Hawks on Lombard

Bogdanovich: The scene [from Twentieth Century] in the train compartment with Lombard trying to kick Barrymore looks particularly impromptu.

Hawks: That was the first scene we shot in the picture. Lombard had never done that kind of comedy before, but I cast her because I’d seen her at a party with a couple of drinks in her and she was hilarious and uninhibited and just what the part needed. When she came on the set, though, she was emoting all over the place – she was trying very hard and it was just dreadful. Barrymore was very patient and we tried it a few times and she was just so stilted and stiff. Then I said to her, “Come on, let’s take a walk,” and we went outside and I asked her how much money she was getting for the picture. She told me and I said, “What would you say if I told you you earned your whole salary this morning and didn’t have to act anymore?” And she was stunned. So I said, “Now forget about the scene. What would you do if someone said such and such to you?” And she said, “I’d kick him in the balls.” And I said, “Well, he said something like that to you – why don’t you kick him?” She said, “Are you kidding?” And I said, “No.” So we went back on the set and I gave her sometime to think it over, and then we tried that scene and we did one take and that was it. And when I said, “Print,” Barrymore yelled out. “That was fabulous!” And she burst into tears and ran off the set. Well, she never began a picture after that without sending me a telegram that said, “I’m gonna start kicking him.”

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One response to “Hawks on Lombard

  1. Great stuff…but what a lot of people don’t know is that “Twentieth Century” was not Lombard’s first film with Hawks. In 1926. not long before an automobile accident sidelined her for some months, the teenage Carol (then a Fox starlet, without the “e” in her first name) had a small role in the Hawks film “Road To Glory” (not to be confused with a ’30s Hawks film of the same name), which starred May McAvoy (better known for being Al Jolson’s leading lady in “The Jazz Singer”).

    Liked your comments on the romantic comedy in the Times today. I have a blog, “Carole & Co.”, dedicated to Lombard in particular and classic Hollywood in general. I’d appreciate more of your thoughts on Carole (and admit I was a bit disappointed that no one brought up her name in the comments; ah, if she had only been named Carole Hepburn!).

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