Movie Details

Flamboyant, egomaniacal theatrical impresario Oscar Jaffe (John Barrymore) transforms chorus girl Mildred Plotka (Carole Lombard) into leading lady Lily Garland, the toast of Broadway. Once she's ascended to stardom, Mildred/Lily cannot abide Jaffe's obsessive control of her life and career. When he hires a private detective (Edgar Kennedy) to keep tabs on her, it's the last straw. Lily whisks herself off to Hollywood, where she quickly becomes a top movie star. Months pass: without his "creation" to star in his productions, Jaffe goes bankrupt. With his faithful stooges O'Malley (Roscoe Karns) and Webb (Walter Connolly) in tow, Jaffe boards the Twentieth Century Limited, one step ahead of his creditors. By an incredible coincidence, Lily is also on the Twentieth Century, accompanied by her stuffy fiance George Smith (Ralph Forbes). With near-maniacal glee, Jaffe undertakes the herculean task of signing Lily to star in his upcoming spectacular staging of "The Passion Play". Now the laughs, which have been erupting at safe intervals for the past 45 minutes, really begin to cascade, with Oscar, Lily, and a wide variety of eccentrics chasing each other around the Twentieth Century as it speeds its way from Chicago to New York. Based on the Broadway play by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, Twentieth Century is "screwball comedy" at its screwiest. Director Howard Hawks once claimed that he was the first to treat his romantic leads like comedians: whether he was or not, it is true than Barrymore and Lombard deliver two of the funniest performances of the 1930s. Nearly 50 years after the release of Twentieth Century, the property was revived as a Broadway musical, On the 20th Century, starring Kevin Kline and Madeline Kahn. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi