those other films were quick shoots between 4-7 weeks which could be edited rather quickly and released the same year.

  3. Glad this is coming for those that want it. Given it's PD status, it was a long shot for restoration and release. But I recall watching this a while back after reading years of praise for the film about what a great, hilarious film it is, and being disappointed. A similar thing happened with Some Like It Hot. I guess classic comedy is just not my thing.

  4. Robert Harris

    […]To those who might think of stealing a rip of this disc, best not to, as this is easily identifiable, and one could get slapped with a suit for what's the concept? Conversion?

    This, too, is excellent news. Glad to know that the net has been cast.:thumbs-up-smiley:

  5. Malcolm R

    Glad this is coming for those that want it. Given it's PD status, it was a long shot for restoration and release. But I recall watching this a while back after reading years of praise for the film about what a great, hilarious film it is, and being disappointed. A similar thing happened with Some Like It Hot. I guess classic comedy is just not my thing.

    Comedy is the most subjective of all film genres due to the uniqueness of our own sense of humor. Because of that, I rarely recommend comedies unless I know a person very well and I feel confident their sense of humor is aligned with my own. In short, I'll recommend comedies to only my closest friend and perhaps my brothers.

  6. Malcolm R

    Glad this is coming for those that want it. Given it's PD status, it was a long shot for restoration and release. But I recall watching this a while back after reading years of praise for the film about what a great, hilarious film it is, and being disappointed. A similar thing happened with Some Like It Hot. I guess classic comedy is just not my thing.

    Perhaps the disappointment is not within the comedies cited but, rather, from the years of praise and built-up expectations.
    I have found this to be true for other genres of film, as well.
    I later came to loving such lauded films upon a second viewing, after some distance was placed between folklore and letdown.
    Seeing a classic film fresh and on its own terms can be tricky stuff; but re-visitations does have its rewards.
    Hopefully, this will happen for you when such timings are right.
    This happened to me with "Citizen Kane", "Casablanca" and "The Godfather".
    Plus, before our era of "spoiler alerts", everyone seemed compelled with zeal to give away every key moment;
    or, in the case of comedies, tell each and every one of their favorite jokes;
    leaving little else for one to discover on their own terms.
    Like I've said, once seen then put it away for a while;
    for, in time, both you and the film will meet once again and the pleasures will be all yours.

  7. Robert Crawford

    Except for "The Great Ziegfield" those other films were quick shoots between 4-7 weeks which could be edited rather quickly and released the same year.

    So? How does that take away from 1936 being a great year for Powell? I still contend that Powell's 1936 line-up is hard to beat.

  8. Arthur Powell

    So? How does that take away from 1936 being a great year for Powell? I still contend that Powell's 1936 line-up is hard to beat.

    I don’t think he was disagreeing with your point, but just illustrating how it was accomplished.

  9. Johnny Angell

    I don’t think he was disagreeing with your point, but just illustrating how it was accomplished.

    Oh – that does certainly show how effective the studio system was during that time period. My apologies to Mr. Crawford.

  10. Arthur Powell

    So? How does that take away from 1936 being a great year for Powell? I still contend that Powell's 1936 line-up is hard to beat.

    It doesn't take away from Powell's great output of films, but just illustrates the efficiency of the studio system back then compared to how many months it takes to film movies today especially those that require enhanced technical support along with extensive film editing.

  11. Arthur Powell

    Oh – that does certainly show how effective the studio system was during that time period. My apologies to Mr. Crawford.

    Apologies accepted. By the way, William Powell is a favorite actor of mine and a year doesn't go by in which I don't watch one of those "Thin Man" movies. I especially like to watch the first film around Christmas time. The 1936 film you reference is another one I like to watch due to a certain young actor

    Spoiler

    As to "My Man Godfrey", I just watched it again a few months ago. Another favorite Powell film of mine and one of his best. I won't be waiting for a Barnes and Noble or Criterion sale to own this Blu-ray release because I don't have the patience to wait that long to own it. It's kind of funny how Powell and one of his ex-wives can act so well in this great film just a couple of years after their divorce. I guess no hard feelings between them. I've read Powell took it hard when she died in that plane crash. He really had some tragedy in his life losing two women he loved as well as his only child, who committed suicide years later.

  12. Regarding the “Thin Man” films. We all seem to notice how much smoking goes on in classic films. My wife and I are noticing also how being drunk and heavy drinking are supposed to be “hilarious” in these same movies. This seems to have gone out with Foster Brooks in our society, and is a turn off now.

