If you watched TV in the 1980s, you may recall the syndicated series “Mad Movies,” from the comedy troupe the L.A. Connection. It took classic films in the public domain (such as Carole Lombard’s “Nothing Sacred,” above), edited them to half-hour form, and re-dubbed them to create entirely different, comedic stories. For example, in its “Nothing Sacred,” Carole’s character asks Fredric March (here a detective) to locate her friends…who are over the rainbow.
The premise was sort of borrowed from Woody Allen’s “What’s Up, Tiger Lily?” from two decades before. (“Mystery Science Theater 3000,” which began in the Twin Cities later in the ’80s, went in a somewhat different direction, making hilarious remarks during the movie rather than re-dubbing the dialogue.)
I mention all this because my friend Page at “My Love Of Old Hollywood” (http://myloveofoldhollywood.blogspot.com/) recently participated in a blogathon from CMBA entitled “Film Passion 101: The Movies That Started Our Love Of Classic Film.” (I didn’t participate for the simple reason that I couldn’t pinpoint one specific movie that made me a classic film buff.) Page chose “My Man Godfrey,” which in itself is pleasing…but the background behind her passion, and the way she expressed it in her entry, made me choose to make it the basis of this entry.
She inherited her love of classic film from her mother (both her parents are still with us), who adores William Powell and Myrna Loy, particularly in the “Thin Man” series. So for her film, Page chose “My Man Godfrey” — hey, it’s one of Powell’s classics, so you’d think Mom would love it too, right? Well, stated Page,
“First, let me just say that she was not happy about my film choice. I had no idea that she had such a strong dislike for Carole and the film even though she loves William Powell.”
Disliking Lombard? (Before we inveigh against Page’s mother, I’m certain she has many outstanding qualities.) According to Page, here’s what her mom said on the phone, in a rather stream-of-consciousness way, when she learned her daughter had chosen “Godfrey”:
“It was too crazy… They are all loony…I think Powell bored himself with that movie…. It was too busy. Something you see once but you don’t want to watch again. I love William Powell but I want to punch him for being in a film with that flake Carole Lombard for being a flake. I think I hate Carole Lombard. Do you have a Chester Morris film to give me a break from Carole? She did not make any sense. I don’t like that she made me crazy! Loretta Young had a funny little face but she was pretty! Do I have to talk about Joan Crawford now, that witch? Bette Davis was in some well-written movies…She was in great movies with George Brent. Your father hates Bette Davis but I can stand her….I adore George Brent and Chester Morris. Why aren’t you writing about them? I thought you were writing about what I like. If you insist on writing about ‘My Man Godfrey’ at least mention that I love William Powell very much! If you love me as much as you say you do, you can write about Charlie Chan sometime. That would make me very happy…You should have called me before you picked your movie. Did you not know that I don’t care for Carole? Why wouldn’t you know that? Why are you laughing when I’m trying to be serious? Do you want to talk to your dad now so he can tell you how much he hates Bette Davis and Joan Crawford?”
Page noted, “I was laughing so hard at one point that I’m sure I missed a lot of what she said. My mother cracks me up and I love her dearly.” She also said her mother “reminded me a lot of Carole’s ditzy character in the film.” (Page, please make sure your mom never sees that comment; I’d hate to see you disinherited.)
Page reviewed “Godfrey” in an offbeat way, using 104 screengrabs from the film — many of which I’ve never seen in still format — and commenting on the movie in a “Mad Movies”/”MST3K” style that’s plenty of fun. I’m borrowing a few of her screengrabs (and accompanying remarks) to give you an idea of what to expect if you wander there…and I hope you will. (But please finish reading my entry first.)
Cornelia: Hey, how would ya like to make 5 bucks? All you need to do is get in the car without getting it dirty, let me parade you around in front of my rich friends then toss you back out into the cold while I eat caviar and laugh about how embarrassed and desperate you must be.
Godfrey: How would you like to get tossed into an ash pile which will cause your sour face to pout and distort before you prance off and whine about your tacky silk dress getting ruined before you’ve had a chance to show it off?
Cornelia: What was the question again? I’m standing here trying not to let my thick Alabama accent show through since I’m Manhattan high society. (An in-joke from Page — Gail Patrick hailed from Birmingham.)
Irene: This place could use a housekeeper. Are you homeless and forgotten? Wait, a man! I need you to be a man that got dropped, forgotten, led around but look at my dress. I love that it’s shiny and all of this smoke and trash really does make it look expensive.
Godfrey: I’ll go with you as long as you try to stop talking and allow me to find you some help.
Irene: There’s no help for this place. It’s such a shame that your trolley dropped you off here.
Godfrey: Are you on Absinthe?
Pay attention to me before I scream, cry and claw my face. I brought my homeless goat and this chaperone who keeps telling me I need to sleep something off. Can you announce over a loudspeaker that Cornelia ruined her dress?
At first glance I thought that was a slaughtered lamb. It’s just Irene wearing her swaddling clothes. Hopefully they have straps that attach to the mattress.
Fatty Warbucks is ready to wrestle. He actually thinks Godfrey is sneaking out after a night with one of his daughters. There’s not enough booze in the world for that to have happened.
I think we’re fixing to see a catfight in fancy fabrics. There’s a first time for everything! This movie really does has something for everyone but don’t tell my mother.
Oh, Godfrey! This is going to cost you dearly even though you didn’t see it coming or were afraid of getting punched if you resisted. (I’m not sure but I think he could sue for sexual harassment although who would want to go into court and admit that he knows these people or voluntarily went to their house?)
Godfrey offers the financially strapped Alex some good advice. Sadly he left out that divorce is always an option and new identities aren’t that difficult to obtain either.
Cornelia: Stop being weird and sensitive, Irene!
Irene: These stairs remind me of a horizon that shines out of the love Godfrey has for me and shows me from over there where he’s sleeping. But I know he’s thinking about these stairs too. This makes me sad and feeling like I need to fling my arms around at the same time.
Cornelia: This might seem strange but are you on Absinthe?
Irene: This plate is round, clean and beautiful like your head, Godfrey. Full of thoughts, that’s what it is. Precious and it sits in my hand like a dove. We are doves, Godfrey…Silly love doves. Oh, we’re so happy aren’t we?
Godfrey: Yes, this is more happiness than any man deserves.
All of Godfrey’s forgotten men now have a job at his new nightclub. The Dump. Very clever but now that Irene has arrived, I expect a giant anvil to crash down and rain confetti all over them before they burst into flames.
Like it or not, I think your bride to be is here. She’s as pretty as a parade float and crazier than the Mad Hatter. I’ll be running along before she mistakes me for a forgotten man.
Isn’t that terrific, or at least weird? You can see the entire thing at http://myloveofoldhollywood.blogspot.com/2013/12/cmba-blogathon-film-passion-101-my-man.html. (Oh, and the aforementioned “Mad Movies” has a site, where I believe you can check out their “Nothing Sacred” and other episodes; it’s athttp://madmoviesonline.com/.)