Without a doubt, my favorite Carole Lombard film is Twentieth Century (although Nothing Sacred does run a close second). Today is the actress's birthday: she was born in 1908 and died in a plane crash in 1942. Her best years in film coincided with the beginning of the romantic comedy film in the Thirties, and she proved herself a versatile comedienne. She starred in movies directed by a surprising number of notable filmmakers, including Ernst Lubitsch (To Be or Not to Be), Alfred Hitchcock (Mr. and Mrs. Smith, his one stab at screwball comedy), Gregory La Cava (My Man Godfrey), and Howard Hawks (Twentieth Century).
Some might argue that Twentieth Century, released in 1934, is one of the first romantic comedies, but there's not enough romance between Lombard and John Barrymore. Their colossal egos are too busy competing with one another to make room for actual hearts and flowers. Broadway director Barrymore continually fires his long-suffering associates with the line "I close the iron door on you!" then rehires them five minutes later. His protege actress Lombard, who becomes a star, refuses to be controlled by him, although he tries every trick in the book ... and then some. Although the main characters are rarely sympathetic, the outrageous situations and witty dialogue, written by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, contribute to a side-splitting comedy. My favorite scene is the one on the train where Lombard is seriously trying to kick Barrymore in the crotch (and you thought Thirties movies were prudish?), but it's one gem among many in the film.