Twentieth Century

To register a minority opinion, I find this knockdown screwball farce (1934), directed by Howard Hawks four years before Bringing Up Baby, six years before His Girl Friday, and fifteen before I Was a Male War Bride, a great deal funnier than all three. It costars John Barrymore and Carole Lombard at their hyperbolic best as egomaniacal theatrical monsters, a director and a star in a series of duels. The story comes from a play by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur that lampoons theatrical excess as much as The Front Page lampoons journalistic excessa subject that Hawks can view with greater familiarity. The show here belongs almost entirely to the fast-talking stars, mainly having it out on the cross-country train of the title, and the movie is a veritable concerto for their remarkable talents, put across by Hawks with maximal energy and voltage. 91 min. (JR)

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