The Awful Truth (1937) Poster

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10/10
We're In On the Joke
stmichaelsgate17 May 2004
This movie is exquisitely directed and acted. The "fourth wall" is gone; the movie rides so high and smart that we as audience can be subtly acknowledged throughout and made complicit in the production, while we continue to believe in the characters and care about what happens to them.

Much of the important dialogue is "throw-away" dialogue, in a sense. It's clear to the hearing, but lines are often spoken by the characters to themselves, for their own (and our) amusement, or delivered in very deftly choreographed "simultaneity," each speaker maintaining an independent point of view in rapid-fire repartee. Implications are understated. We are expected to expect the unexpected, to listen to every line.

The plot is composed like a piece of music. Each scene takes moment from the time-line established by the impending day and hour and minute at which a husband (Cary Grant) and wife (Irene Dunne) become legally divorced, and the movie ends at precisely the stroke of midnight which marks that moment. They clearly want each other back, but will they cleave together or cleave apart as the clock strikes midnight?

One extended "movement" of the movie lets Cary Grant charmingly undermine his wife's new relationship. In corresponding scenes later, Irene Dunne brilliantly plays a dumb floozie, pretending to be the husband's sister and demolishing in one evening his reputation and his prospects for marriage in respectable society. In these later scenes, in another of the movie's nice compositional touches, she does a reprise of a hoochie musical number performed earlier by a girlfriend of her husband's, and then falls into her husband's arms, apparently drunk. He gestures for her to look back and say goodnight to the horrified guests (and to us) as they do a wonderful little wobbly dance out the door, having burned their bridges behind them.

I found the opening few scenes of the movie unlikable, but with the entrance of Irene Dunne, the movie gets us on board. There's so much great understated visual and verbal double entendre (in the best sense) that I want to go back and see if there's more that I missed. In one scene, Cary Grant has brought to Irene Dunne's new fiancé the paperwork on a coal mine the divorcing couple still own. Interrupted by a visitor while advising the fiancé on where it would good to sink a shaft (har!), he explains that he and the fiancé (brilliantly played by Ralph Bellamy as a very successful bumpkin businessman) are transacting a business deal. The movie moves along briskly and doesn't play up the point, but we catch, for a fraction of a second, Irene Dunne squirming as she finds herself looking like the business transaction in question. The movie moves through moments like this quickly, with high respect for our intelligence and our capacity to get in on the joke.
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10/10
This movie is utter nonsense -- and it's great!
Andrew David Eskridge24 August 1999
Nothing in this movie makes sense, and it really doesn't matter. It succeeds with its self-assured anarchy and the charm of its stars.

Cary Grant, Ralph Bellamy and especially Irene Dunne are in top form. Dunne has been unjustly overlooked for her comic talents. The contrast of her well-bred demeanor and inner wickedness is a delight -- like when she does a burlesque dance for a parlor of society snobs. She always appears to be on the edge of bursting out in laughter at the antics of Grant and the buffoonery of Bellamy. A wonderful nonsensical scene is of the musically skilled Dunne at the piano trying to sing "Home on the Range" with the hopelessly off-key Bellamy.

Grant is in the period of his career where he's not afraid of self-parody. He's at his best when he takes nobody and nothing seriously, and he's especially funny at tormenting the slow-witted Bellamy. And Bellamy is so good at playing dumb, you have to wonder if perhaps he's not really in on the joke. (Grant and Bellamy basically repeat their roles, with the same success, in "His Girl Friday," another first-rate comedy).

"The Awful Truth" is the masterpiece of Leo McCarey. There's really nothing else quite like it.
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8/10
You're A Lucky Fellow, Mr. Smith
bkoganbing13 February 2006
Cary Grant and Irene Dunne catch each other in a white lie and the quarrel leads to a marriage breakup. The only bone of contention is that there's a dog who is a family pet that they both love. They go to court and Dunne with a bit of trickery wins the custody battle.

This is one of those comedies where the people can't live with each other or without each other and both are too stubborn to admit it. Cary gets himself involved with society debutante Marguerite Churchill and Irene takes up with mother fixated oil millionaire Ralph Bellamy.

Any fan of old Hollywood films can tell you how this one will end. My favorite bit is when Irene crashes the Churchill household with Cary there and pretends to be his drunken floozy of a sister.

Leo McCarey won an Oscar for Best Director and Irene and Bellamy were nominated for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actor. McCarey keeps the laughs coming and takes advantage of the talents of all his players, Irene's voice and Cary's gift for physical comedy.

And as for Mr. Smith the little terrier who finds out he's not all that Cary and Irene have in common. Well he's one lucky little fellow to be in a classic comedy like this.
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10/10
Just great
preppy-311 December 2001
Cary Grant and Irene Dunne play an unhappily married couple who divorce only to discover they were happier married. Naturally they won't admit it...

You can probably guess the rest (the story is ages old), but this movie is fantastic! The acting is great--Dunne and Grant are in top form and work beautifully together. The script is hilarious with many great lines and moves VERY quickly. Director Leo McCarey won a well-deserved Oscar for this--a rare occasion for a director winning for a comedy. He keeps it moving and large chunks of the plot are explained by images and not clumsy exposition. Also Cecil Cunningham adds strong support as Aunt Patsy--her expressions are priceless and she nails her lines. Mr. Smith played by Asta is a dog who steals every scenes he's in. Ralph Bellamy is stuck with the impossible "good guy" role. He's fine but given nothing to do.

