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Twentieth Century
Not Rated
91 minutes
Comedy Romance

Howard Hawks' first sound comedy is considered the first bona fide screwball comedy, and one of the greatest. Though there had been romantic comedies before where the leads delivered the punchlines, there had never been anything like this frenzied amalgam of vain, heartless clowns. In what many believe is his finest film performance, John Barrymore takes hamminess into another dimension as the egomaniacal theatre genius Oscar Jaffe (inspired by David Belasco), and in a textbook example of life imitating art, Carole Lombard became a star as Lily Garland (nee Mildred Plotka), the no-talent shopgirl he turns into the Toast of Broadway. With both leads screaming much of the time, and nothing like sanity or real romance anywhere in sight, most people have no trouble recognizing it for the comic masterpiece it is. Walter Connolly and Roscoe Karns are hilarious as Barrymore's beleaguered sidekicks, as are such first-rate character actors as Edgar Kennedy, Etienne Girardot, Charles Lane, Ralph Forbes, Herman Bing, and Fred Kelsey. Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur wrote the script from their play (a rewrite of C.B. Millholland's "Napoleon of Broadway"), and in the '70's, it returned to Broadway as a Tony-winning musical, "On the Twentieth Century." (The title refers to the New York-to-Chicago express train where most of the action takes place.)

John Barrymore
Oscar Jaffe
Carole Lombard
Lily Garland aka Mildred Plotka
Walter Connolly
Oliver Webb
Roscoe Karns
Owen O'Malley
Howard Hawks
Story and Screenplay by Charles MacArthur and Ben Hecht
Country USA
Language English