Twentieth Century, based on the play by Charles Bruce Millholland
This an appreciated film, strangely nominated – this being 1934 – at the Venice Film Festival in the category of Best Foreign Film for…
The Mussolini Cup…
One of the protagonists is Oscar Jaffe, whose life sadly resembles that of the actor portraying him, John Barrymore, “who rose to superstardom and then declined in one of the most famous Hollywood tragedies”.
Oscar Jaffe is a Broadway director that reminds one of the quintessential The Bad and The Beautiful, with the fabulous Kirk Douglas in the title role, where a film director discovers a star and falls in love with her.
Oscar Jaffe has to work on a play with an artist that he does not seem to like, when she speaks he cries that she is yodeling, he is unhappy with everything she does apparently, draws with a chalk the itinerary on the floor…
You get out here- draws the line- stop to talk to him here – you take out your gun- then move there.
When provoked, the young woman, Lily Garland playing Mildred Plotka and both characters portrayed by the excellent, mysterious, soft voiced Carole Lombard, becomes passionate, emboldened, infuriated and the director says:
- You are wonderful, exactly what we need – or words to that effect
The play is a success, the young artist is acclaimed, the director goes to her dressing room, tells the assistant to leave them alone, kneels saying that he regrets his outbursts, admires her talent and the wondrous performance.
She tells him to stand, the actress is happy to hear the praise, probably grateful, understanding the abusive man tried to provoke the optimal reaction, nevertheless hurting her in the process.
The cunning Oscar Jaffe looks at the camera, it seems like he winks, pushes the door closed with his foot, in an age when nudity was not just less prominent than it is today, when there are arguments that it can actually diminish the eroticism of many scenes, it was forbidden, the public can envisage what happens behind the closed doors.
Alas, the triumph of the new star does not reflect well on the relationship, difficult from the start, given the strong personalities, the large egos that might find it impossible to accommodate the achievements of others, especially when the acclaim is bigger.
There are excellent, many amusing lines like:
“Oscar Jaffe: I never thought I should sink so low as to become an actor…indeed, in the past, this fabulous profession was disregarded and despised…
That's the trouble with you, Oscar. With both of us. We're not people, we're lithographs. We don't know anything about love unless it's written and rehearsed. We're only real in between curtains.
Oscar Jaffe: I'm offering you a last chance to become immortal.
Lily Garland, aka Mildred Plotka: Then I've decided to stay mortal with responsible management.”
“Oscar Jaffe: When I love a woman, I'm an Oriental. It never goes. It never dies.
Lily Garland, aka Mildred Plotka: Phooey.
Oscar Jaffe: Love blinded me. That was the trouble between us as producer and artist.
Lily Garland, aka Mildred Plotka: So that's what it was, was it? How about your name in electric lights bigger than everybody's, and your delusion that you were a Shakespeare and a Napoleon and a Grand Lama of Tibet all rolled into one?”
To John Ringling. "I'm in the market for 25 camels, several elephants, and an ibis... Give me the rock-bottom price."
This last statement comes after they meet on the Twentieth Century train a lunatic who signs extravagant checks and gives them around, for the beneficiaries to find they are worthless.
The New York Times’ Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made list has Twentieth Century included at: