TWENTIETH CENTURY

(1934)
With John Barrymore, Carole Lombard, Walter Connolly, Roscoe Karns, Edgar Kennedy
Directed  by Howard Hawks
Reviewed by JL

     Regarded as the inceptive film of 1930s screwball comedy, Howard Hawks's TWENTIETH CENTURY stars John Barrymore and Carole Lombard as, respectively, a Broadway director and his protégée, both hyperbolic, ego-driven hams.  As he would with BRINGING UP BABY and HIS GIRL FRIDAY, Hawks maintains a relentlessly breakneck pace that never becomes tiresome or overbearing.  Filled with many hilarious moments, it's a film I enjoy a great deal, but I find the performances of the two leads a bit overrated.  Nobody could chew up the scenery like Barrymore, but there are times when his timing is inconsistent and his line readings too self-consciously affected to be effective -- he's trying too hard to be funny, in other words.  Lombard is quite good in her early scenes as a wide-eyed innocent who endures Barrymore's emotional abuse, but once she becomes the confident strong-willed star, she tends to shout her lines whether the situation calls for it or not.  I realize I'm criticizing Barrymore and Lombard for being Barrymore and Lombard, but I prefer both performers in other vehicles.  Despite my reservations, it's a must-see film for all comedy lovers. - JL

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