I was a kid when I acquired these cigarette cards and hadn’t the faintest idea who these people were – or that I would become an actor.
But the other night I saw Carole Lombard starring opposite William Randall (they were once briefly married) in a 1936 movie which used the Depression as lift-off for a cookie story with a message. Called My Man Godfrey it’s about rich folk using a rough sleeper to win a party game. What especially struck me was Carole Lombard’s brilliant, clear and very rapid delivery of her over-the-top dialogue. That’s what made it work, made it funny… Also… how many of the American actors, in those days, sounded remarkably English. (Many of them were English, of course.) Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal was well under way by then and William Randall’s character turns out to be a financial wiz temporarily down on his luck so all ends upbeat, Hollywood style.
Unfortunately for the integrity of the film, a box office decision was made (I can imagine the fights) to finish the movie in the last seconds with a contrived marriage between Powell and Lombard. I expect they were right in terms of the ability to gross out.
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About my new book
I’ve spent 70 years as an actor, writer and director, and Are You Going to do That Little Jump? The Adventure Continues is stuffed full of backstage stories: about the sitcoms I was in – Keep It in the Family, Porridge, Rising Damp, Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads?, Reggie Perrin, and dozens more; about my forays into live theatre – from irksomerep, to risky Fringe, to the spine-tingling RSC and treacherous, seductive Broadway. And it’s right up to date with recent movies – Lost in London and Peterloo.