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The Forgotten "My Man Godfrey"
crispy_comments16 August 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Of course, the original My Man Godfrey from 1936, starring William Powell and Carole Lombard, is an absolute masterpiece, and never should've been remade. But I do like June Allyson and David Niven, so I had to see this 1957 version.

It completely lacks both the laugh-out-loud hilarity of the original, as well as the more serious social commentary resulting from being set during the Great Depression and dealing with "The Forgotten Man". Godfrey's backstory has been altered to one of hiding in fear of deportation, having arrived in America illegally, for rather contrived and convoluted reasons. I don't really understand why someone of his wealth and position couldn't just go through the proper channels. As far as I can tell, the character's not making some sort of statement, there's no real point to the story, and the whole thing seems devoid of drama.

What's left, but to focus on the love story here, although that doesn't necessarily make it more convincing than the Powell/Lombard version. Still, the lack of a larger message does leave the remake more time to devote to the relationship between Godfrey and Irene, and some viewers might prefer that. (His somewhat paternalistic fondness of this prattling child - who is somehow also maternal and domestic! - feels very 1950s to me.) Whereas 1936 Godfrey was sort of swept away by whirling dervish Irene, against his will, 1957 Godfrey seems to be making a more conscious choice to be with her. He also seems more amused by her family, less stunned by their behavior... but then, they come across as only mildly eccentric in this version, despite a fair amount of re-used dialogue. Must be because the pacing is more sedate, and most of the actors are calm and subdued.

It's interesting that the first film is stronger in both the comedy and the drama... Perhaps you can't experience such highs, without addressing the lows? Basically, the remake is more bland, and more of a conventional romance. Lacking in substance, but it's pleasant and enjoyable enough, if you can forget the madcap brilliance of the original. David Niven and June Allyson are charming, as always. They deserved better than the thankless assignment of appearing in a destined-to-be-forgotten, watered-down remake of a classic film they must've known could never be surpassed.
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A gross mistake
bondc5 September 1999
The original is brilliant. But the re-make is sad at best. No matter how much I may love David Niven, he's a poor substitute for Powell. Don't bother with this trash. Rent the Powell/Lombard film (1936). It's one of the funniest films you'll ever see, with hallmark performances by everyone in the cast.
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From Hobo To Illegal Alien
bkoganbing7 February 2007
The original My Man Godfrey was one of the best of the Thirties screwball comedies. It was funny, but it also touched on some serious social problems caused by the Depression which Carole Lombard and her wacky family thought they were immune from.

In updating the story to the Fifties, the Depression was no longer the problem it was just David Niven's lack of a green card. In the remake it was just something that I as a member of the audience just didn't care about.

Until I read the IMDb page on this film, I didn't know that German actor O.W. Fischer was to be the new Godfrey. When he bowed out, David Niven came in to take his place. The script explained his British accent by saying that despite his Austrian birth and nationality, Godfrey was an Oxford man. I just didn't buy it, I don't think too many in the audience did.

Once again a film rose and fell on the considerable charms of David Niven. My Man Godfrey doesn't have too many peaks and valleys just seems to be one long plain.

Still it does have some amusing moments with whole stretches of dialog lifted from William Powell-Carole Lombard film. And personally I might have gone for Martha Hyer as the older sister Cordelia faster than June Allyson, but whatever floats your boat.

Nice film, but can't compare to what Gregory La Cava gave us back in the day.
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Well, as remakes go...
whyaduckdotcom28 February 2001
I've never understood the urge to remake *great* movies. They usually fail (e.g., We're No Angels) but very occasionally they succeed (e.g., His Girl Friday). This one is frothy enough to float away into forgotten-movie heaven.

The original with William Powell and Carole Lombard was on the dark side, to be sure, but this was necessary to the 'message' and the times. Nor was the message entirely political and social--at heart it is about a man who discovers that his world of privilege is empty without accepting his responsibility to others and to his community. A sharp contrast in tone, but ultimately a complement to this theme, is in Nobody's Fool. The Paul Newman character is not privileged, but his commitment to others is just as deep and at the heart of the movie.

