Saturday, November 29, 2008

Twentieth Century Columbia

Tomorrow morning's movie to watch out for is Twentieth Century, airing at 10:00 AM ET on TCM. The title has nothing to do with the movie studio of that name, but the train.

Carole Lombard stars as a struggling actress who is turned into a star on Broadway by her producer, John Barrymore. However, he turns out to be so overbearing that she runs off to Hollywood to make a career for herself in the movies. Barrymore is reduced to struggling to find backing for his Broadway endeavors -- until the day he finds that Lombard is on the same train he is. It goes without saying that he wants her back, and will stop at nothing to get her back, despite the fact that she's let him know in no uncertain terms that she hates him.

Howard Hawks directed this nifty little comedy, and it has his fingerprints all over it. As in better-known movies like Bringing Up Baby or His Girl Friday, Hawks uses rapid-fire dialog, with the characters almost talking over each other. There is also the requisite cast of oddball supporting characters, which in this case means Barrymore's two assistants, played by Walter Connolly and Roscoe Karns. Both of them were Columbia Pictures regulars, having appeared the same year as Twentieth Century (1934) in It Happened One Night (Connolly as Claudette Colbert's father; Karns as annoying bus passenger Mr. Shapely). Watch also for an oddball who insists on putting put stickers with a religious them on every surface he can find.

Twentieth Century is also the movie that really made Lombard a star, showing the world how adept she was at comedy. Indeed, John Barrymore was exceedingly impressed with her work and let her know just how highly he thought of her performance in this movie. I'm not the biggest fan of John Barrymore, personally preferring Lionel, but John is fine here. If anything, the overbearing producer is the right sort of type for him to be playing -- by this stage of his career he was quite the alcoholic, and was well on his way to becoming a parody of himself.

Twentieth Century is available on DVD, should you miss tomorrow's showing on TCM.

No comments: