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Howard Hawks: The Measure of Man

Tuesday, February 7, 2012
7:00 p.m. Twentieth Century
Howard Hawks (U.S., 1934)

Vault Print!

Fueled by the wit of Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur and the frenetic timing of Hawks, Twentieth Century is a battle of the sexes stripped of the romance: pure screwball, and one of the best. John Barrymore is seemingly unstoppable as a wild-haired Broadway mogul. Carole Lombard meets him farce for farce as his onetime protégée and lover Lilly Garland (née Mildred Plotke), Hoboken Cinderella to his Svengali, bromo to his seltzer, now en route to normality. They meet again, on the Twentieth Century rail line, destined to renew their “little comedy.” The Hawksian parade includes Walter Connolly’s obsequious bookkeeper, Roscoe Karns’s well-lubricated press agent, and that little man who plasters the train with stickers reading “Repent! The time has come,” placing one right on the nose of Mr. Hays Office. Like the chalk lines on Barrymore’s rehearsal stage, this very American tale goes everywhere at once at an amazing clip, and winds up exactly where it began. Welcome to the Twentieth Century.

—Judy Bloch

• Written by Ben Hecht, Charles MacArthur, from their play adapted from Napoleon on Broadway by Charles Bruce Mulholland. Photographed by Joseph August. With John Barrymore, Carole Lombard, Walter Connolly, Roscoe Karns. (91 mins, B&W, 35mm, From Sony Pictures)