Twentieth Century
Poster for the 2004 revival
Written by
Date premieredDecember 29, 1932 (1932-12-29)
Place premieredBroadhurst Theatre,
New York City

Twentieth Century is a 1932 play by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur based on the unproduced play Napoleon of Broadway by Charles B. Millholland, inspired by his experience working for the eccentric Broadway impresario David Belasco.


The Hecht-MacArthur comedy is set in the observation car of the 20th Century Limited, travelling from Chicago to New York's Grand Central Terminal. Aboard the luxury train are egomaniacal theatre producer Oscar Jaffe, desperately in need of a hit, and his former paramour and protégé, temperamental actress Lily Garland (born Mildred Plotka), who abandoned him for a Hollywood career. Oscar is determined to sign her for his new show, and Lily is just as determined to ignore his advances, both professional and personal.

Richard Maney

Richard Maney, an American theatrical press publicity agent, was satirized in the play.[1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10][11][12][13]


The first Broadway production, directed by George Abbott, opened on December 29, 1932 at the Broadhurst Theatre, where it ran for 152 performances. Moffat Johnston and Eugenie Leontovich were the stars, with William Frawley in a featured role.[14] It was adapted for a critically acclaimed film adaptation of the same name two years later.

The play has been revived on Broadway twice. The first, directed by José Ferrer, opened on December 24, 1950 at the ANTA Playhouse, where it ran for 233 performances. The production starred Ferrer as Oscar and Gloria Swanson, who designed her own gowns, as Lily. Werner Klemperer and Edward Platt were also in the cast.[15]

The second revival, an adaptation by Ken Ludwig directed by Walter Bobbie, opened on March 25, 2004, at the Roundabout Theatre Company's American Airlines Theatre, where it ran for 27 previews and 84 performances. Alec Baldwin and Anne Heche headed a cast that included Dan Butler, Tom Aldredge and Julie Halston.[16] Tony Award nominations went to Heche and Aldredge, and the production earned a Drama Desk Award nomination for Outstanding Set Design of a Play.[17]



Hecht and MacArthur adapted their play for the 1934 screwball comedy Twentieth Century, directed by Howard Hawks and starring John Barrymore and Carole Lombard.[18]


Orson Welles, Sam Levene and Elissa Landi starred in The Campbell Playhouse radio adaptation of Twentieth Century, broadcast March 24, 1939, on CBS Radio.[1]


Twentieth Century has been presented on television at least three times:


On the Twentieth Century, a musical adaptation of the play by Betty Comden, Adolph Green and Cy Coleman, opened on Broadway on February 19, 1978, with John Cullum and Madeline Kahn as the stars. It was directed by Harold Prince and played for 11 previews and 449 performances.[20]


  1. ^ a b
    • "Twentieth Century · Orson Welles on the Air, 1938-1946". Retrieved 8 September 2023.
    • "The Campbell Playhouse". RadioGOLDINdex. Retrieved 2015-04-04.
    • "The Campbell Playhouse". Internet Archive. Retrieved 2015-04-04.
    • The Campbell Playhouse. March 24, 1939. CBS radio. "Twentieth Century". Sponsored by: Campbell's Soup. The comedy by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, set in a cross-country train. A Hollywood producer and a star clash on rails. Guest is Richard Maney, a real-life press agent who was satirized in the story. Charles MacArthur (author), Bernard Herrmann (composer, conductor), Edgar Kent, Elissa Landi, Ernest Chappell (announcer), Everett Sloane, Gus Schilling, Howard Teichmann (editor), Orson Welles (host), Ray Collins (narrator), Richard Maney (guest), Sam Levene, Ben Hecht (author), Alan Reed (billed as Teddy Bergman). 58:53.
  2. ^ Maney, Richard (1957). Fanfare: The Confessions of a Press Agent. Harper. Retrieved 9 September 2023.
  3. ^ "Richard Maney". LIFE. Time Inc. 14 May 1945. Retrieved 9 September 2023.
  4. ^ "Richard Maney – Broadway Cast & Staff | IBDB". Retrieved 2024-03-07.
  5. ^ "Richard Maney". NYPL Digital Collections. Retrieved 2024-03-07.
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ "A Night at the '21' Club". Retrieved 2024-03-07.
  9. ^ "Vincent Sardi Jr.: 1915 – 2007". Chicago Tribune. 2007-01-05. Retrieved 2024-03-07.
  10. ^ Gibbs, Wolcott (1941-10-03). "THE CUSTOMER IS ALWAYS WRONG". The New Yorker. ISSN 0028-792X. Retrieved 2024-03-07.
  11. ^ "Richard Maney, Theatrical Press Agent, Dies at 77". The New York Times. 1968-07-02. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2024-03-07.
  12. ^ "1946 - AL HIRSCHFELD CARTOON DRAWING - RICHARD MANEY BEATS THE DRUM PRESS AGENT | #497119707". Worthpoint. Retrieved 2024-03-07.
  13. ^ "The Theatre: Portrait of a Press Agent". Time. 1940-01-08. ISSN 0040-781X. Retrieved 2024-03-07.
  14. ^ "Twentieth Century (1932 production)". Internet Broadway Database.
  15. ^ "Twentieth Century (1950 production)". Internet Broadway Database.
  16. ^ Hernandex, Ernio. "Baldwin and Heche Pull Into the Broadway Station With New 'Twentieth Century', Opening March 25", March 25, 2004
  17. ^ "Twentieth Century (2004 production)". Internet Broadway Database.
  18. ^ "Twentieth Century". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Retrieved 2015-04-04.
  19. ^ TCM Notes
  20. ^ "On the Twentieth Century". Internet Broadway Database.