A SCATTERBRAINED SOCIALITE HIRES A VAGRANT AS THE FAMILY BUTLER
Classic screwball comedy with Carole Lombard giving a priceless performance as a daffy heiress who meets a hobo on a scavenger hunt, and hires him as the family Butler; unaware that he is actually a successful businessman. William Powell is dapper as ever as the title character, and there's great comic support from Eugene Pallette, Alice Brady and the hilarious Mischa Auer, who earned an Oscar nomination for, among other things, imitating a monkey. (1936) Re-made in 1957.
Lombard is perfect as the ditzy, emotional heiress Irene Bullock who "finds" Godfrey at a city dump during a vacuous high-society scavenger hunt. Like a small child who finds a stray puppy, Irene decides to keep the remarkably urbane Godfrey by employing him as the family butler. The wildly eccentric and wealthy Bullock family has recently proved unable to keep butlers in their employ, due to their antics, but the able and dutiful Godfrey manages them with an ease and grace that seems incongruent with his presumably low station in life. Soon, Irene has fallen in love with him, but Godfrey remains aloof to her attentions while the beautiful but awful Cordelia Bullock (Gail Patrick) schemes to humiliate and get rid of him to spite Irene, her sister and rival.
The movie is filled with a remarkable cast of character actors in the supporting roles including Brady, Auer, Patrick, Eugene Pallette, and Jean Dixon. Brady in particular is always at her best when playing scatterbrained socialites and the role of the flighty Angelica Bullock fits her exceptionally well here.
This film never falters in being consistently amusing (particularly during Irene's runs of characteristically daft stream-of-consciousness banter) while also managing to maintain an understated social consciousness. Set against the backdrop of the Great Depression, the film's "message", voiced by Godfrey with the line "The only difference between a derelict and a man is a job", is never patronizing and it never gets in the way of the fun. In the end, Godfrey saves the Bullock family in more ways than one while teaching them valuable lessons on morality, class, and true nobility. Fim was remade in 1957 starring David Niven.