Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
USA, 1934. Columbia Pictures Corporation. Screenplay by Ben Hecht, Charles MacArthur, based on the play Napoleon on Broadway by Charles Bruce Millholland. Cinematography by Joseph H. August. Produced by Howard Hawks. Music by Louis Silvers. Costume Design by Robert Kalloch. Film Editing by Gene Havlick.
Rollicking good screwball comedy that features John Barrymore at his richest and Carole Lombard being deliciously zany. They play a theatre director and actress who have had success for years on stage in one Broadway hit after another while enjoying a stormy romance off the boards. When Lombard has finally had enough of his jealous rages, she walks out on him and straight into a career in Hollywood, while Barrymore’s theatrical enterprises languish until he is practically broke. After boarding a train on his way towards trying to turn his fortunes around, he learns that she is on board and it provides plenty of opportunity for fighting, career offers and possible restitution. The title is the name of the train they ride, but it is also a comment on the evolving society that the filmmakers are looking to satirize: work and romance intermingle in the modern age in ways they never had before, and the result is time bombs of comedic passion that explode throughout the entire film. Lombard would get even better with her letter-perfect performance in My Man Godfrey, but it’s easy to see why her work here transformed her from a better-than-average romantic leading lady into a comedy genius superstar, while Barrymore was rarely more appealing or sympathetic.