A flamboyant Broadway impresario who has fallen on hard times tries to get his former lover, now a Hollywood diva, to return and resurrect his failing career.

Director:

Howard Hawks

Writers:

Charles Bruce Millholland (play), Ben Hecht (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
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1 win & 1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
John Barrymore ... Oscar Jaffe
Carole Lombard ... Lily Garland formerly Mildred Plotka
Walter Connolly ... Oliver Webb
Roscoe Karns ... Owen O'Malley
Ralph Forbes ... George Smith
Charles Lane ... Max Jacobs (as Charles Levison)
Etienne Girardot ... Matthew J. Clark
Dale Fuller ... Sadie
Edgar Kennedy ... Oscar McGonigle
Billie Seward ... Anita
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Storyline

Broadway director Oscar Jaffe (John Barrymore) is a bigger ham than most actors, but through sheer drive and talent he is able to build a successful career. When one of his discoveries, Lily Garland (Carole Lombard), rises to stardom and heeds the call of Hollywood, Oscar begins a career slide. He hits the skids and seems on his way out, until he chances to meet Lily again, on a train ride aboard the Twentieth Century Limited. Oscar pulls out all the stops to re-sign his former star, but it's a battle - because Lily, who is as temperamental as Oscar is, wants nothing to do with her former mentor. Written by Dan Navarro <daneldorado@yahoo.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

"I've never done anything I like as well as this role! It's immense! A role that comes once in an actor's lifetime." says John Barrymore! (Print Ad-Troy Times, ((Troy, NY)) 26 June 1934) See more »

Genres:

Comedy | Romance

Certificate:

See all certifications »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

While chafing under Oscar's attempts to control her, Lily protests, "I'm not Trilby!" Trilby is the heroine of the eponymous George L. Du Maurier novel about an ingenuous singer who falls under the sway of hypnotic and controlling manger named Svengali. In Svengali (1931), John Barrymore had actually played Svengali. See more »

Goofs

One of the movie magazines seen in a Chicago diner is from February 1934 and on the train that same night Oliver reads a magazine from March 1934, but the dates on the checks Mr. Clark writes on the train are in November 1933. See more »

Quotes

Lily Garland, aka Mildred Plotka: I wanted to be an actress, but I won't crawl on my stomach for any man! You - you find somebody else.
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Connections

Spoofs Coquette (1929) See more »

Soundtracks

Happy Days Are Here Again
(1929) (uncredited)
Music by Milton Ager
Lyrics by Jack Yellen
Sung a cappella by Walter Connolly
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User Reviews

 
Don't Close The Iron Door On This Classic
17 August 2003 | by Ron OliverSee all my reviews

Down but not quite out, a megalomaniacal theatrical producer schemes to get his former star & lover back under contract during a wild ride on the TWENTIETH CENTURY Limited racing from Chicago to New York City.

Directed by Howard Hawks from an inspired script by Ben Hecht & Charles MacArthur, this is one of the seminal screwball comedies which would set the high-water mark for years to come - zany characters, living at a frenetic pace, throwing outrageous lines at each other. While the situations are completely unrealistic it makes no matter. Films like this were calculated to lift Depression audiences out of their troubles for an hour or so; today, we long for them to work that old magic again.

In a large & spirited cast there is one eminence, one name above the title, one peak ascending over the smaller hills. John Barrymore, a lifetime of theatrical history and private dissolution etched on his remarkable face, is a grade A ham as the unspeakable Oscar Jaffe, willing to break any convention, law or dogma to get what he wants. Cajoling, pleading, threatening, cooing like a dove, screeching like a banshee, Barrymore is utterly mad, unspeakably obnoxious & thoroughly delightful. He doesn't just dominate the film, he overwhelms it like a thick wave of brimstone & honey. Watching him infuriate his players by chalking their movements on the floor, disguise himself as an elderly Southern gentleman in order to sneak aboard the train, or arranging his own fake death scene to serve his egotistical ends, is to watch a master of the acting art play a comedic role worthy of him.

Carole Lombard is lovely, but completely overshadowed by Barrymore. Her character, while that of a great star, is pitched at a more normal tilt and exists to react to his enormities. While she's wonderful to watch, it's impossible to forget to whom the film really belongs.

The rest of the cast is first rate. Barrymore's two faithful factotums are played by dyspeptic Walter Connolly and sardonic, boozy Roscoe Karns, both of whom have learned to deal with The Master's dictums in different ways. Hatchet-faced Charles Lane plays a director who becomes Barrymore's theatrical blood rival. Edgar Kennedy burnishes his few scenes as a private eye who's no match for an enraged Lombard. Handsome Englishman Ralph Forbes plays against type as a spoiled society boy who thinks he's in love with Lombard. And for sheer looniness there's chittering little Etienne Girardot, playing a benignly mad gentleman wandering about the train plastering large REPENT stickers on every available surface.

Movie mavens will recognize Herman Bing & Lee Kohlmar as the uncredited & hilarious Passion Players from Oberammergau.


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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | German

Release Date:

11 May 1934 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

20th Century See more »

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Box Office

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$9,800
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Company Credits

Production Co:

Columbia Pictures See more »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Noiseless Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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