Take 3: Twentieth Century Review

Originally, I was going to write a double feature for The Sixth Annual Barrymore Trilogy Blogathon by reviewing Twentieth Century and Young at Heart. However, due to technical difficulties on my end, I was only able to find the time to publish one review. Because I’ve written about five of Frank Sinatra’s movies this year, I chose to take a break by selecting Twentieth Century. Back in January, I watched and reviewed In Name Only for The Carole Lombard Memorial Blogathon. At the time, it was my first time seeing any film from Carole’s filmography. Despite this, I ended up liking the film! As I have mentioned before, I try to feature movies on my blog that were recommended by visitors and followers of 18 Cinema Lane. Twentieth Century was suggested by Patricia from Caftan Woman and Vincent from Carole & Co.

Twentieth Century poster created by Columbia Pictures.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: In my review of In Name Only, I praised Carole’s portrayal of Julie Eden, as her on-screen personality was down-to-earth and her overall performance contained the right amount of emotion. Carole portrays Lily in Twentieth Century, a character who is very different from Julie in In Name Only. This is because Lily experiences frustration on several occasions. One example is when Lily is forced to stay late at rehearsal because Oscar wants her to scream. Lily’s emotions spill over, causing her to yell and burst into tears because of her pent-up frustration. These emotions were able to be felt through the screen because of how good Carole Lombard’s talents were in this film! Speaking of Oscar, I liked watching John Barrymore’s performance in Twentieth Century! It showed a transition from a theater director who seemed to have his heart in the right place to a man who let power and influence get to his head. After Lily’s first performance on stage, Oscar visits her in her dressing room. The way he speaks to her indicates he is putting all his attention on her. But when you look and listen closely, there are hints of his possessive mentality. A good example is when Oscar tells Lily she was a diamond who needed some polishing.

The set design: While watching Twentieth Century, there was some impressive set design I noticed! Toward the beginning of the film, Oscar’s office was shown. Dark wood walls surrounded the space, with a medium shot signifying the room’s high ceiling. Eye-catching details helped give the space a unique identity, such as the inclusion of a suit of armor and stained-glass windows. Details in other scenes stood out, stealing the show whenever they appeared on screen. Lily’s bed is just one example, a massive piece of furniture that was shaped like a boat. It’s white woodwork and bedding is paired beautifully with dark wood carvings on the bed. On the train, there are sketches of animals located near the ceiling of the sitting room area. The style of the sketches looked like they came from a storybook from Medieval times.

Carole’s wardrobe:  I really liked seeing Carole’s wardrobe in Twentieth Century! However, there were two outfits that were the most memorable! On the night of Lily’s first performance, she wears an off the shoulder sparkly white dress. Despite the film being presented in black-and-white, the sparkly nature of the dress shown through beautifully! The second outfit was a silk pair of pajamas, complete with fine detailing on the shirt. The pajamas complimented Carole very well, highlighting her true beauty!

Masks of comedy and tragedy images created by freepik at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by freepik – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

The mystery: In Twentieth Century, there was an on-going mystery revolving around the appearance of religious stickers on the train. The mystery itself felt randomly placed in the overall story, offering no strong significance within the plot. Had the religious stickers served as a reminder to not lose personal beliefs and values in the quest for fame and fortune, that would have added a meaningful moral to the movie. Sadly, it was a small piece just to keep the plot moving forward. When the guilty party is finally revealed, it seems like the script is providing them with excuses for their destruction of public and personal property. This can be heard through the characters’ dialogue; from the train security saying the guilty party has a “sickness” to describing the guilty party as “a little crazy, but harmless”.

An awful group of characters: I understand characters from any movie are not going to be everyone’s “cup of tea”. However, there is a fine line between personal preference and the characters themselves being awful. Twentieth Century is a perfect example of this, featuring a host of characters that are unlikeable to varying degrees. Oscar treats everyone around him horribly. He “fires” his friends on multiple occasions and he is abusive toward Lily, even after their relationship ends. Despite this, Oscar’s friends still try to help him fix his relationship with Lily, even going so far as to blame her for Oscar’s failures. Meanwhile, Lily turns into a diva after she becomes a movie star. It got to the point where I found myself not caring about the characters’ outcomes because their ugly personalities made me lost investment in them.

Lily and Oscar’s abusive relationship: I briefly mentioned in my previous point that Oscar is abusive toward Lily, even after their relationship ends. In the beginning, when Lily was starting out as an actress, Oscar gives the impression of having her best interests in mind. An example of this is when, after Lily expresses her frustrations over staying late at rehearsal, Oscar reminds her of her dream and how he’ll help her reach that dream. As Lily’s career grows, so does Oscar’s jealousy and obsession. He not only controls Lily’s life, but he also physically harms her, poking her with a pin just to get her to scream on stage. Oscar even goes so far as to threaten suicide if Lily does not stay with him. Even though Lily ends the relationship, Oscar is still obsessed with her. One of his worst actions in Twentieth Century is faking his own death just to trick Lily into signing his contract.

The Sixth Annual Barrymore Trilogy Blogathon banner created by Crystal from In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood.

My overall impression:

Back in January, when I reviewed Marriage on the Rocks, I said the film made me feel uncomfortable because of the movie’s one-sided view on marriage and divorce. Watching Twentieth Century made me appalled for several reasons. The abusive nature of Lily and Oscar’s relationship is just one example, especially since it exists throughout the whole film. It also doesn’t help that Oscar doesn’t face any accountability for his actions and behavior.  Another issue is the characters themselves, as all of them are horrible to certain degrees. Despite being poorly treated by Oscar, Oscar’s friends still support him. They even encourage Oscar to get back together with Lily. According to IMDB and Wikipedia, Twentieth Century is labeled as a “romantic comedy”. I will admit there were a handful of moments I found funny. But the aforementioned relationship, random mystery, terrible characters, and the story being ninety one minutes of those same characters complaining about their personal issues overshadows all of the movie’s strengths.

