Friday, February 18, 2011

MY MAN GODFREY | 1936 | Then & Now

MY MAN GODFREY begins with the title character living in the city dump, where he is discovered by Irene Bullock (Carole Lombard).  She convinces him to allow her to deliver him to the judges of a scavenger hunt, so she can win as the first to bring in a "Forgotten Man".  He tries to leave after she's won, but she has already fallen for him and insists her mom hire him as their butler.  It soon becomes very clear that Godfrey is not what he appears.  Still, he must navigate the chaos of this wealthy, spoiled and eccentric family in order to keep his job and rebuild his life.

I may write more about that later, but what's standing out to me after my latest viewing of the film is that early in the film, Mr. Bullock expresses concern about his finances and the changing market by saying, "I don't mind giving the government 60% of what I make, but I can't do it when my family spends 50%..."

This is one tough rich guy.  Even though he is paying significantly more taxes than today's wealthy, Mr. Bullock isn't complaining about taxes.  He is so matter-of-fact about the 60% figure that it seems he's accepted it as part of the challenge, the way a golfer accepts course hazards as an intrinsic part of the game.  Currently there's a lot of bluster about how the current tax rate ties the hands of businesses, rob hard-working people of jobs, and funds programs that support people who should be out earning their own money.  As if any person that makes use of any social program is weak, lazy and/or whiners.  Compared to Mr. Bullock, the folks who rigidly adhere to this line of thought are the cry-babies.

The beauty of capitalism is opportunity.  The promise of America is that any one, no matter their beginnings, has a shot at improving their financial lot in life.  If you're able to make yourself a fat-cat (or maintain a long family lineage of fat-catness), why not pony up some cash to pave the roads that hauled the goods that made your fortune, and to teach kids math and science so that the fortune can be managed by competent professionals and/or increasingly advanced software.  Toughen up buttercups!

Think of it this way, there's a reason the shot put involves weight.  It makes the activity challenging, and it makes long distances possible.  If the thing were light and easy to throw, it wouldn't travel very far.  Like the (fictional) President Andrew Shepard said, "America is advanced citizenship."

Released: 1936
Director/Producer: Gregory La Cava (Oscar Nomination)
Leads: William Powell (Oscar Nomination), Carole Lombard (Oscar Nomination), Mischa Auer (Supporting Oscar Nomination), Alice Brady (Supporting Oscar Nomination)
Writers (screenplay): Eric Hatch (Oscar Nomination), Morrie Ryskind (Oscar Nomination), Gregory La Cava