Broadway director Oscar Jaffe (John Barrymore) is a bigger ham than most actors, but through sheer drive and talent he is able to build a successful career. When one of his discoveries, Lily Garland (Carole Lombard), rises to stardom and heeds the call of Hollywood, Oscar begins a career slide. He hits the skids and seems on his way out, until he chances to meet Lily again, on a train ride aboard the Twentieth Century Limited. Oscar pulls out all the stops to re-sign his former star, but it’s a battle… because Lily, who is as temperamental as Oscar is, wants to have nothing to do with her former mentor. —IMDb
Although John Ford—his friend, contemporary, and the director arguably closest to him in terms of his talent and output—told him that it was he, and not Ford, who should have won the 1941 Best Director Academy Award (for Sergeant York (1941)), the great Hawks never won an Oscar in competition and was nominated for Best Director only that one time, despite making some of the best films in the Hollywood canon. The Academy eventually made up for the oversight in 1974 by voting him an honorary Academy Award, in the midst of a two-decade-long critical revival that has gone on for yet another two decades. To many cineastes, Howard Hawks is one of the faces of American film and would be carved on any film pantheon’s Mt. Rushmore honoring America’s greatest directors, beside his friend Ford and Orson Welles (the other great director who Ford beat out for the 1941 Oscar). It took the French “Cahiers du Cinema” critics to teach America to appreciate one of its own masters, and it was… read more
Unfairly underrated; incredibly rich thematically dealing as it does with one of the richest questions for the performing arts: the difference between being (ontological) & theaticality (aesthetic). John Barrymore plays The Ham wonderfully; Lombard is His Girl Friday, & as in all Hawks movies the main mode of loving is quarreling. The script is incredibly tight & digressions (the passion play, the madman) invaluable.
Also: Best of 2011 from the San Francisco Bay Guardian, In Review Online and more. And 11-year-old Scorsese’s storyboards.