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Merrily We Live is a comedy film directed by Norman Z. McLeod. It stars Constance Bennett and Brian Aherne and features Ann Dvorak, Bonita Granville, Billie Burke, Tom Brown, Alan Mowbray, Clarence Kolb and Patsy Kelly. The film was produced by Hal Roach for Hal Roach Studios, and was released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. The screenplay is by Eddie Moran and Jack Jevne.

The film is considered to have set the standard for later family comedy films and TV sitcoms. A number of critics have erroneously claimed that the film is based on the 1936 film My Man Godfrey when in fact it is a reworking of the 1930 movie What A Man, based on the 1924 novel The Dark Chapter; a Comedy of Class Distinctions by E. J. Rath and the 1926 Broadwaymarker adaptation They All Want Something by Courtenay Savage.

Merrily We Live was extremely successful and garnered five Academy Award nominations.


Butler Grosvenor (Alan Mowbray) discovers that the family silver has been stolen by the latest tramp Emily Kilbourne (Billie Burke) had taken under her wing as the chauffeur, in her latest attempt to reform fallen and destitute men, much to the exasperation of the rest of the family. A distressed Emily swears off taking in any more tramps to the delight of the rest of the family. However, later in the morning, a new dusty tramp Wade Rawlins (Brian Aherne) appears at the doorstep and is immediately adopted by Emily Kilbourne, despite the rude efforts of Grosvenor and Emily's daughters Geraldine "Jerry" (Constance Bennett) and Marian (Bonita Granville). Further attempts to convince Mrs. Kilborne to get rid of this latest tramp are blissfully ignored.

The tramp, Rawlins, appointed as the new replacement chauffeur is set up in the servant's quarters. He is overheard talking to himself while cleaning up by the butler and suspected to be crazy. Jerry and Marian see the spruced up tramp looking the perfect gentleman and have second thoughts when their father, Henry Kilbourne (Clarence Kolb), who has returned from work tells Emily that he is putting his foot down and getting rid of the tramp the next day.

A comedy of errors, nighttime interludes with drunken family behavior, an arrogant boyfriend making a move, following the rescue of the damsel in distress some delightful flirting ensues, resulting in Jerry falling in love with Wade. The next day through a contrived prank by Marian, the new chauffeur and now footman is accidentally invited to an important dinner party for Senator Harlan, who takes quite a liking to him, as does his daughter Minerva (Ann Dvorak). The next morning, the family finds Wade occupying the guest room. It is impossible to throw him out, as it is discovered that he is now a confidante of Senator Harlan and his daughter's target of affection. Jerry is consumed with jealousy, as she sees Minerva flirting with Wade at golf later that morning. After a fudge-making spat with Jerry, Wade takes the rest of the day off to settle his affairs and he is nowhere to be found late in the evening when everyone has gone to bed.

The next morning, a newspaper reports his death from a car crash, much to the shock and dismay of the family, the cook and the maid. After an epidemic of fainting seeing ghosts and pratfalls, Wade reappears, very much alive, to Jerry's immense relief.



Merrily We Live was in production from October 27, 1937 to January 10, 1938. Some location filming took place at Arrowhead Hot Spring and Big Bear Lakemarker in the San Bernadino Mountains of southern California..

Titles that were considered for the film included "Take It Easy," "Love Without Reason" and "Dark Chapter", which is the title of the E.J. Rath book the film is in part based on – although neither Rath's novel nor Courtenay Savage's play are credited.

Noted Broadway columnist Ed Sullivan provided additional dialogue for the film, his first assignment for Hal Roach Studios.

Awards and honors

Merrily We Live received five Academy Award nominations in total: Supporting Actress, Sound, Song, Art Direction and Cinematography. Billie Burke's nomination was the only Best Actress Oscar nomination of her career.


On March 3, 1938, parts of Merrily We Live were recreated for the radio on MGM's Good News Radio program, featuring the stars of the film.


  1. , "a blatant copy of My Man Godfrey"
  2. IMDB Business
  3. TCM Notes
  4. IMDB Filming locations

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