Here we are at the top of the Internet Archive Top 100 with a comedy that has social consciousness and a heart. William Powell and real-life ex-wife Carole Lombard both received Oscar nominations for My Man Godfrey, which was nominated for six Academy Awards in all. It starts when Lombard brings back homeless Powell as part of a charity scavenger hunt. When her family hires him as a butler, we all learn that he is more complicated than he seems.
Leonard Maltin gave the film a perfect 4 stars, calling it a delightful romp and a classic screwball comedy. In 1999, My Man Godfrey was deemed “culturally significant” by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry. In 2006, Premiere magazine voted it one of “The 50 Greatest Comedies Of All Time”. For many years, it was on the IMDb Top 250 list, and it still ranks as the best in the Archive’s Feature Films collection.
There are fast-paced comedies, and then there’s His Girl Friday, where Cary Grant, Rosalind Russell and the rest of the cast ad-lib over each other to get a word in edgewise. The film is based on the play The Front Page, in which a newspaper editor tries to keep his star reporter from defecting with one last great story. The switch here is that the role of the reporter was changed to a woman, the editor’s ex-wife.
An IMDb poster said that director Howard Hawks thought of the gender switch at a dinner party where a woman spoke the dialogue from The Front Page. Wikipedia says it occurred during casting after Hawks’ secretary read the reporter’s lines. However it happened, the added level of conflict turned a good play into a great film. The American Film Institute’s 100 Years…100 Laughs ranked this as the 19th funniest movie of the century, and it fits well as the second-highest ranked movie in the Internet Archive Top 100.
The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp is the story of a British officer who rises through the ranks, but it touches on much more. Shown in flashback, we see Clive “Sugar” Candy change from a dashing young man to a retired brigadier general and wrestle with the conflicting ideas of British fair play and the ruthless tactics of modern warfare.
According to the directors, the idea for the film came from a scene cut from their previous film, One of Our Aircraft Is Missing (IA #27), in which an elderly member of the crew tells a younger one, “You don’t know what it’s like to be old.” Due to the British government’s disapproval of the film, it was not released in the United States until 1945 and in a modified form, reduced to 150 minutes, then later to 90 minutes for television. We’re fortunate to have the original 163-minute version available in the Internet Archive Top 100.
There are so many accolades for this version of Charles Dickens’ novel. Leonard Maltin gave it a perfect 4 stars and called it “One of the greatest films ever made”. In 1999, the British Film Institute listed it fifth in the Top 100 British films of the 20th century. It was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar and won for Best Cinematography and Art Direction, probably for the signature opening graveyard scene.
David Lean was inspired to direct Great Expectations after watching a stage version in 1939. (Alec Guinness played Herbert Pocket in the play, and Lean cast him in his first speaking role.) This classic story of a poor young orphan who becomes a gentleman thanks to a mysterious benefactor is a fine choice for the top tier of the Internet Archive Top 100.
Life with Father is a gentle comedy based on a long-running Broadway play which was based on a semi-autobiographical novel about growing up in 1880s New York City. William Powell stars as the stockbroker patriarch who tries to run his household with the efficiency of his office. It was directed by Michael Curtiz, who had directed Casablanca five years earlier, with his customary perfect timing and dry wit.
Leonard Maltin gave the movie a perfect 4 stars, calling it “utterly delightful”. Powell was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar, and it’s nice to see him perform a different character than his typical suave modern man of the world. Look for a very young Elizabeth Taylor as the young girl who flummoxes the author’s character. Take my word for it, along with that of over 3,000 IMDb voters, that this film belongs in the top ten of the Internet Archive Top 100.