Twentieth Century (1934)

91 mins | Comedy | 11 May 1934

Full page view
HISTORY

According to HR news items, first Roy Del Ruth and then Lewis Milestone were set to direct this film. HR news items also provide the following information about the production: producer Harry Cohn negotiated with Eugenie Leontovich, who played "Lily Garland" in the Broadway production, to recreate her role for the film, and later tried to obtain Gloria Swanson for the part. (In 1950, Swanson starred in a New York revival of the play.) A 15 Mar 1936 NYT article stated that Miriam Hopkins was also considered for the lead. Columbia considered casting William Frawley as "Owen O'Malley," the part he played in the Broadway production, but instead borrowed Roscoe Karns from Paramount for the role. Although a 16 Nov 1933 HR news item noted that Gregory Ratoff was signed for the role he had enacted on the stage, he was not in the original Broadway production nor the finished film. Etienne Girardot was the only actor to recreate his role in the Broadway production for the film. Other HR news items in late Nov 1933 reported that Preston Sturges had been hired to write the screenplay, but that he was let go a week later after he had "failed to get going" on the script. The studio then began negotiations with Herman Mankiewicz to work on the film, which was to be produced by Felix Young. There is no confirmation that Mankiewicz worked on the script, however, and Sturges' contribution to the completed film is doubtful. A HR news item includes George E. Stone and Edward Edgar in ... More Less