  13. TJPC

    Regarding the “Thin Man” films. We all seem to notice how much smoking goes on in classic films. My wife and I are noticing also how being drunk and heavy drinking are supposed to be “hilarious” in these same movies. This seems to have gone out with Foster Brooks in our society, and is a turn off now.

    Yes there’s a lot of drinking and smoking in older films. I think it’s important to place these movies in the context of their times and don’t allow the smoking and drinking to bother me.

  14. I am not bothered really, I have just made note. When I was teaching the movie history section of my course in high school, the excessive smoking was often a source of unintended comedy in the class. In “The Women” a big deal is made of Norma Shearer lighting a cigarette with loving close ups etc. The students thought this was really funny.

  15. TJPC

    Regarding the “Thin Man” films. We all seem to notice how much smoking goes on in classic films. My wife and I are noticing also how being drunk and heavy drinking are supposed to be “hilarious” in these same movies. This seems to have gone out with Foster Brooks in our society, and is a turn off now.

    I always find smoking in films a massive distraction, as it usually has no relevance to the plot or scene. In most of these scenes, nothing would be lost if the character was not smoking.

  16. Arthur Powell

    I would argue that no other actor of Hollywood's Golden era ever had a year better than William Powell did in 1936 – My Man Godfrey, After the Thin Man, Libeled Lady, The Great Ziegfeld, and The Ex-Mrs. Bradford. Even the least of these films – arguably Bradford – is still a solid Thin Man-like film. I'm eagerly awaiting to see what Criterion and Universal have wrought with this film. Take note WAC – we need a lot more William Powell on blu!

    While I agree that Powell had a fantastic year, I’d give the greatest actor/year award to Thomas Mitchell in 1939

    Only Angels Have Wings
    The Hunchback Of Notre Dame
    Mr. Smith Goes To Washington
    Gone With The Wind
    Stagecoach
    (Best Supporting win)

  17. Malcolm R

    I always find smoking in films a massive distraction, as it usually has no relevance to the plot or scene. In most of these scenes, nothing would be lost if the character was not smoking.

    The same could be said about the use of profanity in most films.

    —————

  18. Malcolm R

    I always find smoking in films a massive distraction, as it usually has no relevance to the plot or scene. In most of these scenes, nothing would be lost if the character was not smoking.

    There are some scenes I cannot imagine without Bogart smoking. This is coming from someone who has never smoked (anything legal) and who hates second hand smoke.

    TJPC

    [email protected]&$K! Really?

    :lol::razz::lol:

  19. bugsy-pal

    Sidebar…. I loved William Powell in Mister Roberts. Will that film ever get a decent HD transfer?

    It’s not a matter of “a decent HD transfer,” as there is nothing to properly transfer in full quality.

    Longish film at 11,000 + feet, and in need of help. Expensive, but agree that it needs to be saved. Some decent talent involved.

  20. Malcolm R

    I always find smoking in films a massive distraction, as it usually has no relevance to the plot or scene. In most of these scenes, nothing would be lost if the character was not smoking.

    Smoking was sign of sophistication at the time the movies were filmed. Smoking helped set the atmosphere of the films. Unfortunately in real life the idea that smoking was sophisticated was a reason people started smoking. Things change over time. Remember in the film "Sleeper" Woody Allen's character finds out that science has discovered, in the distant future, that smoking is one of the most healthy things you can do.

  21. Robert Harris

    It’s not a matter of “a decent HD transfer,” as there is nothing to properly transfer in full quality.

    Longish film at 11,000 + feet, and in need of help. Expensive, but agree that it needs to be saved. Some decent talent involved.

    Well, that explains it and I should have surmised as much. We have to keep reminding ourselves that despite the wealth of restored or cleaned-up BDs available that not all of our key titles are spared in the race to preserve. "Mister Roberts" (1955) and "The Nun's Story" (1959) are two such cases with the Warner library. Is it a case of that era's film stock? Or is it a case involving other issues?

  22. PMF

    Well, that explains it and I should have surmised as much. We have to keep reminding ourselves that despite the wealth of restored or cleaned-up BDs available that not all of our key titles are spared in the race to preserve. "Mister Roberts" (1955) and "The Nun's Story" (1959) are two such cases with the Warner library. Is it a case of that era's film stock? Or is it a case involving other issues?

    Nun’s Story has more problems.

  23. TJPC

    I am not bothered really, I have just made note. When I was teaching the movie history section of my course in high school, the excessive smoking was often a source of unintended comedy in the class. In “The Women” a big deal is made of Norma Shearer lighting a cigarette with loving close ups etc. The students thought this was really funny.