I've seen it at least seven times and I still laugh out loud each and every time. A definite must-see. There are many great lines but my favorite is--"Here's your diploma"
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10/10
That hat doesn't fit, Cary
robb_77220 April 2006
Nominated for six Academy Awards (including Best Picture and Best Screenplay) and a huge box office hit when originally released, THE AWFUL TRUTH is a screamingly hysterical marital comedy that hasn't lost one iota of its punch in the seven decades since it's release. Irene Dunne is amazing in a layered performance that is both subtly affecting and side-splittingly funny - sometimes within the same scene! The scene in which Dunne masquerades as Grant's floozy, night club dwelling sister is one of the brightest highlights in film comedy history. Dunne received a well-deserved Oscar nomination for her inspired work in this film, which endures as a reminder of why she was one of Hollywood's top actress during the thirties and forties.

After flirting with success in SHE DONE HIM WRONG (1933), SYLVIA SCARLETT (1935), and TOPPER (1937), Cary Grant finally became a bonafide superstar with his performance in THE AWFUL TRUTH. Grant was an absolute master when it came to delivering one liners, and the prowess that he displays in the film's many moments of physical comedy is nothing short of phenomenal. Exceptional performances are also delivered by the rest of the cast (including Best Supporting Actor Oscar Nominee Ralph Bellamy), but the film's real scene stealer is the incredible canine performer Asta as Mr. Smith, which is easily the best performance by a dog ever! Leo McCarey won a much-deserved Academy Award for his frenetic direction of what is surely one of the all-time greatest comedies.
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10/10
Excellent Movie, A real sleeper
spidey-161 August 2005
I grudgingly watched this movie at my fiancé's request. But I really enjoyed it wholeheartedly and I laughed out loud at least a dozen time. In addition to being very clever and funny, the story was interesting and heartwarming. Cary Grant player Jerry Warriner, am man to whom we are introduced while he is in a tanning bed to help provide the alibi that he was on vacation in Florida. We never find out what he was 'really' doing but it was probably naughty. He returns home to an empty house early in the morning. He doesn't know where his wife is and then she returns in a full evening gown with a handsome "continental" man. It sounds dramatic, but its actually very very funny. I enjoyed seeing the double entendres and the innuendos that they were forced (by convention) to use in 1937. I am going to buy this movie and watch it repeatedly, just as I watch "The Apartment" and "Some Like it Hot"
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10/10
Another Irene Dunne original! Thank you, Lord!
'The Awful Truth' just came out on DVD and what a treat! I'd never seen it before. It's sort of a first draft of 'My Favorite Wife' (remade as 'Move Over Darling') and has all the patented screwball-romantic comedy-French farce elements of the 'Palm Beach Story' but in a less sophisticated form. Even though 'The Awful Truth' may have established a formula for all subsequent screwball comedies, let's face it, it's still rude and crude around the edges. But it probably was the 'There's something about Mary' of its time and Leo McCarey apparently got an Oscar for Best Director. Its gags and dialogue are at times so unexpected as to be termed "experimental". The movie is really all about the sexual tension between Cary Grant and Irene Dunne, married partners who wilfully dissolve their marriage over the husband's possible infidelity (barely alluded to) and his lack of confidence in his wife's virtue (a.k.a. jealousy). But this being 1937, sexuality has to be expressed in devious, contrived ways, including the occasional gratuitous slapstick. The Swiss clock ending is worth the price of admission in this respect. As is Cary Grant's date's obscene nightclub performance and his martial arts irruption into a society afternoon recital where his wife (Dunne) is singing an Italian aria that none of Grant's pratfalls can interrupt, except for one, memorable, epoch-making, anthology-ready second and a half towards the end that no other (singing) actress could have pulled off. What one has to remember, I guess, is that none of this nonsense had ever been attempted, seen or done on a screen before and it must have seemed terribly daring and innovative, thanks to the complicity and high spirits of a perfect cast, including Gee-shucks cowboy Ralph Bellamy, irrepressible faux-French charmer Alexander D'Arcy and worldly aunt Patsy (Cecil Cunningham). Irene Dunne, as usual, is a total original, and, by the way, Katharine Hepburn copied her comedy style and not the other way around (check your dates, guys).
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10/10
Platinum Class Comedy!
Mihnea the Pitbull5 December 2008
When I was a little child, my mother used to tell me again and again the main scenes of this irresistible comedy, and we laughed our asses off. Much later, I had the good fortune to see it myself, at an oldies-goldies TV re-run, and it amused me like nuts.

Today, as a movie professional, I can safely state that it's an instance of PURE COMEDY: bright humor, pointed satire, a healthy dose of absurd, deliciously foolish, a fast-paced rhythm that makes the 90 minutes seem barely 9 seconds! You see it again and again, and wish for it never to come to an end! THIS, ladies and gentleman, is the stuff of real comedy - not all the Apatow and Seltzer moronic obscenities! Platinum class vintage!
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One of the Best of the 30's 'Screwball Comedies'
Snow Leopard2 August 2001
A fine cast and director Leo McCarey's expert sense of the absurd make this a very amusing classic comedy. It is a good example of what master craftsmen can do to turn a thin and deliberately implausible plot into a fun movie.

