So. Much. Yelling. I find this kind of continuous hysteria funnier now than on first high school viewing, when it was kind of terrifying, but it's a lot to take. The image that stuck with me from then and which still seems emblematic, is John Barrymore throwing a can of black paint onto a wall out of sheer frustration, watching as it drips down and totally takes over the frame. If you can't make a point quietly, try the visual equivalent of a punch to the jaw.
Far from making TWENTIETH CENTURY a relic, however, this quality of being out of time makes its every rediscovery a pleasure: viewing it lets us breathe an air more foreign and surprising than HIS GIRL's, which has, by so becoming so definitively the "face" of sophisticated screwball, turned invisible, entered into our language. TWENTIETH's popeyed frenzy is clear and brittle by comparison.
One sees so much of what distinguished Hawks’ consummate refinement, in his comedic work and elsewhere (see 1946’s The Big Sleep or 1959’s Rio Bravo for two especially evident dramatic parallels). There is not only a masterful balancing of pace and tenor, particularly with the frenetic interactions that come to the brink of unchecked mayhem, but there is also a vigilant staging of characters, even when crammed in settings of overheated emotions and physical constriction.