Movie Mirrors Index

Twentieth Century

(1934 b 91')

En: 7 Ed: 7

Based on Charles Millholland's play, a director makes an actress, becomes jealous, loses her, and tries to get her back to save his career.

At a play rehearsal Oscar Jaffe (John Barrymore) tells the company he loves the theater. Max Jacobs (Charles Lane) and Oliver Webb (Walter Connolly) tell Oscar that Mildred Plotka (Carole Lombard) is no good; but Oscar has named her Lily Garland and throws Oliver out. Oscar directs Lily and keeps Oliver on. Lily gets upset and quits; but Oscar sees her talent and jabs her with a hat-pin to get her to scream. Her debut is a success, and Oscar apologizes to her.

In her third play Lily complains that Oscar is tyrannical when he won't let her go out. She slaps him, but they make up. Oscar promises not to be jealous, but he hires the detective McGonigle (Edgar Kennedy), who tells him she left for Hollywood when she learned her phone was tapped. Oscar paints over her name and replaces her; but his next four plays flop.

In Chicago Oscar uses a disguise to elude the sheriff and board the 20th-century train. Oliver tells him they owe $74,000, and only Jacobs can save them. Lily boards the train with George Smith (Ralph Forbes) and tells Sadie to find her a bed. Oliver and Owen O'Malley (Roscoe Karns) hope that Oscar and Lily will get together again. Oliver tells Lily that Oscar will lose his theater and says he made her. Owen tells Lily that Oscar is on the train, and Oscar sees her kissing George. Oscar tells Oliver to draw up a contract, and he meets two bearded passion players. Lily asks George to elope. Oscar puts his arm in a sling and walks in on Lily and George. Lily hysterically tells George that she hates Oscar; George calls her a fake and walks out. Oscar returns and praises Lily. She says they play scenes and don't know real love. Oscar asks her to play Magdalene in his passion play, and he describes a desert scene. Lily laughs and says she is working for Jacobs. Oscar says she will end up in burlesque.

Meanwhile the lunatic Matthew Clark (Etienne Girardot) has been plastering "Repent" stickers all around, and he writes a phony check to Oscar for $200,000; but Oliver, Oscar, and Lily learn he is crazy. Jacobs comes in and tells Lily he has a new play. Oscar plays a suicide scene for Oliver and Owen; but they leave and then hear a shot. Oscar says that Clark shot him; but a doctor says he is all right. Oscar plays a dying scene to get Lily to sign the contract; she cries and signs. Jacobs comes in; but a revived Oscar says he's too late. In the final scene Oscar speaks to the company and directs Lily as he did at first.

Millholland's play Napoleon on Broadway was drawn from his experience of working with David Belasco. This story satirizes the dictatorial power of a strong director, who is nonetheless dependent on the talent of a star.

Copyright © 2000 by Sanderson Beck

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