My Man Godfrey
The definitive screwball comedy, My Man Godfrey follows the madcap antics of a wealthy and eccentric family when they hire a down-and-out “forgotten man” as their butler. My Man Godfrey features brilliant performances by Carole Lombard and William Powell, and was the first film to receive Academy Award nominations in all four acting categories.
Criterion’s original DVD edition for Gregory La Cava’s My Man Godfrey presents the film in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on a dual-layer disc. Because of the ratio it has not been enhanced for widescreen televisions. The master comes from a high-definition scan of the 35mm duplicate negative.
This is another case where an old Criterion DVD (this one released in 2001) holding up somewhat well. The digital presentation itself isn’t half bad, looking fine enough when upscaled. Grain is present and it does look blocky and digital because of the limitations of the format, but details are still fine and the image overall is pleasant enough.
Most of the issues have to do with the source. Damage is still pretty heavy, with fading and scratches on the sides, big bits of dirt, and some stains. I assume some work has been done because the damage that remains, in the end, isn’t as bad as I would have assumed.
The new Blu-ray is the better option to go with: though the image isn’t that much sharper in the end it at least has a less digital look and the restoration has cleaned up the picture quite a bit more.
Presented in 1.0 Dolby Digital mono, the film’s soundtrack has some noticeable background noise and damage, but dialogue is audible and clear.
Criterion offers a rather decent if modest special edition for the film, starting off with an exclusive commentary by Bob Gilpin, which was oddly not carried over to the new Blu-ray edition. I’m not sure why it wasn’t carried over because I thought it was actually a decent track, despite it being obvious Gilpin may be just simply reading from notes. In it he offers a history of screw ball comedies, how My Man Godfrey fits into the genre, the conventions it breaks, and looks at the social commentary found within the film. I can’t say it is an earth shattering track by any means but I found it entertaining and informative and it’s a shame Criterion doesn’t carry it over to their new edition.
A 1938 Lux Radio Theatre adaptation of the film comes up next, featuring most of the cast from the film. It runs an hour and as far as radio adaptations go it’s not bad, though is more dependent on dialogue than visual gags obviously. It runs an hour.
There also a collection of outtakes. Material like this from the time is always a treat and this one is rather fun as you get to see cast members curse when something doesn’t go exactly the way it should. 4-minutes’ worth of archival newsreel footage is also here, offering a look at both the homeless and the wealthy at the time. The disc then closes with a theatrical trailer and then a stills gallery offering a collection of 30 or so cast and crew photos. There is then an insert featuring a short essay on the film by Diane Jacobs.
It’s not a stacked edition but it may be worth picking up or holding on to if you have or plan on getting the Blu-ray edition just for the commentary track, which I rather enjoyed.
A decent if unspectacular DVD edition. Its presentation is fine for the format but the Blu-ray still betters it. It may be worth picking up cheap, though, if you’re interested in the commentary track that wasn’t carried over to the Blu-ray.