The Niven/Allyson remake of My Man Godfrey is, in my opinion, inoffensive and fun, but also shallow and meaningless.
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pointless remake
kyle_furr12 April 2004
The 1936 version was a masterpiece or close to it and this is a pale imitator. I like David Niven and June Allyson but they suck compared to William Powell and Carole Lombard. This one stars Niven as a man hiding out because he doesn't have a passport unlike the original when Powell was just homeless. Allyson is on a scavenger hunt and takes Niven along with her and then hires him as a butler. She's in love with Niven and it turns out he had a lot of money but lost it but i don't remember and it doesn't really matter. The original was much better and you should just watch that one instead and Powell and Lombard were much better. Why did they even bother to remake this.
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Niven and Allyson in a great remake!
NativeTexan22 October 2003
I saw this film when I was a kid; it was great, I loved it, and I had no idea it was a remake. Later, thanks to Turner Classic Movies, I got to see the B&W original with William Powell and his former wife, Carole Lombard, which deserves its legend status, but I still say that the Niven/Allyson film is an inspired remake and loads of fun. I urge everyone to see BOTH films and and appreciate the work of four talented actors.
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Genuinely cute movie
conreb12 February 2007
The David Niven and June Allyson version of My Man Godfrey was a witty and often funny remake of the 1936 version of the movie by the same name--starring William Powell.

Unlike most remakes, I found the 1957 version equally as entertaining as the first version--which was quite funny.

The premise of "rich man pretending to be poor man" (and obviously mistaken for a poor man) was not unique with the original My Man Godfrey. An earlier movie (1930) had a similar plot line and was also remade in 1938 as, Merrily We Live, starring Constance Bennett, Brian Aherne, and Billie Burke. (Burke won an Oscar for her supporting role as the extremely ditsy mother).

Another bit of trivia: Alan Mowbray played a school chum of William Powell in the 1936 version of My Man Godfrey (Godfrey was the one mistaken for a butler). Mowbray played a butler who was upstaged by Brian Aherne in the 1938 movie, Merrily We Live. (In this movie, it was Aherne, as E. Wade Rawlins, who was mistaken for a tramp and hired first as a chauffeur, then became a temporary butler).

Anyone who first saw the 1957 version of My Man Godrey will also enjoy the 1936 version. Both were well done, even hilarious at times.

And I recommend Merrily We Live for those who enjoyed My Man Godfrey. The similarities (especially between the 1936 Godfrey and the 1938 Merrily We Live) are unmistakable.

Would absolutely love to have all three movies on DVD.
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the "MORE FUN" version.....
renfield5430 April 1999
This is a re-make of the 1936 classic starring William Powell and Carole Lombard. Those 2 powerhouses practically guarantee a great film. The original has received much critical acclaim. However, the film was "dark" and had a "message" (a political one). I much prefer this lighter romp with David Niven and June Allyson. Niven's at his charming-est and Allyson at her perkiest. They have great chemistry. The flirty interaction of Allyson and Niven, playing the wise Godfrey, make this version very enjoyable. The original may be great art but the re-make is great fun and entertainment.......
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Even Better The Second Time Around.
Emmjewels11 June 2007
I agree with a few of the posters here (Native Texan, Conreb, Gary Renfield), for I also enjoyed the second version much better than the first, because the first one did seem to be a 'darker' much more politically correct version.

While William Powell and Carole Lombard are considered to be excellent actors, David Niven, June Allyson, and Jay Robinson are equally as talented in their 'updated' roles. I find it very sad that movies like these are no longer presented these days, when we seem to need all the laughter we can get these days, a movie such as this would help to lift many a dark spirit.

I can't wait to see it presented on DVD (instead of VHS) like the 1936 version is right now.
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An inspired remake.
NativeTexan18 November 2002
This is an inspired remake and a worthy film on its own merits. David Niven and June Allyson have chemistry galore, and are on top of their comedic games. It should be shown more often, but it is popular right now for purist snobs to turn up their noses at remakes. Well, the original is a masterpiece, and I love it too, but that does not take away from the diamond-like brilliance and sheer FUN of this version.
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Martha Hyer is the reason I sat through this...
asaquon127 July 2003
Martha Hyer is the reason I sat through this movie. Her relationship with David Niven is much more interesting than that of June Allyson-David Niven. Ms. Hyer's acting was also very unstated, and convincing, unlike the Allyson character, which required a lot of over-acting.

