UCLA's Film and Television Archive's first Festival of Preservation opens Saturday in Melnitz Theater with a pair of 1936 gems, Gregory LaCava's screwball classic "My Man Godfrey" and Rouben Mamoulian's lesser-known "The Gay Desperado."
In the first, Fifth Avenue socialite Carole Lombard finds her new butler William Powell in a homeless encampment, a '30s Hooverville. Elegant even unshaven and in rags, Powell observes that the only difference between a man and a derelict is a job. With a timeless and surprising underlying seriousness, the film sparkles with the beautiful Lombard's often-imitated, never-equaled madcap charm. Charles D. Hall designed the lavish echt -'30s white-on-white sets, and Travis Banton's smashing costumes for Lombard could all be worn today.
One of Mamoulian's rare comedies, "The Gay Desperado" mixes a music-loving Mexican bandit (played with panache by Leo Carrillo) who's eager to emulate the gangsters he sees in American movies, a singing caballero (opera star Nino Martini, who cut a far more romantic figure than Lawrence Tibbett) and a spunky eloping would-be bride (a very young Ida Lupino) for much light-hearted fun. Cinematographer Lucien Andriot's stunning black-and-white compositions have been restored to their original razor-sharp definition.