A list of Edgar Wright's favorite 1000 Movies per his list on Mubi on July 27th, 2016.
Oscar Jaffe is a successful Broadway director; Lily Garland, one of his stars. But when she leaves his direction, his success goes with her. When he recognizes her aboard the Twentieth Century Limited, the train that both of them are riding, he tries to get her back for a new show. But accomplishing that feat isn't as simple as he had thought.
Yes, Carole Lombard is pretty funny as well, but Barrymore blows everything away, as the showboating giant he is. Nothing is left when he's done with it, be that support cast, scenery, script or anything else. He tears it all down, and eats the rest.
Napoleon of Broadway is brought to the silver screen with ease, and only the opening scene feels stagey. The rest is a glorious ham-fest of epic, over acted proportions.
That's 0 for 3 for me in my search for true screwballs this week, in the vein of The Awful Truth, His Girl Friday, The Philadelphia Story etc.
I obviously don't know what I'm doing when picking the "right" ones out.
I need help.....
Stage and screen legend John Barrymore was a great many things - not least a lush - but above all he was a ham. Who better, then, to portray Oscar Jaffe, the egomaniacal theatrical impresario who manipulates the lives of all around him as he tries to get back on top, and reclaim the affections of the monster he created: actress Lily Garland (Carole Lombard), the diva to end all divas and the only person who can rival him for histrionics. The film was adapted from a New York hit by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, two writers with an unmatched ability for evoking the world of American theatre at its height ("I'll slit my throat," threatens Jaffe; "If you…
In Twentieth Century, the obvious concern is the reams and reams of dialogue, and the unyielding emotional hostility communicated by that dialogue. Barrymore and Lombard are having a blast diving into one of the most extreme versions of the Director-Actress relationship I’ve seen. But this is a comedy, not The Red Shoes, and Hawks characteristically appropriates this mythic archetype for endless deflation, surrounding the whirlwind relationship with exasperated sidekicks–the abused producers and assistants, the train employees, the relatively sane lover–and rendering ridiculous the idea of drama itself. This is an idea that probably could have originated at the script level, of anchoring the central relationship with people who are reluctantly drawn into the vortex of drama. But Hawks gives…
It says something about the quality of Hawks best films that this amazing film doesnt quite make my top five of his. It seems to combine the approaches of Hawks and the writer Ben Hecht extremely well while also being tailor made for John Barrymore.
It has incredibly funny incidental moments, Barrymore's camel impression, a good 65% of the several thousand lines Roscoe Karns machine guns out, the chalk lines but it's not a whole heartedly funny movie, there is a rich sadness to Barrymore's ham and a genuine bitterness to his relationship with Lombard, a real end of their tether feel to the way Karns and Connolly are tied to the sinking Barrymore. A darkness that isn't there in…
Combining his own signature energy with strokes of Sturges' social awareness, Howard Hawks crafts a portrait of shameless egotism. The two leads portray conceited celebrates; Barrymore as a madcap theatrical producer, and Lombard as his (likely) bi-polar ex-star. The result is a rapid-paced screwball-comedy with aspects of absurdity mixed into into the supporting characters, including an elderly lunatic obsessively spreading religious propaganda around the train (where a majority of the film unfolds).
Barrymore is delightfully over the top as he screeches and scrabbles in hysterics. It's a performance built on relentless exuberance, as the indefatigable Barrymore strives desperately to bring laughter to the screen. In any other film Lombard would've taken the spotlight, but by the time she arrived on…
So. Much. Yelling. I find this kind of continuous hysteria funnier now than on first high school viewing, when it was kind of terrifying, but it's a lot to take. The image that stuck with me from then and which still seems emblematic, is John Barrymore throwing a can of black paint onto a wall out of sheer frustration, watching as it drips down and totally takes over the frame. If you can't make a point quietly, try the visual equivalent of a punch to the jaw.
There's a sonic deadness to the early scenes in the theater, but this comes alive on the train, which allows for continuous ambient chugging. Cf. the sound of planes in transit in Air Force.
"We're not people. We're lithographs."
If it weren't for the fact this quote too perfectly captures the theme of this film, I would've selected one of Jaffe's histrionic monologues as a representative. John Barrymore's outrageous performance is one of those blessed instances where scenery chewing is excusably in character, equally entertaining and repellant. His penchant for highfalutin speeches may make him a domineering force on screen, but the script balances him out with the deadpan wit and sarcasm delivered by Walter Connolly and Roscoe Karns.
What concerns me, though, is Carole Lombard's role in the film. She's maybe a bit too good at playing hysterical. I figure that the film is going for a kind of "You're good for nobody…
Disappointing if only because I hoped for so much.
Barrymore and Lombard were entertaining and the extended scene between the two of them on the train is definitely the highlight, but the movie just didn't seem nearly as funny as other screwball comedies of the era. There's a lot more shouting here than there are laughs.
Also, I was probably needlessly distracted by the fact that so many male characters had names starting with 'O' including two Oscars. Kept on trying to think of other 'O' names, but only managed Orville. Also disappointing.
First impression: too hysterical! But I have a terrible cold and wasn't feeling too well so I couldn't take all that noise, with everybody shouting all the time. (A silent film would have been a better choice, no doubt.) The hammy performances by Barrymore and Lombard may suit their characters, theater people who continue to behave over the top offstage, but I soon grew tired of them (though there are some funny scenes, I have to admit). I just didn't care about what happened to them. I did like the supporting roles by Walter Connolly and Roscoe Karns, solid and reliable as ever. And Barrymore's hair! Might have to rewatch this.
Part of 100 Films I Really Want to See in 2016 (64/100)
The fact that it takes us so long to actually get aboard the 20th Century is frustrating - half a movie of setup means you only really get half a movie. Still, even the setup scenes have a great rhythm to them, and both Lombard and Barrymore are having a lot of fun playing actors acting. You can kind of view this as a movie about Lombard's career - she starts without any clear talents, but once shown the right guidance by a director she gives into her nastier side and is a delight to watch.
Also, weird to hear Barrymore called O.J. throughout this, because, well, you know.
Uno dei capolavori assoluti della commedia statunitense: un impresario teatrale (un immenso John Barrymore) scrittura un'attricetta (l'inarrivabile e immortale Carole Lombard) che diventa ben presto una diva e la sua compagna, la gelosia di lui rovina il rapporto e lei lo lascia per andare a mietere successi a Hollywood mentre lui incappera' in un fiasco dietro l'altro, tutto trovera' una soluzione sul treno che collega Chicago e New York.
Il rapporto arte-vita, l'attore come personaggio che vive di copioni e non di emozioni vere, un fuoco di fila di situazioni e battute straordinario, attori di contorno all'altezza dei due splendidi protagonisti.
Fatevi un favore: correte a vederlo.
The last half hour is pure genius holy shit
Pitched high and broad. Not sure I admire the insistent mugging from all but I definitely like the script.
John Barrymore is FANTASTIC! He offers a great performance. Carole Lombard is doing a fine job too and the supporting cast is good. Fun to watch. Many good laughs.
Just as incredible a screwball comedy as I thought when I saw it as a college sophomore. Well worth a watch for John Barrymore alone, who has some great facial reactions all throughout.
Edgar Wright's 1000 Favorite Movies via MUBI.