The actual story is pretty simple, serving only as a setup for a lot of pleasant nonsense - Cary Grant and Irene Dunne play a couple who get divorced, and then make each other jealous when they pursue other relationships. Both leads are excellent, and they are helped by a good supporting cast. Ralph Bellamy is well-cast as a bumpkin who starts a relationship with Dunne, and Alexander D'Arcy has some very funny moments with Grant, as Dunne's voice teacher who provokes Grant to fits of jealousy. Not an awful lot really happens, but there are a lot of zany moments.

If you enjoy these 30's 'screwball comedies', "The Awful Truth" is one of the best ones, and you almost certainly won't be disappointed with it.
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10/10
Accept No Substitutes! This Is The Best
David (Handlinghandel)3 January 2006
The funniest comedy ever made. An older friend introduced me to "The Awful Truth" in the days before VCRs. I thought it so hilarious, I taped the dialogue on a tape recorder when it was shown on local channels.

Of course, the most famous scene is the one in which Irene Dunne, still in love with husband Grant, appears at his society girl's family's estate. She pretends they are from a class these snobs would not accept. It is Dunne's finest ten minutes -- hilarious and it never grows old.

But the whole movie is funny. Cary Grant and his "continental mind." Grant thinking he is bursting in on a love nest, only to find himself in the middle of a sedate vocal recital. And Dunne, singing a Tosti song, watches him lovingly as he stumbles and executes pratfalls, ending her son with a laugh rather than the words of her song! Asta, even, is put to better use than he was in the delightful "Thin man" series. Here is their dog Mr. Smith.

Esther Dale never had a better role than as Ralph Bellamy's prudish and prurient mother. And Bellamy, as he played the wrong man so often in romantic comedies, is easy to take for granted. But he is delightful too.

Joyce Compton, in endless movies for a couple decades, is an absolute scream as Dixie Belle, the risqué nightclub performer with whom Grant takes up at around the time Dunne has taken up with deadly dull Bellamy.

Not only is this sequence funny but it is also touching: Don't we all, on the rebound, make choices that seem right but turn out catastrophic! I also like "Twentieth Century" and Bringing Up Baby." I do not like the smug "My Favorite Wife," also with Dunne and Grant" or the mean "Nothing Sacred." When it comes to screwball comedy, this is the one! It surely is one of the greatest of all American movies.
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10/10
One of Cary Grant's Funniest
grandpagbm3 November 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Cary Grant is one of my favorite actors, and this movie is his funniest ever, in my opinion. I had no idea, until seeing this film, that Irene Dunne was such a great comedienne. The script was excellent, even with great lines for Cecil Cunningham, who played Dunne's Aunt Patsy in the movie. The sight gag involving Grant attending a serious music recital, leaning back in a chair, and crashing to the floor was hilarious. I laughed out loud through most of the film, which must be one of the funniest movies I have ever seen. Grant's ability to express himself through his facial expressions is one of his best attributes, and this film allows him to do that frequently. I expect to watch this one fairly often.
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8/10
Nothing awful about the Awful Truth
jeffcoat30 April 2004
Warning: Spoilers
Awful Truth is anything but awful

In 1937 Cary Grant was already a Hollywood Giant. a dynamic actor and a genuine Star. But in the `Awful Truth,' Irene Dunn took him to school. Yes, Mr. Grant was as charismatic as usual, delivering his lines marvelously, perfect in comedic timing, and demonstrating great physical humor. Throughout most of the movie, Grant and Dunne sparred on relatively equal terms, each earning a fair share of the proliferus laughter generated by their antics. However, at the last hearty chuckle, it was clear that Dunne had been toying with Grant throughout. No, this is not a spoiler and has nothing to do with the storyline, but rather an evaluation of their performances. Despite the magnificence of his, her's was better.

Irene Dunne was simply phenomenal, deserving her nomination for `Best Actress.' She was funny, charming, exuberant, conniving, manipulative, and intriguing. The movie was slow to find it's footing and much time was wasted as Grant and Dunn, in the slower portions, are not on camera together and thus unable to `duel.' But as the plot unfolds the momentum builds to a final crescendo and the mutual magic of these fine comedic artists delivers cascade upon cascade of laughter.

The director Leo McCarey, earning his Best Director Oscar, toyed with both the relatively new `Hayes Code' and the censors, implying with sensitivity and subtlety, a physical aspect of love and infatuation that was unnecessarily suppressed in movies for decades. The witty `doublespeak' dialog at the end was fascinating as each of these protagonists explained the situation in self-contradictory fashions and yet their meanings were unmistakable. Yes, there is a predictable plot but the witty words and scrappy schemes are pleasant surprises.
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10/10
I absolutely love it from beginning to end
blanche-220 August 2005
This is a favorite film, starring Cary Grant and Irene Dunne at their absolute goofy best as a divorced couple who can't admit they still love one another. The comedy is flawless, the dialogue witty, the chemistry great between the two stars.

Cary Grant is handsome, sophisticated, but not above the occasional pratfall. And Dunne is fantastic as his wife. Her ultimate comedy scene comes in the home of Grant's high-class fiancée. Dunne enters, pretending to be his sister. She's total trash. She performs "Gone With the Wind" a tawdry nightclub act shown earlier in the film, where the gimmick is that the "wind" blows up the woman's dress Then she screams, "DON'T ANYBODY LEAVE THE ROOM. I CAN'T FIND MY PURSE." She's hilarious.

