March 9, 2014

Carole Lombard, My Man Godfrey

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Irene Bullock is a curious little creation. For starters, this is a role that's at a threshold where it feels about right to deem her as a lead character, yet her sole purpose in My Man Godfrey is to support William Powell's character. Secondly, Irene doesn't go through much character development. There is no a ha! moment in which she learns a lesson or transforms from A to B, she's just sort of written to be exactly the same from the second we meet her to the second the film ends. I've read comments from people on the internet where they complain that Irene never grows up or develops throughout My Man Godfrey. I for one could not care less about that. I thought Lombard was positively glorious in this role. It's a tricky character to pull off, and a less talented actress probably would have made Irene more annoying. However, Lombard brings so much life and joy into the film and her performance. She hits all the right notes, so much so that I found it impossible not to smile while watching her.

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Director Gregory La Cava was said to have instructed Lombard to exercise her "eccentric nature" for the part of Irene. Lombard in turn worked hard to get it all right, and it's so evident watching this movie just how skilled a comedienne Lombard was. There's a single moment early on in an exchange between Irene and Godfrey, wherein he sharply asks her, "do you think you could follow an intelligent conversation for just a moment?" to which Irene responds without hesitance, "I'll try" in an unabashed, childlike, and breathy manner. That's the moment that made me fall for Irene and Lombard, as it demonstrates how endearing and ridiculous the character is all at once. It's subdued little comical moments like these that really tickled me, and there's plenty of these moments throughout Lombard's performance. It is evident that she really understood the character she was playing--every crazy expression she makes and every line she says feels lived-in and fully realized. Playing a dizzy dame requires a balancing act of making a character just stupid enough that everything doesn't become a caricature and just grounded enough that the character remains human and lovable. Alice Brady, as entertaining as she was, is pretty cartoonish at times. That's never the case for Lombard, who oscillates from a breathy ditz to an acid-tongued foe of Gail Patrick's to fawning over Godfrey with a sweet naivety almost effortlessly, often times all in the same scene, without ever overdoing it. In fact, the whole thing feels innate--Lombard so fully embodies this scatterbrained woman that I was grinning at her even when she wasn't doing anything. But aside from being great with these comedic nuances, she's got a spectacular knack for comedy in general. On rewatch, her performance remains hilarious--that line where Irene goes, "You too? Oh my I know exactly how you feel!" to Molly kills me, and it's all accredited to the brilliance of Lombard's delivery. Not only was Lombard impressive, but her Irene resonated with me. I loved her a lot. She made me feel happy and good, so to speak. And ultimately I feel that to fall for an actor's creation…that's a testament to an actor's talents. So with that, I gladly give this


  1. I also think she is delightful but I wouldn't give her a five...great review!

  2. I haven't seen the film in the past 10 years, but I remember liking it quite a lot. And Carole too.

    and the film itself has a connection with this Oscar year: itself & American Hustle - only two films with nominations in all acting categories, with all its actors losing. I think.

    1. Carole's just great. Something about her here...I think about her in this film and get positive vibes.

      Nice connection there! And both Supporting Actress nominees from the two films give pretty loud performances :)