Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Gems from the ash pile

As per my resolution -- for I never falter when it comes to resolutions -- here are some sparkling gems from My Man Godfrey (La Cava, 1936) and Easy Living (Leisen, 1937).

My Man Godfrey has the special privilege of showcasing Carole Lombard at her most utterly bonkers as socialite Irene Bullock, and as a special treat, Alice Brady as her mother Angelica Bullock, who resembles no one so much as the Mad Hatter (come to think of it, Irene's a lot like the March Hare). It almost makes me get over my lack of fondness for William Powell. I'll tell you who I do love, though: Eugene Pallette, who also played Henry Fonda's dad in The Lady Eve. No one played put-upon patriarchs better than he.

A few choice quotes:

Angelica Bullock: You mustn't come between Irene and Godfrey. He's the first thing she's shown any affection for since her Pomeranian died last summer.

Alexander Bullock
: Life in this family is one subpoena after another.

Irene: Godfrey loves me! He put me in the shower!

: Stand still, Godfrey. It'll all be over in a minute.

Godfrey: Opportunity is just around the corner.
Mike Flaherty: Yeah, it's been there a long time. I wish I knew which corner.

The story in Easy Living revolves around a $58,000 sable coat. Can I even fathom a coat that costs more than I ever made in a year, in my best years, selling at this price in 1937? No, no I can't. It breaks my brain. Cracks it right in half. But without the coat, the gossip of the milliner Van Buren wouldn't be half as funny:

Van Buren: The bull of broad street... with a girl... in the sable-est sable coat they ever sabled!

The hat salesman is on the horn with a Winchell-esque gossip columnist, spreading rumors that innocent Mary Smith (Jean Arthur) is the mistress of financier J.B. Ball. It's all a crazy mix-em-up, of course, all the better to deliver this incendiary line:

Van Buren: Where-ever there's smoke, there must be... somebody smoking.

Nobody orchestrates chaos better than Sturges (who wrote the screenplay), ably assisted by Leisen (sorry, fella, you have to play second banana to my hero). Subtle commentaries on wealth are also appreciated (by me), like the scene in which Jean Arthur finds herself in a princely hotel suite but is bitterly disappointed to find it has an empty fridge, and wears her $58,000 fur coat to the automat, where all she has to spend is two nickels.

Alright, truthfully, I can't remember a lot of funny quotes from this movie, but here's one I can recall -- a marriage proposal to beat the band:

John Ball Jr.: We both have jobs! I'm going to work for my father --
Mary Smith: And what will I do?
John Ball Jr.: You're going to cook my breakfast.

How can a girl say no to that?


P.L. Kerpius said...

I too adore Pallette, especially in any scene with Carlo ("Money, money, money!") I was watching this just the other night, in fact. My Man Godfrey is one of those perfect movies to pop in regularly when you've got some down time, it's just perfect!

Andrea Janes said...

Carlo! Oh god, I love Carlo!