One of the top films of the '30s. I think it's a riot.
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9/10
The rooster and the hen!
Spikeopath18 April 2008
Lucy & Jerry Warriner strain their marriage by suspecting each other of cheating, so much so, a day in court leaves them with a 90 day prelude to a divorce. Sure enough, though, love never quite runs as expected, and can indeed be a truly complex thing, especially when the other parties involved are human, a cheeky cat, and a rather smart and astute canine!

The Awful Truth is tagged as part of the wonderful genre that encompasses the screwball comedy, and although to a degree that genre placement is true, I do believe that those not particularly fond of the high octane scattergun comedies from the genre, will certainly find this offering far more appealing with its pacing and lighthearted production values.

The Awful Truth began life as a stage play in the early 20s, and was then adapted to film twice previously in 1925 & 1929, but here for the 1937 version, director Leo McCarey {Academy Award winner Best Director} improves the story big time with sharp witty dialogue and an appreciative knack for letting his actors improvise at free will in the name of comedy. Taking the lead roles of the Warriner's is Cary Grant & Irene Dunne, and it's a great pairing as they positively bounce of each other with almost carefree abandon. Adding greatly to the frivolity is Ralph Bellamy as tone death country bumpkin love interest Daniel, Alex D'Arcy as the suave but naive Armand, and Cecil Cunningham as the wry Aunt Patsy. It's a seamless enjoyable romp containing many laugh out loud sequences, and as much as the outcome my never be in doubt, the ending is still a joy to behold. Even if the cat and the clock invariably steal the show!

Wonderful and highly recommended. 9/10
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Dunne is brilliant in this screwball classic that also made Grant a star.
grandcosmo13 April 2001
Irene Dunne is luminous in what critic Andrew Sarris called one of the finest comic creations in film history. Dunne and Grant (this film launched him as a huge star) play a couple who hastily divorce and then alternately take turns trying to win each other back. Ralph Bellamy has the Ralph Bellamy role and plays it perfectly. This was the first of three great pairings between Dunne and Grant (My Favorite Wife and Penny Serenade being the others).

Dunne is THE great overlooked movie star - primarily because so many of her films were remade with the originals being taken out of circulation by the film studio (e. g. Show Boat, The Awful Truth, My Favorite Wife, Anna and the King of Siam, Cimarron, Back Street, Magnificent Obsession, Roberta, Love Affair among others). She was nominated for 5 Academy Awards for Best Actress (2 comedies- TAT, Theodora Goes Wild, a western - Cimarron, a character role - I Remember Mama, and a romance - Love Affair) but never won. I can only imagine that politics played a part in her not getting a special lifetime achievement Oscar later in her life (she was a strong Republican), after all Ralph Bellamy himself got one and his film career paled next to Dunne's.

Watch Theodora Goes Wild for another great Dunne Screwball performance.
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10/10
Great Dunne and Grant Comedy
drednm22 June 2005
The Awful Truth is one of the best comedies of the 1930s and ever. Irene Dunne and Cary Grant star (in the first of 3 pictures together) as a divorcing couple who really love one another, but they're just so darned sophisticated! Lucy (Dunne) moves in her Aunt Patsy (the underrated Cecil Cunningham) who gets Lucy introduced to a hick millionaire from Oklahoma (Ralph Bellamy). Meanwhile Jerry (Grant) gets hooked up with a grasping socialite (Molly Lamont). The "love birds" continue to peck away at each other and get entangled in each other's new "romances." The chemistry is just wonderful between Grant and Dunne, and the supporting cast is first rate. Highlights include Grant playing the piano while Mr. Smith (the dog) does a barking routine, but Dunne gets her chance, singing "Gone with the Wind" at a high-toned party. Great fun. Cunningham and Bellamy are terrific, but so are Esther Dale (Bellamy's ma), Joyce Compton (Dixie Bell), and Mr. Smith (who I suspect was really Asta from The Thin Man). The film, Dunne, and Bellamy scored Oscar nominations, and Leo McCarey won for direction. Filled with snappy one liners and hysterical situations. Best scenes may be the night club sequence when Dunne gets stuck dancing with Bellamy, and the party where Dunne pretends to be Grant's sister and yells out, "Hey wait a minute! Somebody stole my purse!" to snooty Mary Forbes. Very funny.
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5/10
rather flat, utterly predictable and tediously long
Robert21 September 2012
There are screwball romantic comedies with lots of chemistry, snappy dialogue and tight pacing. Preston Sturgess usually had something to do with them, such as with "Sullivan's Travels" and "Dinner at Eight" and anything with William Powell and Myrna Loy exemplified the genre.

