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Twentieth Century film image; black and white glamour shot of woman in fur coat

Screwball Express: Twentieth Century

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All aboard the Screwball Express! Classic film scholar Michael van den Bos is your conductor on a 6-week expedited excursion down the fast track of Hollywood’s funniest screwball comedies from the 1930s and ’40s. On today’s point of departure, Michael discusses the origins and characteristics of a genre in which antagonistic attraction, wacky wooing and the lunacy of love result in cinema’s screwiest hook-ups.

Following the 25 minute talk is a screening of Twentieth Century (1934), a cinematic express train of screwball shenanigans, directed by Howard Hawks. This classic is a spirited satire of self-dramatizing theatrical types with John Barrymore in his element as self-styled genius Oscar Jaffe, a Broadway impresario with an ego as big as the Great White Way. Hawks let Carole Lombard cut loose as Jaffe’s greatest protege, Lily Garland, and between them they established the genre’s breakneck pace. The dialogue is by the crack team Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur.


Please note that these films from nine decades ago sometimes reflect attitudes and assumptions that are considered offensive today, in particular in regards to their treatment of racial and ethnic difference, as well as towards sexuality and gender. VIFF invites audiences to view these films through a historical lens and with the critical distance that time provides for us.


10:30 am


11:00 am


Michael van den Bos


Howard Hawks


John Barrymore, Carole Lombard

Country of Origin






150 min

Book Tickets

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