As far as remakes go, this movie isn't bad.
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A Remake with Heart!
JLRMovieReviews11 November 2015
In this remake of the original screwball classic, David Niven is "My Man Godfrey," taking William Powell's role. While the extravagantly rich are having a scavenger hunt for animal, mineral and vegetable, sisters June Allyson and Martha Hyer come upon a bum nears the docks. Actually, June does first and in doing so, wins the contest. Long story. But she and her sister argue terribly, both being spoiled by their obscenely rich and doting parents, their mother rather ditsy and their father the most sane one of the bunch, but who recently has begun to have financial worries from bad investments. Is their money being spent faster than it is coming in? Could it be possible? Then, when June takes a liking to Godfrey and their latest manservant quits, she hires him and therefore he is initiated into the family and their antics. Jeff Donnell, an actress who has a man's name, is the cook who also falls under the spell of Godfrey and helps him to get accustomed to the family. This is yet another of Hollywood's remakes of previous films. After all, if it worked once, it may again with a cast of the 1950s. While this is not a laugh-out-loud classic, this film has charm in spades, with David Niven shining in a very modest role, which suits his gentleman disposition. This film also has more heart and deeply felt scenes than its predecessor, as June and David have more feelings for each as the film progresses, culminating in a very fulfilling ending. June is just as zany and fun here, as she is in her usual comedies, and Martha Hyer is a very beautiful actress who gives good support, as does Jesse Royce Landis as their mother. If you see this on TCM, please watch this very warm and charming outing with David Niven as "My Man Godfrey" teaching a lesson to an eccentric family and learning about himself in the process.
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Pretty good remake of an overrated original...
moonspinner5520 February 2009
David Niven stands in for William Powell in this Henry Koster-directed remake of the 1936 predecessor from Gregory La Cava. Screwball having been run into the cinematic ground by 1957, the results are naturally handicapped by a bit of strain. A lucid butler, working in a household full of eccentrics, changes the lives of his employers for the better. Glossy production courtesy Ross Hunter ensures that feuding sisters June Allyson and Martha Hyer look smashing while their bickering; they're lively, though Niven has always been an acquired taste. Stultifying comedy is curiously anachronistic--even for the '50s--though there are some big laughs early on. ** from ****
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Make it 7.5!
JohnHowardReid15 September 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Actually, despite negative reviews, in my opinion, the re-make bears up surprisingly well. In fact, much better than I remembered it. Niven fits easily into a role that was at first retailored for O.W. Fischer, who was signed for the project, but then declined. The script writer was understandably reluctant to change his Fischer script with its puns about Austria and Kangaroos, so Niven is stuck with an Austrian parentage. Miss Allyson is also a little too old to be playing the ingénue, but Jessie Royce Landis (who has the most amusing of the screwball lines) and Martha Hyer are perfectly cast. Henry Koster's direction is reasonably fluid and pacy considering the handicaps – or should we say "advantages" of Cinemascope's extra wide screen – with glossy sets, immaculate photography and oozing production values in true Ross Hunter tradition. Support cast includes Jay Robinson in an amusing lounge lizard role, Robert Keith doing his customary harassed turns, and Zsa Zsa Gabor dispensing glamour as if to the manner born. A comedy of manners that seemed out of date when first made has both mellowed and sharpened with age. But I look forward to viewing the original again!
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A good light comedy
Darla-519 August 1999
If you are looking for something to watch that is a bit silly, but isn't terribly demanding, then this is for you. It is fit for the whole family, which can't be said for many of today's comedies. Something to watch for: Godfrey's tv set. You see it maybe four times. The first few times, the screen is blue and looks fake. Then, just before he turns it on, it has a grey screen. Hmmm.
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June Allyson ruins it
HotToastyRag3 April 2018
For the life of me, I don't understand why June Allyson had a career. If you like June Allyson, you and I have very different tastes and you're better off not taking my advice about movies. For the rest of you sane moviegoers, beware any movie with her in the romantic lead. Her perpetual laryngitis is so grating, it actually makes me want to run out of the room screaming. I lost track of how many times she heaved painful breaths in the middle of her sentences because her voice gave out on her.

My Man Godfrey is a remake of the screwball comedy starring Carole Lombard and William Powell in 1936, so if you didn't like the original-I didn't-you stand little chance of liking the remake-I didn't, either. June Allyson plays a rich, spoiled, immature brat who acts like a five-year-old, pouting and throwing emotional tantrums when she doesn't get her way. She adopts a homeless bum as her "protégé" and hires him as her family's butler. Then, because he's incredibly handsome, genteel, and capable, she gets a crush on him. However, there's absolutely no redeeming quality about her, so why would he return her feelings?

David Niven was an obvious choice to play the classy butler, but for the entire movie it felt like he was "slumming it" with lesser actors, perhaps as a favor to Dick Powell, a co-producer of his television series Four Star Playhouse. David Niven doesn't belong in a June Allyson movie, and he certainly shouldn't be paired up with someone so repellant. It doesn't make any sense, and even though he gives a flawless performance as the wise, caring, charming title character, he isn't enough to save the movie-and neither are his incredible good looks, which are, thankfully, mentioned several times throughout the movie.

The only reason I was even able to sit through this movie was because I was drooling over David Niven in his tuxedo. Even in the first scene when he's homeless, he's unstoppably cute in his sailor's cap. If you aren't in love with The Niv, you probably will turn My Man Godfrey off, and no one will blame you.
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