November 14th, 2018

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Tracking down a 'Century'



In retrospect, it's the most pivotal film of Carole Lombard's career; take it out of her equation, and today, Lombard likely would be a relatively obscure actress. It brought qualities out in her she had never before shown. It was among the first landmark movies of a popular cinematic genre, "screwball."

Yet "Twentieth Century" is among Carole's more difficult films to find on DVD, certainly compared to her other "classics":

* Criterion issued "My Man Godfrey" in a deluxe package in mid-2001, then recently outdid itself for a state-of-the-art Blu-ray edition this year.

* "Nothing Sacred," like "Godfrey" long exiled to poor public domain copies, also recently got the Blu-ray treatment with solid three-strip Technicolor.

* Criterion issued "To Be Or Not To Be" in a Blu-ray in 2013, with its usual stellar batch of extras.

In contrast, Sony/Columbia released "Twentieth Century" in February 2005, long before Blu-ray arrived on the scene.




At the time, Harry Knowles of "Ain't It Cool News" fame wrote a review of the film -- which he'd seen in Austin a few years earlier, admitting he had never been a Lombard fan (heresy!), http://www.filmvault.com/filmvault/austin/t/twentiethcentury1.html. But he loved this film, closing with "Go see it. Now."

That DVD release came more than 13 1/2 years ago, nearly 2 1/2 years before this site came to be. (That's a pretty long time.) By now, "Twentieth Century" should've joined its brethren above in a Blu-ray version, with loads of extras (such as these famed publicity stills banned by Joseph Breen's office):





Sony has struggled against bigger corporate foes such as Warners and Disney, and I'm not certain the studio knows how to properly market its catalog of Columbia classics. But I'm sure someone could be a wonderful job updating them, and "Twentieth Century" would be as good a place as any to start for a Blu-ray upgrade.

In the meantime, if you want "Twentieth Century" on DVD, your best bet is to go to eBay. Here's the cheapest version I could find -- for $24.99. It's said to be in "very good" condition.

Want to buy it? Visit https://www.ebay.com/itm/Twentieth-Century-John-Barrymore-Columbia-US-DVD-Carole-Lombard/332873325764?hash=item4d80cbdcc4.

And please, drop a line to Sony/Columbia suggesting this gem gets better treatment from its corporate parent. Otherwise, Carole's Lily Garland promises to give someone in Culver City a kick in the...

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