Twentieth Century (1934)

B+ SDG Original source: National Catholic Register

Often credited as the first screwball comedy, Howard Hawks’s Twentieth Century is an acerbic satire of show-business ego and superficiality starring John Barrymore and Carole Lombard.

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Directed by Howard Hawkes. John Barrymore, Carole Lombard, Walter Connolly, Roscoe Karns, Ralph Forbes. Columbia.

Artistic/Entertainment Value

Moral/Spiritual Value


Age Appropriateness

Teens & Up

MPAA Rating


Caveat Spectator

Sexual situations and innuendo; a comic depiction of religious eccentricity.

Though the director went on to make other better-known screwball comedies, including Bringing Up Baby and His Girl Friday, Twentieth Century is possibly the most breathlessly funny of the three, if also the most cynical and subversive.

Barrymore plays Oscar Jaffe, an egomaniacal Broadway impresario who regards the drama of his own life as the greatest story of all. Much given to firing his put-upon underlings, Jaffe is so completely in his own world that when he decides to begin grooming a shop girl for Broadway glory, he expects her to answer to the stage name he’s settled on even before telling her what it is.

But when his plans succeed too well and his protégé abandons him for Hollywood, Jaffe is desperate to do whatever is necessary to win her back. The main action takes place on the titular cross-country train, and steams ahead at the same pitiless speed.

Comedy, Screwball Comedy