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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.33:1 Standard
  • English PCM Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • Rare outtakes
  • The complete 1938 broadcast of the Lux Radio Theater adaptation, starring William Powell and Carole Lombard
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • New program featuring jazz and film critic Gary Giddens
  • New interview with critic Nick Pinkerton on director Gregory La Cava
  • Newsreels depicting Great Depression class divides
  • An essay by critic Farran Smith Nehme

My Man Godfrey

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Gregory La Cava
1936 | 93 Minutes | Licensor: Universal Studios Home Entertainment

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #114
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Release Date: September 18, 2018
Review Date: September 18, 2018

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SYNOPSIS

Carole Lombard and William Powell dazzle in this definitive screwball comedy by Gregory La Cava—a potent cocktail of romantic repartee and social critique. Irene (Lombard), an eccentric, wealthy Manhattanite, wins a society-ball scavenger hunt after finding a “forgotten man” (Powell)—an apparent down-and-out drifter—at a dump. She gives him work as the family butler and soon falls head over heels for him. Her attempts to both woo Godfrey and indoctrinate him in the household’s dysfunction make for a string of madcap high jinks that has never been bested. La Cava’s deft film was the first to garner Oscar nominations in all four acting categories, and it is one of Hollywood’s greatest commentaries on class and the social unrest of the Depression era.


PICTURE

Criterion upgrades their previous DVD edition of Gregory La Cava’s My Man Godfrey to Blu-ray, presenting the film in its original aspect ratio of about 1.33:1 on this dual-layer disc. The 1080p/24hz high-definition encode comes from a new 4K restoration of the film and was scanned from the 35mm nitrate original camera negative and a composite safety fine-grain.

This new restoration and final presentation corrects all of the problems that were still present on Criterion’s previous DVD edition (which was scanned from a duplicate negative) but outside of that I was a bit disappointed the more noticeable improvements ended there. Though an older DVD, I was always pretty impressed with what that presentation had to offer. It was as sharp as it probably could be, handled grain well for the format, and was pretty clean, outside some more glaring issues like tram lines and stains. Contrast could seem a bit dark as well, but overall it was fine.

This edition removes those bigger issues with the source and the image is just about free of damage, while contrast also looks much better here. Film grain is certainly cleaner and more natural than what the DVD offered and this new image definitely has a more filmic texture. Outside of the rendering of the grain, though, I can’t say detail has improved much. The image can still have a bit of a haze to it and the fine details rarely pop, but I suspect this comes down more to the elements and/or the original photography.

In the end it looks perfectly fine and it’s definitely better than the DVD, it’s just that the improvements end up not being as significant as I would have anticipated.

8/10

All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

The lossless PCM 1.0 mono track is a little cleaner than what the DVD had to offer but even then the age of the materials still hold it back. It can be a little tinny and flat, and there is still some audible noise. But dialogue is clear and there are no significant instances of damage.

6/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Criterion carries most of the special features over from the old DVD but oddly drops one significant one. They do add two new 18-minute features, though, including a new interview with critic Gary Giddins, who is here to talk about the “La Cava touch.”. For this Giddins goes over the particulars of the screenplay, how it was already breaking expected conventions, and how the film plays out its humour in terms of style and tempo. It’s a decent breakdown of the construction of the film and what makes it work. The other new feature, Effortless Art another fine overview. It features Nick Pinkerton talking about Gregory La Cava and his career, from animation work that would then play into fine tuning his comedic sensibilities in his later live-action work.

Carried over (literally) from the old DVD is a 1938 Lux Radio Theatre adaptation of the film, featuring most of the cast from the film. It runs an hour and as far as radio adaptations go it’s not bad, though is more dependent on dialogue than visual gags obviously. The presentation is exactly the same, presenting pictures of the players and those speaking as it plays out. It even has the old Criterion Collection banner up above. It runs an hour.

Also carried over are a minute’s worth of outtakes. Material like this from the time is always a treat and this one is rather fun as you get to see cast members curse when something doesn’t go exactly the way it should. 4-minutes’ worth of archival newsreel footage is also here, offering a look at both the homeless and the wealthy at the time. The disc then closes with a theatrical trailer and then an insert featuring an essay by Farran Smith Nehme, replacing Diane Jacobs’ essay found in the old edition. It’s a more thorough essay on the film’s production, social commentary, and comedy structure.

Oddly Criterion drops the audio commentary by Bob Gilpin. At first I thought maybe the track was licensed from another party but double checking the disc it was recorded exclusively for that release. I listened to it again and I’m at a loss as to why it was cut. It wasn’t a great track by any means: a bit stiff I guess, with Gilpin obviously reading from notes. But I thought Gilpin did a decent job going over the construction and editing, as well as the offering context to some of the social issues addressed. I am a bit perplexed why it was dropped and it’s actually a real shame because without the release feels a bit slim, even with the two new features.

6/10

CLOSING

Despite a far more natural film-like look, the Blu-ray edition doesn’t offer the significant upgrade I would have expected. The image does look better and corrects all of the DVD’s remaining issues, but detail is still pretty limited, while this edition also drops the audio commentary found on the DVD. I’d almost say just hold onto the old DVD if you already have it.


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