"The Awful Truth" ain't one of those films. The casting is serviceable, although Cary Grant (who has done this exact role 6,000 times before) isn't at his most sparkling here. The real faults are the script, which is long on clichés and short on actual wit, and the pacing which is uncomfortably long and with long passages of little or nothing going on. The story telegraphs every plot turn miles in advance, leaving the viewer with nothing but waiting for the inevitable to take place. I wanted to like it but I spent most of the film just waiting for it to end.
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7/10
Funny and romantic, but not the best at either.
gaityr27 June 2002
Warning: Spoilers
THE AWFUL TRUTH is the quintessential romantic comedy based on a misunderstanding between the protagonists. Jerry and Lucy Warriner (Irene Dunne & Cary Grant) are a married couple who get a divorce--their only point of contention appearing to be the custody of their dog "Mr Smith"--because Jerry thinks Lucy cheated on him with her vocal coach Duvalle (D'Arcy). The theme of the film is that a marriage must be built on trust, without doubt and suspicion. What's odd, then, is that Jerry spends the first half of the film trying to win Lucy back--when *he* was the one who hadn't trusted her in the first place. Lucy spends the second half trying to win Jerry back, after he falls for the same misunderstanding again when he happens upon Duvalle hiding in the other room in her apartment. What strikes me as odd is that the misunderstanding the entire film is based on is so small as to be insignificant. Why doesn't Lucy just come right out and *say* that she didn't do anything wrong? What's so difficult about saying, "My vocal coach came over this afternoon after I ran away to see if I was alright"? Why shove him in a room only to have the farce start all over again? (I suppose, in the end, that is the point. She doesn't clear up the misunderstanding as most sensible adults would because then the film itself wouldn't exist.)

So the plot of the film isn't particularly strong--what is its saving grace? It's probably got to be the performance given by the leading members of the cast--Cary Grant is everything you'd ever want Cary Grant to be. Charming, debonair, gleeful, playful, mischievous, vulnerable, hurt: every emotion that Grant so skilfully and mesmerisingly displays through his career is available here, possibly for the first time in one irresistible package. Irene Dunne is beautiful and very funny in her role as well (mild spoilers ahead), especially when she assumes the role of Lola Warriner to mess up Jerry's situation with Barbara. A real pleasant surprise is Ralph Bellamy as Dan: he plays the perfect country bumpkin, and practically steals the picture with his constant singing of "Home On The Range", his fervent hug-swinging of Lucy, and declaring that he's so happy that, why, he could eat three steaks!

Most of the film feels like set-pieces strung together to showcase the comedic talents of the stars. The film itself most certainly suffers for it (since the plot twists don't often make sense), but the performances are absolute classics. Some of the best moments include Lucy's breakfast chat with her acerbic aunt (played delightfully by Cecil Cunningham); Dan's "cup-winning" turn around the dance floor with Lucy; and Duvalle hightailing out of Lucy's apartment with Jerry right on his heels. The ending as well is played out in a delightfully suggestive and sexy way, something that could only have been done with the inventiveness needed to get around the Hays Code in those days.

If you're looking for laugh-a-minute comedy, you'd be better off with BRINGING UP BABY. And if it's romance you're after, you probably couldn't do better than THE PHILADELPHIA STORY. (Both Cary Grant classics.) But this film does a pretty good job of melding the elements of comedy and romance into one coherent whole. THE AWFUL TRUTH is definitely one for true Grant aficionados, but it is no doubt a great way to spend a couple of hours.
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9/10
One of the greatest screwball comedies of the thirties, The Awful Truth is arguably the archetypal example of this influential genre.
I B22 October 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Anyone who loves The Awful Truth should have to come clean. To be so optimistic in 1937 required oblivion, madness or complete concentration on a great picture. That year had other things to offer: serious slippage in America's economic recovery, the Germans dining on Czechoslovakia, the fall of Nanking. The Awful Truth is the flagrant depiction of a high society where no one has to work for a living and where nothing rivals marital status and the adventure of love. We must not let Hollywood off the hook for indulging these children, for preferring bright interiors and sunny futures (when many of the characters deserve to be locked up), or for endorsing a very English kind of upper class (Cary Grant was English, while Irene Dunne affected a drawl that would have passed in Belgravia). There is comedy, farce, and sometimes slapstick, and the unfolding of a line of comic action and intrusion that is very well written (by Vina Delmar), gracefully directed (Leo McCarey received the Oscar for direction), but, above all, vitally played. We love Grant and Dunne, therefore we must love each other. It is a film of two-shots and group shots, with the couple looking sideways at each other, muttering and gesturing in a private language that would usually take years to learn. We are talking about screwball comedy and, despite all the ugly holes in its concept and growth, this is the genre in which Hollywood did its best work. This is not to say that Grant and Dunne were simply grand guys who rose above the limitations of their picture. They were great actors who had access to a free-flow comic exhilaration that is still enchanting. Why not look on the bright side? Why not accept that Hollywood was privileged, insecure and self-serving - and seeking to bring consolation? Over the decades, this has resulted in a few gems, and The Awful Truth does what gems do. It shines.
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Every moment pure gold...
Shane Paterson23 March 2010
They really don't make 'em like this any more. I mean, really. Sure, dialog in films since the '60s, and certainly the '70s, has tended to become more naturalistic and the acting less stylized and 'stagey' than in the old days, but somewhere along the way, amidst all the gains in technology and (sometimes) realism, we lost something. One of the things we lost, I think, was the ability to write, direct, and act pieces such as this. I don't know exactly why this is so but, excellent as many of Hollywood's current actors are, I am not sure that something like this could be pulled off as well today. For one, I think that today's writers and directors, even some of the better ones, tend to cater to a greater degree to the lowest common denominator; compounding that, I'd assert that even with advances in educational resources, technology, and the fabric of society (civil rights, etc, though like these others such facets of American society have been greatly eroded of late), the lowest common denominator today is lower than it was in 1937.

