Napoleon from Broadway

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German title Napoleon from Broadway
Original title Twentieth Century
Country of production United States
original language English
Publishing year 1934
length 91 minutes
Director Howard Hawks
script Charles MacArthur ,
Ben Hecht
production Howard Hawks for Columbia Pictures
music Milton Ager
camera Joseph H. August
cut Gene Havlick

Napoleon from Broadway (OT: Twentieth Century ) is an American screwball comedy starring John Barrymore and Carole Lombard and directed by Howard Hawks .


The spirited theater impressario Oscar Jaffe believes he has discovered a new star in the underwear model Mildred Plotka and gives her the stage name Lily Garland. With sometimes brutal means, he turns her into a star. After three hugely successful productions on Broadway , the two no longer just have a professional relationship. However, Lily is increasingly repulsed by Oscar's selfishness and lust for fame, to which he subordinates every other feeling. After a violent argument, Lily goes to Hollywood and makes a career there.

Oscar tries to turn another stranger into a star, but fails. After several flops, he is facing the end of his career. In Chicago, Oscar and his friends Oliver Webb and Owen O'Malley just manage to flee from the creditors and get on board the luxury train Twentieth Century Limited , which is supposed to bring them back to New York City. On the train, Oscar surprisingly meets Lily, who's success in Hollywood has turned into a diva who combines all of Oscar's character traits. Lily is in the company of her lover George Smith.

On the train journey there are endless entanglements, misunderstandings, separations and reconciliations between those involved. Just as the Twentieth Century pulls into the train station, Lily, who still loves Oscar, declares herself ready to appear in his new piece. As soon as the rehearsals have begun, Oscar is already treating Lily as shabbily as ever.


The play Twentieth Century by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur was a moderate success with 152 performances in the 1932/1933 season with Eugenie Leontovich in the role of Lily Garland. Leontovitch triumphs had only recently as Grusinskaya in the Broadway adaptation of previously people at the hotel by Vicki Baum celebrated.

When Harry Cohn , head of Columbia Pictures , bought the rights to the play in the fall of 1933, he first wanted to win Leontovich for the film and then tried to persuade Gloria Swanson to make a comeback in the role of the spirited star. The plan failed, as did the idea of giving Miriam Hopkins the role. The studio then found itself embarrassed to receive further rejections from established stars like Ruth Chatterton , Ann Harding and Constance Bennett , all of whom considered it below their standard to work for a small studio like Columbia. First Preston Sturges and later Herman Mankiewicz were discussed as screenwriters. The plans came to nothing, and in the end Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur took it over personally to adapt their piece for the screen. John Barrymore received a fee of $ 50,000 for the two-week filming. For Carole Lombard , who had managed to build a kind of relationship of trust with the autocratic Harry Cohn, participating in the film was an important step towards her breakthrough as a star. She was able to show her talent for comedy here for the first time and won good reviews with her portrayal of the somewhat naive and emotional Lily Garland. Along with It Happened One Night , also brought on rental by Columbia later that year, Broadway's Napoleon was the prototype of screwball comedy , a genre that remained popular until the end of the decade. The focus was mostly on eccentric characters who live out their often hair-raising problems and neuroses in excessive dialogues.

In 1949 the material was first filmed for television with Fredric March and Lilli Palmer ; almost four years later, a new version came on the screen , this time with Constance Bennett . However, the artist had the most ambitious adaptation of the material in April 1956, when Orson Welles and Betty Grable contributed.


The lexicon of international film the movie was even decades after the premiere still funny:

“The adventures of an eccentric Broadway theater director with a blonde he starred and who fled to Hollywood on his whims. Facing financial ruin, he tries everything to get her back. One of the first American screwball comedies to deal with the battle of the sexes. "

In Kay Weniger's The Film's Great Personal Lexicon, the biography of director Hawks says:

“With 'Napoleon from Broadway', in which an eccentric, egomaniacal theater maestro, John Barrymore , who raged through the scenery , was able to overact to his heart's content , Hawks proved, after years of working on dramatic material, that he also has a hand for lightweight Slapstick comedy with screwball comedy elements. "

- The large personal lexicon of film , Volume 3. Berlin 2001, p. 585


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Napoleon on Broadway. In: Lexicon of International Films . Film service , accessed March 12, 2017 .Template: LdiF / Maintenance / Access used