According to HR news items, first Roy Del Ruth and then Lewis Milestone were set to direct this film. HR news items also provide the following information about the production: producer Harry Cohn negotiated with Eugenie Leontovich, who played "Lily Garland" in the Broadway production, to recreate her role for the film, and later tried to obtain Gloria Swanson for the part. (In 1950, Swanson starred in a New York revival of the play.) A 15 Mar 1936 NYT article stated that Miriam Hopkins was also considered for the lead. Columbia considered casting William Frawley as "Owen O'Malley," the part he played in the Broadway production, but instead borrowed Roscoe Karns from Paramount for the role. Although a 16 Nov 1933 HR news item noted that Gregory Ratoff was signed for the role he had enacted on the stage, he was not in the original Broadway production nor the finished film. Etienne Girardot was the only actor to recreate his role in the Broadway production for the film. Other HR news items in late Nov 1933 reported that Preston Sturges had been hired to write the screenplay, but that he was let go a week later after he had "failed to get going" on the script. The studio then began negotiations with Herman Mankiewicz to work on the film, which was to be produced by Felix Young. There is no confirmation that Mankiewicz worked on the script, however, and Sturges' contribution to the completed film is doubtful. A HR news item includes George E. Stone and Edward Edgar in the cast, but their appearance in the finished picture has not been confirmed. Although contemporary and modern sources credit Edward Gargan with the role of the sheriff, it was played by James Burke, who is listed on the CBCS. According to a HR news item, Austin Parker was signed to adapt the play, but his contribution to the completed film has not been confirmed. According to a DV news item, Columbia considered releasing the picture under a different title because they were afraid that too many "westerners" had never heard of the Twentieth Century train.
       According to information in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, the Hays Office felt great concern about "the advisability of using the Passion Play and its characters as the comedy element, as it was used in the original play that ran on Broadway," and repeatedly warned Columbia to tone down the religious angle. In a letter to Cohn, PCA Director Joseph I. Breen stated: "...we still believe there will be serious difficulty in inducing an anti-Semitic public to accept a [motion picture] play produced by an industry believed to be Jewish in which the Passion Play is used for comedy purposes." The Hays Office requested that the studio eliminate the line, "I am der lead" in the interchange between the two beards and "Oscar Jaffe" when they tell him about the Passion Play. After the deletion was made, the PCA was satisfied with the picture, although they did later insist that the scene were "Oscar Jaffe" jabs "Lily Garland" with the pin be modified so that it could not be seen exactly where he jabs her.
       According to modern sources, Gene Fowler contributed to the screenplay and Kalloch designed the gowns. Modern sources also assert that Ina Claire, Tallulah Bankhead, Ruth Chatterton, Constance Bennett, Ann Harding, Kay Francis and Joan Crawford were all considered for the lead by Cohn and director Howard Hawks. According to modern sources, Napoleon on Broadway , written by Charles Bruce Millholland, was not produced, but instead was rewritten by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur and renamed Twentieth Century . On the Twentieth Century , a musical adaptation of the play, opened in New York on 19 Feb 1978 with John Cullum and Madeline Kahn starring. Television presentations of the play included the 7 Oct 1949 Ford Theatre version, directed by Marc Daniels and starring Fredric March and Lili Palmer; a 12 Oct 1953 Broadway Television Theatre production directed by Robert St. Aubrey and starring Fred Clark and Constance Bennett; and the 7 Apr 1956 Ford Star Jubilee production, produced by Arthur Schwartz and starring Orson Welles and Betty Grable. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
12-May-34
---
Daily Variety
14 Feb 34
p. 6.
Daily Variety
22 Feb 34
p. 3.
Daily Variety
24 Mar 34
p. 3.
Daily Variety
13 Apr 34
p. 3.
Daily Variety
18 Apr 34
p. 2.
Film Daily
4 May 34
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Apr 33
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Apr 33
p. 1, 3
Hollywood Reporter
22 Apr 33
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Apr 33
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Oct 33
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Nov 33
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Nov 33
p. 23.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Nov 33
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Jan 34
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Jan 34
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Feb 34
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Feb 34
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Feb 34
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Apr 34
p. 3.
International Photographer
1-Mar-34
---
Motion Picture Daily
4 May 34
p. 10.
Motion Picture Herald
7 Apr 34
p. 68.
Motion Picture Herald
21 Apr 34
p. 35.
New York Times
4 May 34
p. 24.
New York Times
13 May 34
p. 2.
New York Times
15-Mar-36
---
Variety
8 May 34
p. 14.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Howard Hawks Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITERS
Wrt by
PHOTOGRAPHY
Photog
Cam op
Asst cam
Asst cam
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SOUND
Sd eng
PRODUCTION MISC
Still photog
STAND INS
Stand-ins
Stand-ins
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the play Twentieth Century by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur (New York, 29 Dec 1932), as produced by George Abbott and Philip Dunning, and based on the unproduced play Napoleon of Broadway by Charles Bruce Millholland.
DETAILS
Release Date:
11 May 1934
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 3 May 1934
Production Date:
22 February--24 March 1934
Copyright Claimant:
Columbia Pictures Corp.
Copyright Date:
30 April 1934
Copyright Number:
LP4673
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Noiseless Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
91
Length(in feet):
8,189
Length(in reels):
9
Country:
United States
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Tempermental theater impressario Oscar Jaffe changes the name of his newest discovery, former lingerie model Mildred Plotka, to Lily Garland, and begins rehearsing his latest play. Oscar drives Lily hard in rehearsal, bullying her and even stabbing her with a pin to induce her to scream properly. His harsh tactics pay off, however, and Lily is a smash. On her opening night, Oscar humbly bids her farewell, saying that a true star belongs to no man. The insecure Lily falls for his act and begs him to stay with her. Thus begins their professional partnership, which breeds three tremendously successful plays in as many years as well as a tempestuous personal relationship. Lily, driven to distraction by Oscar's egotism and jealous possessiveness, wants to end their relationship, but collapses in tears after a fight in which he fakes a suicide attempt. The next morning, the repentant Oscar swears to her that he trusts her completely, but after she leaves for rehearsal, he calls a detective, Oscar McGonigle, and orders him to put Lily under surveillance, including reading her mail and tapping her phone. Time passes until, one afternoon, Lily does not attend rehearsal. Oliver Webb, Oscar's business manager, reports this to Oscar and tells him that he has asked a friend to trace the interference on Lily's phone line. While Oscar reacts hysterically, a battered and bruised McGonigle rushes in to report that Lily attacked him after discovering the phone tap and that she has taken a train to Hollywood, leaving Oscar and New York for good. Oscar almost suffers a nervous breakdown but recovers and attempts to build ... +


