In Chapter 9 of Robert Sklar’s A World History of Film, Sklar discusses the emergence of “classic cinema.” The first part of the chapter focuses on the classical era and the genre developments that emerge.
However, what is most interesting in this chapter is the topic of the Production Code and its effects on filmmaking. Sklar delineates the formation of the National League of Decency, the rewritten and reemergence of the Production Code in 1934, the appointment of Joseph Breen and the PCA, and how it influenced the evolution of the depiction of romance. What is particularly relevant is the section on screwball comedy. Sklar suggests that the Production Code shifted the comedy genre away from vulgar, ethnic films which drew inspiration from vaudeville to a new type of romantic comedy. Sklar describes these films as having certain plot and character features, such as quirky families, most usually of the upper-classes. He further describes how it was these pictures that gave the upper-class “lessons in human values.”
My Man Godfrey is described in this chapter. There is a brief plot summary, describing the opening scene at the garbage dump—the people in formal attire taking part in a scavenger hunt and Godfrey pushing one woman into an ash heap. Sklar describes the love affair Godfrey had which led him to poverty. The chapter also highlights the film’s screwball-esque features, such as the quirky family from Fifth Avenue, the rich having an affair with one (Godfrey) from a (supposed) lower class, and the butler as a figure of wit, commonsense, and prudence.
This chapter is a useful and concise source of information for the topics of the Production Code’s history, enforcement, and its effects; screwball comedy and its derivation; and plot and character summaries of My Man Godfrey.
tagged my_man_godfrey production_code screwball by lande ...on 29-NOV-05