Regardless, this film is a gem from start to finish, in every way. Even the dog, that weird-looking little beast that shows up again in "Bringing Up Baby," is a sterling actor; indeed, he's better in his role and more convincing a thespian than many of today's so-called stars. The writing is incredible. Like the way the film's structured, the dialog is clever (I understand that much of it was improvised, testament to the quality of actors involved working with an already great script) and the themes and situations are ones that transcend time, no matter how long ago the '30s might seem to most of us. It's madcap but it's not too much, and there are many points during which I think the filmmakers were pushing the boundaries to see just how far they could go in that heavily-restricted age of film. Obscene or vulgar language and the like can be funny in the right context (or, obviously, reinforce or suggest other emotions) but there may be some truth also in that old saying to the effect that yelling obscenities, or just pouring them forth as part of normal dialog, indicates a lack of anything more erudite to say. In there, I think, you also find part of the key to what made this older comedies so perfect and so timeless; innuendo, no matter how obscure (even if it goes over many heads) is almost always far more interesting and humorous than a full-frontal attack on the senses. Of course, the makers of these old films had little choice but sometimes out of necessity comes a level of genius and craftsmanship that surpasses by far what might have been the more unfettered route to telling the story.

Have I mentioned that the dialog is great? Check this example out:

Lucy : Well, I mean, if you didn't feel that way you do, things wouldn't be the way they are, would they? I mean, things could be the same if things were different.

Jerry : But things are the way you made them.

Lucy : Oh, no. No, things are the way you THINK I made them. I didn't make them that way at all. Things are just the same as they always were, only, you're the same as you were, too, so I guess things will never be the same again.

Magic.

I started watching old movies like these, after two or more decades of mostly viewing movies from the '70s and later, when a few viewings of Sergio Leone films got me interested in that director's influences and from there I went to Kurosawa, back to his idol John Ford, and then Howard Hawks and John Huston and so on, starting to re-explore offerings by Bogart, Cary Grant, and others, including some classic films that I don't think I've ever seen ("Gunga Din," for example). Right now I'm in the midst of a major Cary Grant kick -- the man was brilliant on film and was one who could crack the audience up with a single facial expression or slay 'em with a deft one-liner -- and so this film more than satisfies. It's also the film that really catapulted him into the big time once and for all. Irene Dunn is easily his equal in the sparring on screen (she's incredible in this film,and gets to wear some far-out, glamorous clothes and funky li'l hats) and, indeed, all involved are tremendous in their roles. Cecil Cunningham for example, as Aunt Patsy, has few lines but almost all of them are real zingers. It's a perfect blend of slapstick, farce, and deeper insight kept moving along relentlessly, but digestibly, by a highly professional cast and a director at the top of his game.

I've actually heard people disdain older movies because they're in back-and-white (and even, for that matter, newer movies shot monochrome). They're missing out on a vast legacy of brilliant storytelling and film-making from around the world: not just treasures from Hollywood's most golden Golden Age but wonders like Russia's "Ivan's Childhood," "Yojimbo," and so many more as well as movies made in Hollywood as late as the '60s and '70s that intentionally used monochrome (Frankenheimer's "Seconds" and, of course, "Psycho" and many other masterpieces). Besides, the expert cinematographers who shot many such films, both through careful use of light and filters and through the vivid clarity of their work, actually manage to suggest color where none is present.

This one's loaded with color, and fun, and it really is a film that stands up today as it always will. Thank goodness we have such archival materials as videotape and digitized discs that not only ensure the preservation of such treasures but allow us to call them up whenever we wish to be really entertained.
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7/10
Very good, but not as great as advertised
Qanqor7 June 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I saw this film many years ago, when I was first discovering Cary Grant and going through some of his big films, and somehow it never made a big impression on me, and I largely forgot it. So I recently decided to see it again. It was very good, but didn't live up to all the rave reviews you see on this site.

I was perfectly content with the plot (althought it *is* a little odd, more on that later). The cast and performances were just fine. There were definitely some out-loud laughs and funny lines. Just... less of them than I expected. That's really my complaint, I just didn't think this one was as consistently funny as some of the other great screwball comedies of the era. I blame the script. While there are a few great lines, on the whole I think the dialog could've used some punching up. Some scenes just didn't do that much for me, especially when Cary is playing the piano and the dog is "singing". I just found it loud and irritating, and it didn't make sense to me why the other characters were trying to talk over this cacophony rather than either asking for some quiet or just going over to Leeson's apartment (which was only across the hall!) Also, some of the supporting characters could've been used to greater advantage: both the aunt and Leeson's mother had great promise but in the end weren't given that much to do, and as someone else astutely pointed out, the dog just disappears into the aether.

Now about the plot: It really seems very odd to me that we never DO find out what Cary was up to when he was supposed to be in Florida. He's clearly involved in *some* kind of deception. Are we supposed to assume that he was indeed having an affair? That seems both a little harsh and a little out of place, given the rest of the film. The key sticking point between the couple is clearly made out to be his inability to trust her; other than her initial discovery with the orange, she never reproaches him over his shenanigans (whatever they might be) nor does he ever display any contrition over them, which you'd think would be required if he really had been up to serious no good. Moreover, if he *was* having an affair, it leads to some obvious questions: 1) Why not have the affair *in Florida*? Florida is surely a very nice place to fly off to with a lover, and he could clearly afford it. 2) Why not continue with this lover after the divorce? The best he's able to come up with for the first half of the film is Miss Gone-With-The-Wind, who he admits he had just met. Frankly, it just never really seems credible to me that he was having an affair; it seems more likely that he was doing something of a decidedly less naughty character, like big-poker-game-with-the-boys or something. But you'd think that something like that would be revealed to us. Sadly, it looks like the true answer is that the writers had NO IDEA what he was doing not-in-Florida, they just needed to contrive something to help fuel the initial argument that leads to divorce. Which really is just lazy and makes the whole thing unnecessarily contrived.

On the plus side: I think the whole last bedroom scene really works. The film has been successful enough up to this point that we really *want* to see these two finally get together (well, back together), and we're really curious to see just how it's going to happen, and so the film teases and tantalizes us for a while at the end. And I don't think anybody has made a strong enough point of this yet: when Irene is lying there in the bed there, man, she is HOT! Her expression and body language is just so right-on, she's unbelievably alluring. You totally feel how much Cary's character must want to jump her, because you so much want to jump her yourself! (maybe only men (and lesbians) can truly appreciate this. :) )

So, overall, a very good film, but not quite up there with the likes of His Girl Friday or The Philadelphia Story.
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10/10
The problem was that things seemed to be same but they looked different...but things can return to normal if she accepts a little difference!
theowinthrop19 November 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Leo McCarey's "The Awful Truth" is among the best of the "screwball" comedies of the 1930s. It is also one of the simplest in plots and screenplays, because it does not require any attempts at conspiracy or hidden identities or mystery (say as in the comic mystery "The Thin Man", or in "His Gal Friday" - which also co-starred Cary Grant and Ralph Bellamy in somewhat similar character types). The plot of "The Awful Truth" is reminiscent of what Jimmy Cagney and Pat O'Brien always are arguing about as screenplay writers in "Boy Meets Girl". There the plot is "Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy finds girl again!" Here it would be, "Husband and wife split, husband and wife sabotage each other's love affairs, husband and wife reconcile!"

Grant and Irene Dunne have been married for awhile (we later learn in court that they met when both fell in love with a puppy in a pet shop), but both jump to the conclusion that the other has been having extra-marital affairs (Grant, in particular, is funny growing disgusted and angrier at Dunne's fairly blameless voice teacher Alex D'Arcy). They agree to separate and eventually divorce (their only bone of contention is the puppy - "Asta" from "The Thin Man" series - who Dunne wins by a slightly sneaky trick. Dunne is introduced by her aunt (Cecily Courtneigh) to a neighbor in her luxury apartment house - Bellamy. He's a very wealthy oil man from Oklahoma. Grant tries to pick up a romance with a nightclub dancer (Joyce Compton), but he finds he delights in humiliating Dunne with her ham-handed new beau. The scene in the nightclub is funny because of how Compton's act embarrasses Grant, but he watches Bellamy jitterbug Dunne off the dance floor.

Grant manages, without fully planning it, in wrecking Dunne's romance. Then he starts showing a serious interest in snobby socialite Molly Lamont. Dunne, following this romance in the social columns, shows up at the home of Lamont's parents as Grant's drunken younger sister - and proceeds to demolish his engagement before his shocked fiancé and her parents.

The reconciliation is at the end, although it seems hinted that Dunne comes out a little ahead of Grant in looking less absurd at the conclusion.

The dialog is worth listening to here. A disgusted Bellamy announcing that a boy's best friend is his mother (here Esther Dale). D'Arcy weakly agreeing to help Dunne make Grant look foolish - but inquiring if Grant carries a gun (oddly enough Ingrid Bergman's servant "Carl" is used in a similar way in "Indiscreet", and worries about getting shot by Grant too!). Grant reassuring a dismal looking Dunne that if she gets tired of the nightlife of Oklahoma City, she can always go with Bellamy to swinging Tulsa.

If not as somewhat meaningful as "My Man Godfrey" or as dramatically balanced as "The Thin Man", "The Awful Truth" ends up being sweetly mirthful to the conclusion. It is a comedy that never fails to entertain.
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9/10
THE AWFUL TRUTH- not awful at all!
MerryArtist8 December 2006
In this movie you can see two of the most brilliant actors, Irene Dunne and Cary Grant, who are both the Queen and King of Comedy. Apparently they enjoyed each other's company - which isn't surprising at all, considering that actors tend to favor actors who can keep up with themselves - as Dunne says "But working with Cary Grant was different from working with other actors - he was much more fun! I think we were a successful team because we enjoyed working together tremendously, and that pleasure must have shown through onto the screen," and Grant compliments her with "(Irene) had perfect timing in comedy and was the sweetest-smelling actress I ever worked with."

Dunne indeed has the perfect timing and one of my favorite parts in this movie was the scene where she puts on a double act, pretending to be Grant's sister. She has the ability to go back and forth between distinct characters and does it well, with her own little refreshing touches here and there. I have to say that I consider Irene one of the best comediennes of the 30s, alongside Carole Lombard and Myrna Loy.

Turning to Grant, he is of course one of my favorites, and an excellent actor. He was the steady companion beside Irene and was part of the reason this movie fared so well. He is one of the most natural actors I have ever seen. He can act all he wants and it doesn't seem like he's "acting." I admire performers who can do that, and Grant certainly deserves the reputation he had, and still has.

Overall this movie was fun and entertaining, although I personally think that the movie's success was rather exaggerated, because the story itself isn't all that great. However if you think about the wonderful Grant-Dunne chemistry and their outstanding performances, I guess it's really not that surprising after all.
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6/10
Life Styles of the Rich.
Robert J. Maxwell12 September 2012
Warning: Spoilers
It's an entertaining comedy. Grant and Dunne have an argument and file for a divorce. During the waiting period, Dunne finds a suitor, the ever-losing Ralph Bellamy, a rancher from Oklahoma. Grant takes up with a chanteuse whose vulgar nightclub act ends with a gust of wind blowing her skirt up. Then he begins to squire around a snobbish girl from an aristocratic family. In all cases, each spouse interferes with the affairs of the other because, after all, they are still in love, as they discover at the end.

It start off a little slow but builds up speed towards the end, with some hilarious farcical moments now and then. (McCarey began by directing Laurel and Hardy shorts.) One of the more impressive features of the movie is how well it fits into its late 30s genre of fast-paced comedies about wealthy people, especially since this was all during the Great Depression. "The Awful Truth" at times looks like a combination of some other members of its logical set. The overall idea of an ex wife interfering with her husband's new love affair is from "My Favorite Wife." Howard Hawks borrowed a few bits of business for "His Girl Friday." Instead of taking Grant's girl to Albany, this time Ralph Bellamy is going to take her to Oklahoma. "For excitement you can visit Tulsa," observes Grant with a big smile. McCarey's movie borrows from Hawks' earlier "Bringing Up Baby" -- posing as Grant's sister, Dunne tells the aristo family that Grant drinks so much that the family calls him "Jerry the Nipper." Cary Grant starred in all of the above comedies and he carries this movie. It's not just that he's given the best lines. He's equally funny, perhaps more so, in his reaction shots. Nobody else can smile with such resignation, shaking his head in mock disbelief, muttering to himself about the absurdity of it all. He was a comedic actor nonpareil. Irene Dunne isn't bad but sounds strident whether the situation calls for it or not.

The dialog isn't spectacularly funny and sometimes the action feels forced. But the wordless scene between Grant and Alexander D'Arcy -- two men accidentally hidden together in Dunne's bedroom -- is priceless. And Grant's trying to impress his haughty fiancée's family with the story of a football game at Dad's college, Princeton, keeps getting interrupted by Dunne's increasingly obvious comments revealing that old Dad was Princeton's grounds keeper. The story has its longueurs but moments like this keep it alive.
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The Persistence of Vision.
info-au-gay16 October 2011
I have taken my heading from William Boyd's short story, where he quotes from Murray & Ginsberg's Dictionary of Cinema (1949)- "Persistence of vision is a trick the eye possesses to fill in the gaps between discrete images and makes them appear perfectly contiguous. This is what make animation work." (unquote). The Awful Truth is a soufflé; a puff of make believe. It has little relevance in the real world and those who picked holes in the plot; costumes; structures etc. missed the point. Nor is comparison a fair basis for the judgement of the absolutes of any piece of work. Each must stand on its own. The whether or not of Oscar worth is as irrelevant as the Booker & Whitbread awards for writing. These show-biz promotions are all based on the subjective views of the judges - sometimes skewed by commercial and financial considerations. So we must ultimately fall back on whether we like The Awful Truth. And, if so, Why - what is its secret ingredient that has allowed it has survive since 1937 as a firm favourite film of so many people? The 80 odd positive contributors have given the overwhelming answer that The Awful Truth is a brilliantly fabricated film, far- divorced from the realities of ordinary life. Just try & mention where anyone might venture in the outfits worn by Irene Dunne! There is not a speck of dirt anywhere in the houses visited! The Awful truth is Cinema escapism at its best. If you want reality, try A Streetcar Named Desire. If you want to be confused, try Antonioni or Wim Wenders. If you want to be charmed, try ET or Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. We, the cinema viewers have been blessed by the genius of Leo McCarey and the casting director of The Awful Truth. It is a perfect film and must have been the perfect antidote to the miseries of the Great Depression. In fact there is a pressing need for a Leo McCarey to offer us a bit of sunshine in these gloomy days, so redolent of 1930. Some mention has been made of the slow start. But what an opportunity it gave the divine Irene Dunne to make her gowned & jewelled entrance, closely followed by her Music Teacher, the impossibly handsome Armand (Alexander d'Arcy). From that point the film takes off as though turbo-charged and never lets up. Cary Grant is sublime, rarely needing words to express his feelings; Ralph Bellamy as Oklahoma Man - Dan Leeson:- "I'm in oil, y'know", whose little story about the rooster is told with the utmost seriousness; Joyce Compton is amazing as the night-club singer/dancer Dixie Bell, while Cecil Cunningham, as Aunt Patsy, gets some tremendous one-liners such as - "Here's your diploma." handing Dan his P45 (Lucy's farewell note). The dance sequences in the night-club; the farcical attempt by Cary Grant to explain his father's exploits whilst at Princeton, with Dunne, made up like a 5-dollar tart, interrupting his every word. These are unrepeatable gems and when I say repeat, I sometimes quail at the thought that the money-men in Hollywood might be tempted to attempt just that. With their complete lack of nous, they would likely miscast Michael Caine as Warriner; Joan Collins as Lucy and, probably, Gene Wilder as Leeson. And, if you don't believe that they are capable of sabotage, have a look at "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" and consider that Caine was reprising David Niven, the quintessential English gentleman, who played the part in "Bedroom Story" (the original - with Marlon Brando & Shirley Jones). As a treat, I am going to stay up late & watch it again.
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