By Stacia Woycheck, OGT Blog Squad Volunteer
Start the year off right at the first Monday Matinee of 2019, Twentieth Century, on Monday, January 6th. The 1934 film stars John Barrymore as Oscar Jaffe—an overbearing, down on his luck director—and Carole Lombard, as Mildred Plotka turned Lily Garland—Jaffe’s protege who strikes it rich as an actress. The two embark on a comedic trip filled with fast paced witty banter on the express train from Chicago to New York, the 20th Century.
The film was directed by Howard Hawks, a screenwriter, director and producer who found success in a wide range of film genres. He became known for the “Hawksian Woman,” characters that portray women as dominant, strong and assertive. A progressive shift from the woman as an ornament and clear nod to the budding of feminism.
The 1934 film is considered to have been released “pre-code,” a reference to the Hays Code—the motion picture industry censorship codes. While the code was adopted in 1930, it was enforced loosely. Pre-code films allowed for some sexual innuendo, promiscuity, infidelity and other lifestyles and constructs considered to be risque. The film has several obvious scenes that support the pre-code designation showing Carole Lombard in revealing lingerie, while another scene shows the volatile Jaffe lashing out, calling a character an ass.
Barrymore delivers a perfectly histrionic comedic portrayal of Oscar Jaffe, a controlling, slightly obsessive, zany Broadway director. At the time of filming, Carole Lombard had spent a decade making films, but this film marked a turning point in the 22-year-old’s career. Her performance was spot-on in her first comedy and her roles in this genre continued to make her a Hollywood star. She and Barrymore demonstrated an infectious chemistry in their scenes on their adventurous journey from Chicago to New York. The banter is the perfect screwball sketch with fast-paced, witty verbal sparring. Lombard’s character evolves from Jaffe’s manipulated, fledgling protege into a fierce-tongued, confident opponent who he desperately needs to keep his fledgling career afloat.
Give yourself a new year’s treat at the January Monday Matinee, Twentieth Century. It will not disappoint!
Stacia’s love of old movies began as a child, when her mother would take her to the matinee to see classics like Casablanca, Gone With the Wind, and The African Queen. She fast became a Humphrey Bogart and Old Hollywood fan. Her favorite class as an undergraduate student was Film Appreciation. She loves the charm of the Old Greenbelt Theater and volunteers to spread the word. She loves to spend time with her husband, play with her dog, and travel (when she isn’t traveling, she is planning her next trip).