    I think the students need to be taught context and understanding the times when the movie was made. IMHO.

  24. TJPC

    I am not bothered really, I have just made note. When I was teaching the movie history section of my course in high school, the excessive smoking was often a source of unintended comedy in the class. In “The Women” a big deal is made of Norma Shearer lighting a cigarette with loving close ups etc. The students thought this was really funny.

    ScottHM

    The same could be said about the use of profanity in most films.

    —————

    Johnny Angell

    There are some scenes I cannot imagine without Bogart smoking. This is coming from someone who has never smoked (anything legal) and who hates second hand smoke.

    :lol::razz::lol:

    yea my ex wife used to tell me that secondhand smoke kills, all the time, and i always gave her the same answer back, …. Not effectively, i guess!

    as for alcohol used for humor, last one like that was maybe Strange Brew,

    and No profanity, well then The Big Lebowski would be what a fifteen minuet short on SNL without it

  25. TJPC

    Boy have you never taught highschool!

    No, I was an instructor at Navy Bootcamp, so same mentality of students i guess, i know there are no dumb questions, but honestly some do just make you ponder what is wrong with some people.

    as for smoking in classic films, ever think it was just the studios making that accommodation for a star that smoked, so that they didn't need a break in the shooting of a film.

    also gotta admit, it works great for film noir

  26. dana martin

    as for smoking in classic films, ever think it was just the studios making that accommodation for a star that smoked, so that they didn't need a break in the shooting of a film.

    Well Judy Garland smoked at the time she made the "The Wizard of Oz" . Dorothy didn't but supposedly they put a secret pocket in her pinafore to hold her cigarettes.

  27. Robert Harris

    It’s not a matter of “a decent HD transfer,” as there is nothing to properly transfer in full quality.

    Longish film at 11,000 + feet, and in need of help. Expensive, but agree that it needs to be saved. Some decent talent involved.

    Thanks – that's sort of what I expected, sadly.

  28. Malcolm R

    Glad this is coming for those that want it. Given it's PD status, it was a long shot for restoration and release. But I recall watching this a while back after reading years of praise for the film about what a great, hilarious film it is, and being disappointed. A similar thing happened with Some Like It Hot. I guess classic comedy is just not my thing.

    I recently attended a screening of the restored Twentieth Century at a college campus. You could have heard crickets. It might have been the misogynistic slant of the story or maybe the audience was expecting fart jokes.

  29. Robert Crawford

    Comedy is the most subjective of all film genres due to the uniqueness of our own sense of humor.

    True, comedy would seem to be the most personal of genres. But, again, it's personal. I enjoy most comedy sub-genres (physical slapstick, purely verbal comedy (such as MY MAN GODFREY, with its very sophisticated characters and dialog), satire, farce, etc.) as long as (in my opinion) the specific titles are beautifully-crafted and well-written/acted/directed; yet even among those, there is a wide and completely subjective spread of opinion. It's not just comedy that sees this diversity. Horror films comprise another very subjective genre. I find slasher movies dull and offensive, and loud sonic "jump scares" piss me off, while slow-build, leave-things-to-the-imagination movies have a much better chance of sticking with me. Thrillers to me need to be largely character and dialog-driven, while big explosions and car chases have long-since ceased to impress me. I want to feel invested in the characters, and action alone does not provide that for me. Etc.

    There isn't a movie in my collection of over 3000 Blu-rays and another 1500 DVD's (including even those so-bad-they're-very-entertaining sci-fi bombs) that I wouldn't expect to come back to in my future (which makes it hard to sell off parts of my collection when finances demand)…if I was to live another thirty years and not add another film to my shelves during that time :lol:.

  30. Robert Crawford

    Can you imagine being in front of a large audience of people telling jokes and nobody is laughing at your jokes That has to be one lonely position.

    I know its happened to me with some of my posts.;)

  31. Robert Crawford

    Can you imagine being in front of a large audience of people telling jokes and nobody is laughing at your jokes That has to be one lonely position.

    What's the opposite, when people laugh at the things you say but you're not really joking?

  32. We saw a broadway musical called “A Day in Hollywood, A Night in Ukraine” in New York City. People were literally rolling in the aisles and the place rocked with laughter. Six months later the show came to Toronto. We went again to a matinee filled with little old blue haired lady.

    Crickets and dead silence! You could see the sweet on the foreheads of the actors. At intermission about 1/3 of the audience left.

  33. TJPC

    We saw a broadway musical called “A Day in Hollywood, A Night in Ukraine” in New York City. People were literally rolling in the aisles and the place rocked with laughter. Six months later the show came to Toronto. We went again to a matinee filled with little old blue haired lady.

    Crickets and dead silence! You could see the sweet on the foreheads of the actors. At intermission about 1/3 of the audience left.

    You didn't find it funny the second time?

    —————

  34. TJPC

    16 or 17

    16 or 17 a day? I suppose that's not too bad for a 34-year-old.
    Whatever her age, she still looked great in that movie. Though she looked her absolute best in 'For Me and My Gal' and 'The Harvey Girls' .. and I suppose 'Meet Me in St Louis' (although she was already 50 when she made that one).

  35. My favorite 1930s screwball comedy is 1939's Midnight with Claudette Colbert, Don Ameche, Mary Astor and John Barrymore. One of the most hilariously funny movies ever made.

    Some Like It Hot, It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and What's Up, Doc? are definitely amongst the great screwball comedies, as are the Bette Midler comedies Ruthless People and Big Business and the British comedy Blame It on the Bellboy which just came out on Blu-ray.

  36. TJPC

    We saw a broadway musical called “A Day in Hollywood, A Night in Ukraine” in New York City. People were literally rolling in the aisles and the place rocked with laughter. Six months later the show came to Toronto. We went again to a matinee filled with little old blue haired lady.

    Crickets and dead silence! You could see the sweet on the foreheads of the actors. At intermission about 1/3 of the audience left.

    If they left at intermission, they missed that marvelous Marx Bros.-inspired romp, the best part of the evening apart from "Famous Feet" in the first act.

  37. The second act was a pastiche of a typical MGM Marx brothers movie with the hilarity separated by truly terrible songs. I heard two older ladies complain about how terrible the musical was because the songs were so badly written. The fact that they were meant to be laughed at went completely over their heads and they took them totally seriously!

  38. TJPC

    The second act was a pastiche of a typical MGM Marx brothers movie with the hilarity separated by truly terrible songs. I heard two older ladies complain about how terrible the musical was because the songs were so badly written. The fact that they were meant to be laughed at went completely over their heads and they took them totally seriously!

    Well, I loved the songs, so there you go.

  39. Randy_M

    Just preordered using the HTF link. The Criterion DVD had a commentary track that seems to be missing here. Interesting. I'll have to listen to it again to see if it's worth keeping both discs.

    The commentary is missing, as is a still gallery and the booklet's essay.

    I've not played it since 2001, but I liked the commentary back then!

  40. Randy_M

    Just preordered using the HTF link. The Criterion DVD had a commentary track that seems to be missing here. Interesting. I'll have to listen to it again to see if it's worth keeping both discs.

    It is to me, as I listen to it back in June. I'm placing the DVD into the Blu-ray case.

  41. Robert Crawford

    It is to me, as I listen to it back in June. I'm placing the DVD into the Blu-ray case.

    I was disappointed with the Criterion DVD because it looked very unnatural to me, so the BD will be a welcome upgrade. Like you I'll keep the DVD for the extras.

    Picking up on the conversation about smoking, back in the day most adults who could afford it were smokers. As recently as 1965 – a year after the Surgeon General decreed that smoking causes cancer – 45% of American adults were smokers. So having actors smoke in movies was nothing out of the ordinary. My father was a doctor, and both he and my mother were smokers until 1964, when they quit because of the Surgeon General's warning. They nevertheless both eventually developed lung cancer.

  42. Robert Crawford

    It is to me, as I listen to it back in June. I'm placing the DVD into the Blu-ray case.

    Just went through the Criterion DVD commentary track last night, and it's definitely a keeper. I'm still looking forward to the Blu-ray for the improved PQ, however.

  43. Andrew Budgell

    I watched my copy tonight. My Man Godfrey positively sparkles on Blu-ray! It was truly as if I were seeing the film for the first time.

    Yes, the picture quality was tremendous. People should be very happy with the video and audio presentations. I watched a couple of the featurettes. Other than not including an audio commentary, Criterion did well.

  44. Which logo are you referring to? On this youtube video I don't see a logo with 'New Universal" Do you think the one you are referring to is missing from this compilation? If I recall correctly "My Man Godfrey" has no Universal logo. It begins with the title, New Universal Presents " My Man Godfrey" . I guess you are saying it originally had a Universal logo.

  45. Sorry to hear that. I remember seeing a very decent print from the British Film Institute many years ago which had the then new Universal art deco logo at the start of the movie. But you are right, the logo did not include the word "new". It would have been nice if the logo had been restored. As far as I know several other Universal films are missing the original logo at the start as well, such as "Dracula" and "Frankenstein", the one with the airplane, of course.

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