“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.
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, comedy, adventure ). 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 )