Irene Bullock, a wealthy New York woman, employs Godfrey Park as a “forgotten man” to win a game at a party. When she finds that she is attracted to Godfrey, Irene offers him a job as her butler. Despite obvious chemistry, Irene finds herself heartbroken when Godfrey turns her advances down in favor of his job as her butler. The night of the party, characters are seen smoking and drinking is implied.
While Irene is charming and wealthy, her advances towards Godfrey border on inappropriate. She never lashes out or harms him physically, but she simply cannot take no for an answer. When she is turned down, she fakes very dramatic “spells” that cause her to either panic or faint altogether. After Irene confesses to faking one of her spells and abruptly kisses Godfrey, he makes it clear that he is not interested.
In today’s society, Irene’s gestures could warrant a restraining order against her. She takes her actions too far when she decides to marry Godfrey, regardless of his wishes, stating, “It’ll all be over in a minute.” With that being said, the fact that this movie was released in a different time must be noted. These actions, while inappropriate today, may not have been seen as such in a time.
Cornelia, Irene’s sister, is a stereotypical wealthy young woman as well. She is spoiled and does not hesitate to take any actions if they will get her what she wants. She uses threats against both Irene and Godfrey in the beginning of the movie in a failed attempt to have Godfrey fired from his position as butler. She later hides a string of her own pearls under Godfrey’s bed in a second attempt and finally threatens to reveal his true identity after she is the first to uncover it.
This type of deceit does not contribute to the movie’s integrity, but it is necessary to set the stage for the morals being presented. Cornelia plays a mild antagonist whose ultimate goal is to benefit herself or her family. As the movie concludes, however, she is remorseful for her actions.
Godfrey proves to be a man of great integrity, but not before showing a few flaws. Despite his education and wealth, he is dishonest with who he is at the beginning of the movie. It is not until the middle of the film, when Godfrey runs into an old college friend at a party, that we begin to question his true identity. Godfrey also has a tendency to use harsh words towards the Bullock women.
At the end of the film, Mr. Bullock announces that he may have to declare bankruptcy as all of their money has been spent. Godfrey is quick to share that he used the money from Cornelia’s pearls that he found under his bed to begin a stock in Mr. Bullock’s name. He then reveals that he is in fact a wealthy man who has been working as a butler. He builds a nightclub, called “The Dump,” in place of the city dump where he used to stay in order to provide jobs for many people in the city.
The moral of this story is essentially to do unto others as you would have them do to you (Luke 6:31). Even though it is a bit selfish, Irene hires a poor man (Godfrey) to be her butler, thus providing him a seemingly much-needed job. Regardless of the way he is treated, Godfrey tries to stay kind to those around him. He serves the Bullock family gracefully. Finally, he takes his own fortune and gives back to those who need it—he donates the profit of his stock to the Bullock family and creates jobs in the city with “The Dump.”
Because My Man Godfrey was released in 1936, it displays characteristics of the time. The timeline of the story is mildly difficult to follow as it moves quickly through time. The film is in black and white and the picture is slightly grainy. The audio, however, is very well done. The movie was nominated for four Academy Awards and has been restored since its original release. Employing expert comedy and drama, My Man Godfrey is a wholesome film for the whole family and is Dove-approved for All Ages.
The Dove Take:
My Man Godfrey is a family friendly movie that demonstrates the necessity of treating others well through the comedic story of a very dramatic, wealthy family and their newly hired butler.