Screwball Spotlight: My Man Godfrey

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Nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Actor nominations for its two stars and its director, My Man Godfrey was a box office hit in 1936. The classic screwball comedy stands the test of time for its whip-smart dialogue and its outstanding performances. Go behind the scenes below.

1. Powell got Lombard the job.

William Powell and Carole Lombard were married in 1931, and even though they divorced in 1933, they remained friends. In fact, Powell is the reason she was cast in My Man Godfrey, insisting that she be his co-star and that his request be kept a secret.

2. Thank Ziegfeld for the film.

Originally, Universal Pictures was to make The Great Ziegfeld, the Oscar-winning 1936 smash hit. However, when complication arose with adapting Ziegfeld’s biography, they decided to sell the rights to MGM in exchange for a loan out of William Powell in the future. That future project turned out to be My Man Godfrey. Thanks to the success of Ziegfeld, Powell earned $87,500, a sizeable amount of the total budget, $656,000.

3. It was a fun set.

Director Gregory La Cava wanted his stars at ease and encouraged them to improvise – something that made Powell uneasy at first, until Lombard encouraged him to trust. La Cave said, “When I direct them, I tell them to use their own personalities, not to assume someone else’s.” The easy-going atmosphere, however, also lent itself to complications as they hammered out script problems, wardrobe issues, and star behavior. When Powell and La Cava disagreed over Godfrey’s characterization, they settled it with a late night conversation and a bottle of Scotch.