Some consider this to be John Barrymore's greatest performance on film (a hammy performance, but remember, it is a comedy). After many years on stage and silent films, Barrymore makes this film (sometimes as a character degrading the superficiality of films compared to live theatre). It is one of the earliest of the category known as screwball comedy. In it, he gets the opportunity to play a theatre director that degrades Hollywood filmdom as an industry that is superficial compared to live theatre (wink, wink?!?). In the film, he attempts to return one of Hollywood's greatest actresses (played by Carole Lombard herself was one of Hollywood's greatest actresses) to play in what he hopes will be the best theatre play of his career. "Twentieth Century" is often considered to be the second or third screwball comedy and it followed "It happened One Night" which Lombard had to reject because of scheduling difficulties. Screwball films were popular because they delivered a little happiness to the masses during the "Great Depression."
A Svengali-like Broadway director makes a star out of a mousy lingerie model, but his obsessive attentions prove to be too much for the young naif and she flees to the bright lights of Hollywood. A few years later she is a matinee idol and his career is drying up...now his only hope for success lies in convincing her to star in his latest production, an overly ambitious take on the Passion of Christ. But there is one hurdle to overcome, the former ingenue-turned-movie star wants nothing to do with her old mentor and a chance encounter between the two on an eastbound express train leads to some emotional fireworks. Loud and crass, this screwball comedy lampooning artistic egos proved to be a bit too flakey for my tastes. Lombard and Barrymore are a study in overacting while a cast of wise-cracking palookas and assorted eccentrics provide a colourful, if ineffectual backdrop. Some of the original play's satirical jabs come through unscathed but the all-too-obvious ironies are not very funny while the constant emoting soon gets on your nerves.
HILARIOUS! Very witty and funny movie. A MUST see!!
One of the few films I've EVER seen that made me and a male friend both convulse with laughter! I mean really laugh hard. I never knew John Barrymore could be so funny and it made me a fan for life. Catch him also in "Dinner at Eight" where he plays a completely believable tragic aging actor---perhaps too close to reality at that stage of his career. One of the best dramatic performances I ever saw. He could do both comedy and tragedy equally well.
Very funny film, one of Barrymore's great ham roles! A must for John Barrymore buffs!
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