|"His Frankenstein"- Issues of Male Control in Twentieth Century
Oscar Jaffe's success in Twentieth Century depends on his ability to control Lily's talent, something he undeniably takes for granted as something that he has created. She gushes after her successful opening night that she is nothing without him; he responds by dramatically insisting that her stardom will keep her from ever being had by a man. She swears her dependence on him and the scene ends with an embrace and an implied relationship. The next scene fast-forwards to three years later. Lily is now an immense success but still under the strict control of Jaffe. In one particular fight Jaffe threatens to commit suicide. Lily's disrespectful "Go ahead", produces an irate reaction from Jaffe who feels the power of his name being usurped by the power of his creation. He then accuses Lily of being a simple showgirl, showcasing the rags-to-riches stories so prevalent during the Great Depression. In response to his vicious attacks and physical jostlings, Lily returns to her child-like self, crumbling to the floor. Jaffe's treatment of Lily from her first break to her immense accolade is always paternal. After her return to the stage at the end of the movie, he patronizes her by directing her with "now child".
Lily's profession places her outside of typical womanhood. However, she continues to be controlled despite her lack of financial dependence. While she seems wholly manipulated with Jaffe, on her return trip to New York we meet her fiancé. As she boards the train she wishes him well, believing that she is traveling to New York alone. Her anger at his refusal to get off the train seems to be directly related to her desire to be controlling herself, though there is a hint of his suspicions that she is having an affair. Without knowing of this squabble, Jaffe outright tells her fiancé that Jaffe is still with Lily. For the fiancée, this confirms his suspicions. He leaves her, bitter that he cannot control her.
Oddly, Lily feels limited by her profession. Not unlike the heroines of other screwball comedies, she bemoans her place outside of traditional gender roles. She gives an extensive speech on the lack of 'reality' in her life, a seemingly comforting thought to all those female moviegoers seemingly stuck in the house. She defines reality for women in the establishment of a home and the "pattering of little feet". Of course, in reality, Lily would make an awful mother; self-absorbed and married to an industry of illusions she only seeks the illusion of normalcy found in motherhood.