What’s Worth Watching: Barrymore Salutes Barrymore on TCM’s The Essentials

Twentieth Century
Courtesy Everett Collection
Twentieth Century

The Essentials: Twentieth Century (Saturday, Jan. 31, 8/7c, TCM)

It’s all in the family when Drew Barrymore, who hosts TCM’s The Essentials series with the channel’s inimitable Robert Osborne, honors her legendary grandfather John Barrymore by introducing a showing of what is arguably his best-known film comedy: 1934’s Twentieth Century, a classic knockabout farce co-starring the luminous Carole Lombard and directed by Howard Hawks. This adaptation of the Ben Hecht-Charles MacArthur Broadway comedy stars Barrymore as an egotistical theatrical producer desperately trying to woo back the leading lady (Lombard) he had once transformed from chorus girl Mildred Plotka into stage/screen star Lily Garland. The frantic screwball action all takes place aboard a train heading from Chicago to New York, with the comic chemistry crackling between Barrymore and Lombard, both at the top of their game. (The musical version, On the Twentieth Century, is being revived this winter on Broadway, starring Kristin Chenoweth and Peter Gallagher.)

TCM’s tribute to Barrymore continues with two films from 1933, Counsellor at Law (9:45/8:45c) and Topaze (11:15/10:15c), and his 1931 triumph as sinister hypnotist Svengali (12:45 am/11:45c).