“You’re more than a butler — you’re the first protege I ever had!”
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
Response to Peary’s Review:
— is ruined by the plot “twist” (given away early) that Godfrey (Powell) is actually a millionaire in disguise. He posits that while screenwriters Eric Hatch and Morrie Ryskind “may have had praiseworthy intentions” by wanting “Powell to discuss cynically both the plight and the nobility of the unemployed during the Depression”, director “Gregory La Cava has trouble maintaining a humorous thread while injecting serious themes”; he argues that “if the film’s going to attempt social criticism, it shouldn’t be so timid about it”. He concludes his review by noting that the “film succeeds not because of the story or direction but because of the spirited performances”, with “suave Powell and daffy Lombard [possessing] some great moments together”.
I can’t quite agree with most of Peary’s sentiments, given that I find the fast-paced screenplay consistently clever and witty, and don’t have any problem with the way Powell’s mysterious character is written. Indeed, it’s likely that if the social themes were taken more seriously, the entire affair would ultimately be much less successful as a wacky screwball flick. Peary’s right, however, to call out the fine performances by Lombard and Powell, who do indeed possess great chemistry together; it’s especially touching to know that they were divorced, yet still affectionate enough towards one other to maintain good relations.
I’m also fond of the supporting performances throughout this ensemble piece — most notably gravelly-voiced character actor Eugene Pallette as the family’s harried patriarch, and fey Franklin Pangborn in an early bit role as the officiant for the scavenger hunt (a wonderful extended scene) that propels the plot into action.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)