Overall score: 4.4 out of 10

Have you seen any of Carole Lombard’s or John Barrymore’s films? If so, which one do you like the most? Please let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: In Name Only Review

One of the reasons why I love participating in blogathons is because it gives me the opportunity to watch films I might have never seen otherwise. In Name Only is a fantastic example! Before signing up for The Carole Lombard Memorial Blogathon, I had no idea that this film existed. After searching Carole’s filmography on IMDB and discovering the ability to rent the movie, I felt that In Name Only was a good choice for this review. Even though I had heard of Carole Lombard before, I had never seen any of her films. My participation in this particular blogathon gave me the opportunity to finally check out her acting work! Another surprise I discovered was that the film is based on a book! The source material for the project is Memory of Love by Bessie Breuer. Similar to my discovery of the film, I was not aware of this book’s existence before I watched the movie. Maybe in the future, I’ll check this story out! But, for now, let’s check out this review of In Name Only!

In Name Only poster
In Name Only poster created by RKO Radio Pictures. Image found at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:In_Name_Only.jpg

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Like I said in the introduction, this is the first film from Carole’s filmography I’ve ever seen. Despite this, I was impressed with her performance in this film! Her portrayal of Julie Eden showcased an on-screen personality that appeared down-to-earth. Whenever her character was frustrated by the divorce process, her performance became heart-breaking. Carole’s sad demeanor created the opportunity for audience members to sympathize with Julie. Prior to watching In Name Only, the only film from Cary Grant’s filmography I’d seen was The Philadelphia Story. Because that movie was a romantic-comedy, it gave me the chance to see Cary take on a more dramatic role in this picture. Throughout the story, Cary’s character, Alec Walker, embodied the serious and charming nature of a gentlemen. For more sad and heart-breaking moments, his performance was very captivating to watch. A great example is when Alec is staying at the hospital. Since his health is deteriorating, his mental health is also affected. This is portrayed very well by Cary, as he adopts a distant stare and disjointed speech pattern that reflect his character’s state.

 

The on-screen chemistry: I enjoyed watching the on-screen performances of Carole Lombard and Cary Grant! One reason is their on-screen chemistry. Every time they appeared in a scene together, there was always a sense of genuine sweetness between them. This allowed their characters to appear like they truly loved one another. It also makes viewers want to see this on-screen couple resolve their issues. For me, the quality of Carole and Cary’s on-screen chemistry helped me stay invested in their characters and their relationship!

 

How the topic of divorce was handled: In my review of Marriage on the Rocks, I talked about how the movie’s view on divorce made me feel uncomfortable. This was because of the one-sided perspective the movie presented. When it comes to In Name Only, the topic of divorce was handled with maturity and reverence to all the parties involved in the film’s story. While there was an antagonist, this creative choice was meant to show the audience that divorce can sometimes become messy and complicated. Unlike Marriage on the Rocks, In Name Only treats divorce as a realistic yet difficult situation. I’ve never read the book this movie is based on. However, I’m hoping the book handled the subject of divorce as well as the film did.

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When I saw this postcard, I knew it had to make an appearance in this review! Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.
What I didn’t like about the film:

A drawn-out conflict: I understand the divorce process can be very time-consuming. But within the context of the film’s story, this conflict was drawn-out for the majority of the run-time. It got to the point where I could see audience members becoming just as frustrated as the protagonists were. Now, I’m not sure if this shared frustration was intentional on the screenwriter’s or author’s part. However, I do know that because of this creative choice, it didn’t leave a lot of room for a pay-off.

 

Under-utilized characters: As I was watching this film, I came across some under-utilized characters. Maida’s friend, Suzanne, is just one example. The actress who portrayed this character, Helen Vinson, did a really good job with the role she was given. But her character wasn’t able to do much in the story. This caused Helen to have very little material to work with.

 

Run-time that was a little too long: IMDB says that In Name Only is an hour and thirty-four minutes. However, I feel some minutes could have been shaved off. Had this movie’s run-time been an hour and fifteen or twenty minutes, certain events in the movie could have happened sooner. It also could have gotten rid of scenes that felt like time-wasters. One of these scenes, to give you an example, was when Maida was talking to her in-laws during a car-ride.

Carole Lombard Blogathon banner
The Carole Lombard Memorial Blogathon banner created by Crystal from In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood and Vincent from Carole & Co. Image found at https://crystalkalyana.wordpress.com/2019/09/25/announcing-the-carole-lombard-memorial-blogathon/

My overall impression:

Even though In Name Only is the first film of Carole Lombard’s I have seen, it is a film that I did like! There are aspects of the movie that could have made the overall project stronger. However, its merits overshadow them. The biggest highlight is how the story handles the subject of divorce. Throughout the story, I could sense the creative team knew exactly what they were doing. The screenwriting provided a sense of realism to the narrative, giving the characters thoughts and feelings that might emerge from a situation like this. The divorce itself was also taken very seriously. If you’re interested in watching a film about this topic, please pick In Name Only over something like Marriage on the Rocks. As I’ve said before, I feel that starting or ending a romantic relationship is not something that should be taken lightly. In Name Only not only recognizes that, but highlights that through the interactions of the characters.

 

Overall score: 7.4 out of 10

 

Have you ever seen Carole Lombard’s movies? If so, which one is your favorite? Share your thoughts in the comment section!

 

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen