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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 "hoochy" 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.
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.
'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).
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"
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.
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!
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.
Cary Grant and Irene Dunne play an unhappily married couple who divorce
only to discover they were happier married. Naturally they won't admit
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"
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
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.
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
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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