Tempermental theater impressario Oscar Jaffe changes the name of his newest discovery, former lingerie model Mildred Plotka, to Lily Garland, and begins rehearsing his latest play. Oscar drives Lily hard in rehearsal, bullying her and even stabbing her with a pin to induce her to scream properly. His harsh tactics pay off, however, and Lily is a smash. On her opening night, Oscar humbly bids her farewell, saying that a true star belongs to no man. The insecure Lily falls for his act and begs him to stay with her. Thus begins their professional partnership, which breeds three tremendously successful plays in as many years as well as a tempestuous personal relationship. Lily, driven to distraction by Oscar's egotism and jealous possessiveness, wants to end their relationship, but collapses in tears after a fight in which he fakes a suicide attempt. The next morning, the repentant Oscar swears to her that he trusts her completely, but after she leaves for rehearsal, he calls a detective, Oscar McGonigle, and orders him to put Lily under surveillance, including reading her mail and tapping her phone. Time passes until, one afternoon, Lily does not attend rehearsal. Oliver Webb, Oscar's business manager, reports this to Oscar and tells him that he has asked a friend to trace the interference on Lily's phone line. While Oscar reacts hysterically, a battered and bruised McGonigle rushes in to report that Lily attacked him after discovering the phone tap and that she has taken a train to Hollywood, leaving Oscar and New York for good. Oscar almost suffers a nervous breakdown but recovers and attempts to build another unknown actress the way he did Lily. She does not possess Lily's magic, however, and Oscar's productions flop one by one. After a devastating failure in Chicago, Oscar, Oliver and Owen O'Malley, Oscar's press agent, narrowly avoid the sheriff and board the Twentieth Century train bound for New York. Oliver warns Oscar that his creditors are going to take away the Jaffe Theatre. Soon after, Owen discovers that Lily, whose great Hollywood success has turned her into a tempermental eccentric of Oscar's caliber, is on the train with her young boyfriend, George Smith. Owen and Oliver discuss asking Lily to return to Oscar in order to save the theater, and despite Oliver's trepidations, they go to her and hand her a sob story about Oscar's woes. George becomes jealous and throws them out for upsetting Lily, who refuses to work with Oscar again. Oscar is pleased when told later that Lily is on the train but becomes dismayed when he sees George kissing her. While Oscar plots against George, the conductors apprehend Matthew J. Clark, an odd little man who has been placing "Repent Now" stickers on the train and its passengers. The conductors have received a wire from Clark's nephew stating that Clark, while harmless, is a lunatic who writes bad checks. Meanwhile, Oscar meets two European actors who are the stars of the Passion Play, and decides to produce the play in New York with Lily starring as Mary Magdalene. Oliver searches to find a backer for Oscar's Passion Play and comes up with Clark, who agrees to invest his pretended wealth. Meanwhile, Lily asks George to elope, but he rejects her and storms out after Oscar comes in and tells him that he was once Lily's lover. Contented that he has now gotten rid of George, Oscar proceeds to woo Lily by describing the role of Mary Magdalene. She is not taken in by his extravagant musings, however, and tells him that she is going to New York to sign with Max Jacobs, Oscar's former stage manager who is now a successful producer. Lily throws Oscar out, but he becomes optimistic again when Clark presents him with a check for $250,000. Soon after, everyone concerned finds out the truth about Clark, and Lily and Oscar try to outdo each other with their histrionic fits. Later that night, Oscar yet again plays at suicide in front of Oliver and Owen. They leave in disgust but rush back after hearing a gun shot, the result of a struggle between Clark and Oscar for the gun. Oscar receives only a slight flesh wound, but, with Owen and Oliver's help, uses it as a ploy to convince Lily that he is dying. Lily, who truly loves the rascal, agrees to sign Oscar's contract, with which he wishes to be buried. Oscar revives immediately and, at their first rehearsal of their new play, he treats her exactly as he had years earlier. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

TOP SEARCHES

CASABLANCA

During World War II, Casablanca, Morocco is a waiting point for throngs of desperate refugees fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe. Exit visas, which are necessary to leave the country, are at ... >>

CITIZEN KANE

Seventy-year-old newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane dies in his palatial Florida home, Xanadu, after uttering the single word “Rosebud.” While watching a newsreel summarizing the years during which Kane ... >>

REAR WINDOW

Laid up with a broken leg during the height of summer, renowned New York magazine photographer L. B. “Jeff” Jeffries enters his last week of home confinement, bored and ... >>

RAGING BULL

In 1941, at a boxing match in Cleveland, Ohio, pandemonium breaks out when Jake La Motta, an up-and-coming young boxer, loses a decision to Jimmy Reeves, suffering his first ... >>

CITY LIGHTS

At an outdoor dedication ceremony, a tramp is discovered sleeping in the arms of a statue as it is being unveiled before a crowd. He is chased into ... >>

The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.