TWENTIETH CENTURY is a laugh out loud riot.


I am not really a screwball comedy nerd, per se. Too wild, too frenetic, slow brain, I can’t keep up. But there’s something about “Twentieth Century” that just finally clicked with me. Maybe not with screwball in general…but with this classic in particular. I got into the rhythm of things. The action is non-stop! Those double triple crosses…oh boy. Carole Lombard and John Barrymore were perfect and in total sync as they tried to outdo each other. Let me go to IMDB and see what movies both Lombard and Barrymore had done just before and after this movie.

Lombard’s before and after are: We’re Not Dressing and Now and Forever.
Barrymore’s before and after are: Long Lost Father and Romeo and Juliet.

And from that, gather what you may about how prepared Lombard and Barrymore were to unleash their inner screwball and let it all hang out. Or if they capitalized on the success of this movie

Lombard matched the ‘Great Profeel’ step-for-step: shouting yelling screaming out-acting each other. Insane, egotistical, irreverent one-upsmanship. They’d slice each other’s throat if they could…and then patch each other up to be able to fight again. Pure S & M in the real world and Screwball Comedy in the reel world. I love how Lombard changes the tonal quality of her voice. I love how she snaps from one emotion to another at the drop of a hat with no psychologically sound rhyme or reason.


I love how Barrymore quietly announces he “closes the iron door” on someone. No one is safe between these two megalomaniacs. They gulp the “Kool-Aid” like champagne. Their love/hate, hate/love relationship is at a fever pitch. They really care about each other deep down. What am I saying? Maybe on a sub-atomic level they do, but basically naaaah. They manipulate, use and do whatever they can to be on top. I love it. Okay okay, so they do love each other in their own way. None of this altruistic love thy neighbor stuff Hollywood promotes to appeal to our better nature. The movie gives us anarchy. I love how the movie starts off calm and ends up crazy. And how the movie ending starts off calmly and then ends with Lombard screeching.


Roscoe Karns is great. He doesn’t give a flying ****  about anything. And the only person who pulled my attention away from Lombard and Barrymore was Walter Connolly. He was a comic find for me. Exasperated. Always a piano hanging over his head ready to drop on him. ( Yes I’ve seen him in Libeled Lady and It Happened One Night but I must see more of him. )

Hawks, Lombard and Barrymore

Howard Hawks manages to control this three-ring circus with the greatest of ease! Like Wild Bill Wellman, here’s a man who’s comfortable in many genres ( gangster, drama, Western, comedyadventure ). He could do it all. If you’re ever sad, depressed, upset or just need a plain ol’ silly belly laugh…just hop onto the “Twentieth Century.” I guarantee you it will change your mood completely.

( H O M E )

10 thoughts on “TWENTIETH CENTURY ( 1934 )

  1. You said it, Theresa!
    And you’re right about Howard Hawks. He could make wonderful movies in any genre, but I think it was his comedies that really ring the bell. As much as I like Scarface, Only Angels Have Wings,
    To Have and Have Not, The Big Sleep, and Red River, his movies that I keep going back to are Twentieth Century, Bringing Up Baby, His Girl Friday (Yes, yes, yes!), Ball of Fire, I Was a Male War Bride, and Monkey Business.


    • His dramas are great. Classics. But who doesn’t like to laugh? “Yes yes yes!” to “His Girl Friday”? Hey, I didn’t know you liked it that much. I’ll be writing about that one soon in fact.


  2. This is one of those First-Ever films for me. I’d seen John Barrymore somewhere, perhaps. Was he the one regretting Seminole deaths out on some Florida Key? Was he the one that finally relented to Death up in the tree? No… that was the OTHER Barrymore. THIS film was my first notice of John. And it firmly segregated the two. On rewatchings since, Roscoe Karns and one of those Kennedy guys twinkle thru scenes (boy, if I ever confused the Barrymores, don’t even ask me about those Kennedys).


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