DVD Talk
Release List Reviews Shop Newsletter Forum DVD Giveaways Blu-Ray Advertise
Reviews & Columns
Reviews
DVD
TV on DVD
Blu-ray
International DVDs
Theatrical
Adult
Video Games

Features
Collector Series DVDs
Easter Egg Database
Interviews
DVD Talk Radio
Feature Articles

Columns
Anime Talk
XCritic.com
DVD Stalk
DVD Savant
High-Def Revolution
Silent DVD

discussion forum
DVD Talk Forum
Resources
DVD Price Search
Customer Service #'s
RCE Info
Links

DVDTalk Info
Review Staff
About DVD Talk
Advertise
Newsletter Subscribe
Join DVD Talk Forum
DVD Talk Feeds


Special Offer

Search: For:
Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Twentieth Century
Twentieth Century
Columbia/Tri-Star // Unrated // February 22, 2005
List Price: $19.94 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by DVD Savant | posted February 22, 2005 | E-mail the Author
Buy from Amazon.com
C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
E - M A I L
this review to a friend
P R I N T
Printer Friendly

Reviewed by Glenn Erickson

Twentieth Century is often identified as the first screwball comedy but it's simply too funny and too original to be pigeonholed that way. Ace writers Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur contribute some wickedly witty dialogue, zingers so effortless we have to believe the authors' newspaper backgrounds were spent among people who actually talked in deadpan one-liners and arcane classical allusions. Viewers who relate John Barrymore only to Grand Hotel will be surprised to see him maintain a ridiculously overplayed theatrical ham without faltering once. As his emotionally spoiled star performer, the beautiful Carole Lombard is almost as manic.

Synopsis:

Pompous and overbearing theatrical genius Oscar Jaffe (John Barrymore) browbeats and coddles inexperienced ex- lingerie model Mildred Plotka (Carole Lombard) into a stage sensation under a more marketable name, Lily Garland. After a string of successes she gets tired of his manipulative jealousy and runs away to Hollywood. Barely a season later, Jaffe's career is in ruins while Lily is a screen sensation. Fleeing creditors in Chicago, Oscar and his close associates Owen O'Malley (Roscoe Karns) and Oliver Webb (Walter Connolly) board a train for New York and collapse in despair - until they realize that Lily is on board as well, in the next stateroom. The trio immediately hatch a plan to hoodwink Lily into signing a new contract.

Howard Hawks had comedy success built in to Twentieth Century, as this three-act play had already had the bugs worked out long before it came time for transformation into a screenplay. Hawks' standard stand-back-and-watch-the-fur-fly approach to comedy is perfectly suited for the farcical story of a manic producer bent on re-signing his meal-ticket star. Hawks' shooting style is less restrained than in his later years. Tossed into the thick of the fray, we soon forget about Hawks' clever but unobtrusive camera work.

Lucille Ball idolized Carole Lombard and often said that she tried to pattern her comedy persona after her. This must have been the vehicle that so impressed Ball, as Lombard spends about two minutes as a quiet ingenue before blooming into a nervous, tempermental wreck of a star. Always one step away from insanity, Barrymore's Jaffe "inspires" a stage scream from Lombard's Garland by jabbing her with a pin. The writers wisely make that pin a treasured keepsake for Garland, as the picture needs an occasional sentimental touch to avoid total cynicism. Jaffe continually tears his hair out, splatters black paint over posters and repeatedly fires his loyal lieutenants O'Malley and Webb, with the laughably pompous pronouncement, "I close the iron door on you."

Luckily, the acerb Roscoe Karns and loveable Walter Connolly do most of the the mid-range farcical exposition-carrying and plot support. They're terrific, perhaps even better than the leads. Stone-drunk Karns is always ready with a snappy, witty wisecrack. Constantly being fired and rehired, Connolly's portly Webb is more likeable. He's dedicated to protecting his boss even when he thinks the man is off his rocker. Webb is also more susceptible to the bizarre characters on the fated train to New York, including one hilarious little madman (Etienne Girardot) who pastes stickers everywhere on the train reading "Repent, the end is near," and writes bogus checks for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Both Karns and Connolly get to mug to their heart's content - they have to, in order to play against the exaggerated Barrymore.

Naturally, it all comes down to a series of con games perpetrated against Lombard's agitated movie star. Lombard would develop a more balanced screwball character later on in delightful pictures like My Man Godfrey. Here she's more of a frantic foil for Barrymore's excess energy. She also looks like she's on the verge of a headache much of the time, whereas her later comedy characters tended to be carefree, loveable ditzes.

Some of the jokes are pretty suggestive, as when Karns sits on a boat-shaped bed, pretends to work invisible oars and asks Lombard if she and Barrymore use the bed for much rowing! Twentieth Century came out just as the production code was coming in so a lot of risqué lingerie and flimsy costumes are also in use. If one isn't laughing, one's bound to be staring.


Columbia's DVD of Twentieth Century is plain-wrap but in good shape. The B&W image doesn't pop but it's solid and well encoded. The constant dialogue is fast, loud and clear. This is one really funny picture.


On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor, Twentieth Century rates:
Movie: Excellent
Video: Very good
Sound: Excellent
Supplements: none
Packaging: Keep case
Reviewed: February 22, 2005



[Savant Main Page][Savant Links] [Article Index] [Review Index] [Savant 5 Year Report]

DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2005 Glenn Erickson

Go BACK to the Savant Main Page.
Popular Reviews
1. Eastbound & Down: Season 4
2. Noah
3. Bob's Burgers: Season 3
4. Rio 2
5. Marty
6. Mystery Science Theater 3000: XXX
7. Ong Bak Trilogy
8. Brannigan
9. Born Yesterday
10. Adventure Time: Princess Day


Special Offers
DVD Blowouts
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
Alien [Blu-ray]
Buy: $19.99 $9.99
8.
9.
10.
Special Offers
Release List Reviews Shop Newsletter Forum DVD Giveaways Blu-Ray Advertise
Copyright 2014 DVDTalk.com All Rights Reserved. Legal Info, Privacy Policy, Terms of Use