A Touch of Class in the Comedies of Gregory La Cava

Inside Criterion / Sneak Peeks — Sep 21, 2018


My Man Godfrey, an inspired spin on the screwball comedy from 1936, derives much of its enduring bite from the class critique at its core. Made at the height of Hollywood’s golden age, but taking the measure of stark economic disparities in a country then in the trough of the Great Depression, Gregory La Cava’s Oscar-nominated film follows a Manhattan aristocrat (Carole Lombard) and the dump-dwelling drifter (William Powell) she taps to serve as her family’s butler, chronicling the lavish household’s dysfunction through the eyes of the wearied new domestic. As critic Nick Pinkerton notes in the above clip, excerpted from a supplement on our new edition of the movie, the “violation of class boundaries,” epitomized in My Man Godfrey by the romance that ultimately blossoms between the main characters, was in fact a recurring theme for the undersung auteur. The filmmaker—whose other class-based comedies include Stage Door (1937) and She Married Her Boss (1935), and who himself came from modest means—“takes an enormous delight in how funny and strange it is that there are such things as rich people,” Pinkerton observes. “The exotic plumage of these bizarre creatures is incredibly droll and amusing to him.”