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Twentieth Century (1934) Carole Lombard Day 1 of 5

“The diamond was there. I merely supplied a little polish.”

So says John Barrymore to Carole Lombard in this riot of a comedy from writers Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur with the legendary Howard Hawks directing.

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Barrymore plays it over the top as a famed broadway producer, writer and director who puts Carole on the road to fame as his newest discovery. She’s indebted to him and with a little coercion from John the two embark on an intense relationship. It isn’t long before Carole has had enough of John’s spying on her and lame attempts at suicide should she desert him. She’s off to Hollywood!

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From here Barrymore hits rock bottom and his latest discovery is a failure sending him into bankruptcy with creditors watching his every move. In a wonderful scene at a train station in disguise he eludes his creditors and leaves town. It’s while on board the train that this farcical comedy delivers the goods. By chance Lombard is aboard and Barrymore begins plotting how to get his star discovery and lover back under his thumb.

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From here it’s all classic screwball comedy with the entire cast chipping in. Walter Connolly and Roscoe Karns  do their part as Barrymore’s faithful employees and then there is Etienne Girardot as a rather harmless madman causing havoc to all on the train with his penchant for placing stickers wherever possible.

Barrymore is absolutely hilarious here with his hamming it up. The eyes blaze, the mop of hair is disheveled and flopping. He rolls the r’s to great effect and his “ting-a-ling a-ling a-ling” can’t help but bring a smile to the viewer.

Doing her best to match the Great Profile is Miss Lombard. She gives as good as she gets and the scene they share in her room aboard the train is the films highlight. It’s also a very physical comedy at times with Carole standing up to Barrymore’s shenanigans feet first.

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As a pre code comedy there are a couple of scenes that wouldn’t have been played quite the same that stand out. One is of Carole dressed in an open housecoat in bra and panties and the other is a scene on board the train where it’s quite obvious she isn’t wearing a brassiere at all. Within the year that just wouldn’t be acceptable where the Hays Code is concerned.

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Our two leads would reunite for another comedy along with Fred MacMurray in 1937’s True Confession. By this time Barrymore’s billing would slip from first to third as his career was sadly slipping away due to self abuse.

This was my first viewing of this Hawks classic and it’s quite obvious that it will require multiple viewings to catch all the gems that this script presents.

Lines like Barrymore uttering, “I never thought I should sink so low as to become an actor. It’s humiliating.” Classic!

6 Comments »

  1. Oh, I am a huge fan of John Barrymore! And Joan Crawford and Clark Gable. And the rest of Golden Age generation for that matter!

    You definitely inspired me for my following Friday movie night. Bag of popcorn, soda & few friends beside me, we will make classical Hollywood alive again.!

    This is going to be a very nice change against the modern Hollywood movies from these days, is it not? I gave up cinema this summer, there are being literally no movie released I wish to see on a big screen…. The tickets are so overpriced and movies are too lame for my taste…. Old Hollywood, that is something different, Would not say no to Gone with the Wind in matinee.

    I have recently read an article about how cinemas are dying “Hollywood Future“…which is really sad, but true. Without original ideas in the movies, who will be the audience?

    • Thanks for dropping in and glad that I have inspired you to go back and watch a classic although i get the feeling you’re no stranger to the glory days of tinseltown. I was just talking yesterday to someone about cinemas dying out. It’s all superheroes at the big complexes. It’s all event movies or nothing it seems. Evolution I guess. It’s Lombard week so check back.

  2. Can’t wait to read the rest of your Lombard posts. I must admit, I’ve recently re-discovered how much I love her. This film in particular is a gem, an oft-overlooked Hawks screwball. I love Lombard’s costumes too, sometimes I forget how ‘daring’ pre-cod could be!

  3. absolutely an essential comedy, Hawks was a good director for a lady like Lombard who was one of the guys, and as you note that makes for great interplay with Barrymore as the world class drama queen.

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