Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
September 17
My Man Godfrey September 17, 1936
My Man Godfrey opens

On this day in 1936, a classic comedy about class, My Man Godfrey, opened in theaters Stateside. Coming threw years before arguably the greatest class comedy of them all, Jean Renoir’s The Rules of the Game, director Gregory La Cava’s adaptation of the novel 1101 Park Avenue by Eric Hatch had somewhat more screwball (and, indeed, goofball) and less poignancy than Renoir’s movie. The film starred Carole Lombard as Irene Bullock, a fluffy-headed heiress, and William Powell as the titular Godfrey, a homeless man she hires as her butler. Irene, of course, falls for the handsome, urbane Godfrey, with the joke being that a hobo is smarter than and generally superior to the dumb, spoiled and frivolous people he is employed by. Of course, it transpires that Godfrey is, in fact, also one of the rich, landed classes, a Harvard grad who, in a lovelorn, downcast state, felt more in tune with the derelicts whose lives had fallen apart during the Great Depression. (Incidentally, the film starred Powell and Lombard three years after they were divorced. Despite the awkwardness of working with his ex-wife, Powell had declared the comedically gifted Lombard the only actress worthy of the role.) Writing about the movie in 2008, Roger Ebert wrote despairingly, “This movie, and the actors in it, and its style of production, and the system that produced it, and the audiences that loved it, have all been replaced by pop culture of brainless vulgarity. But the movie survives, and to watch it is to be rescued from some people who don't care that it makes a difference ... to some people.”


More Flashbacks
Sep. 17, 1999
American Beauty opens

A plastic bag swept by the wind becomes a symbol for not only the currents of life but also an office administrator's mid-life crisis in American Beauty, the feature directorial debut of acclaimed theater director Sam Mendes.

Read more »
Sept 17, 1958
In The Eye of America

Having used the Statue of Liberty in his 1942 thriller Saboteur, Alfred Hitchcock looked to another American monument for Norht by Northwest.

Read more »