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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The traditional definition of 'comedy' entailed tensions being resolved
through a wedding in the finale. Fittingly, The Awful Truth, opens with
tensions reaching a breaking point, and its central romantic couple
filing for divorce as clear an indication as any of director Leo
McCarey's allegiance to convention. As infamous for its chaotic,
improv-heavy shoot as for its firm cementing in any list of 'top
screwball comedies,' there is certainly nothing awful about The Awful
Truth, except perhaps the ensuing pain in one's side from laughing too
Although the film practically crackles with the energy and vivacity McCarey stirred up throughout the shoot, the film's premise does lend it a slightly more reflective and melancholy timbre than the average whizz-bang silliness of the screwball subgenre. Although divorce was not as much of a rarity in the 1930s as many would believe, films frankly engaging with the concept were still comparatively few and far between (between this film, and the subsequent The Philadelphia Story and His Girl Friday, it seemed to happen to Cary Grant more than anyone else in history). As such, even the ensuing hijinx of Grant and Irene Dunn attempting to sabotage each other's attempts at finding romance elsewhere can't help but play with more of an undercurrent of bitterness and secondhand embarrassment to a contemporary audience than was likely intended at the time. Rather than detracting from the enjoyment, however, this lends the film a curious poignancy even as the pace, pratfalling, and cascade of deliciously clever zingers (including arguably coining the now vernacular term 'rebounding'), generally employed to only barely buffer the film's bawdy sexual undertones, continue to keep the audience wildly entertained throughout. The film remains a delightfully loopy farce, with an almost Shakespearian penchant for mistaken identities and uncouth situations, which ultimately builds towards a climax that dismantles social posturing and, fairly unsurprisingly and conservatively, advocates reuniting (chuckle-worthy cuckoo clock sight gag and all).
It's in the strength of the lead performers that this climax, as well as the tone of the film as a whole, feels natural and heartfelt rather than contrived. Both Grant and Dunn, just starting to hit their strides as comedic juggernauts, balance the most acerbic tweaking of their twinkling personas with a seldom seen vulnerability and sweetness, and their chemistry is truly one for the ages. Grant, only starting to cultivate the image of 'THE Cary Grant,' is at his tumbling, righteously indignant grumbling, quipping best, whereas Dunn proves as masterfully skilled at winning roars of laughter form the slightest twitch of her nose to her iconic lampooning of a drunken floozy. Providing considerable support, Ralph Bellamy essays his best lovable buffoon (complete with an unforgettably hilarious cringe-worthy duet of "Home on the Range" with Dunn), while Cecil Cunningham pilfers most of the best one-liners as Dunn's quick-witted Aunt Patsy.
The rest is cinematic history: McCarey took home the Academy Award for Best Director (Dunn and Bellamy were also nominated), and, over seventy years later, the film remains a winningly vibrant screwball classic. Silly, but with an appropriate dash of sobering, and wildly exuberant without becoming exhausting, watching or rewatching this delightful film is an opportunity that shouldn't be passed up. And that's the Truth.
a charming movie from the Golden Age, nothing else. nothing real coherent or new or special. but comfortable and useful for remind the old fashion comedy, far by high ambitions, silly, childish, near the parody, chaotic, sentimental, absurd, about nothing but not ancient Seinfeld, full of nice gags but more than a slice of humor. a film who reminds the real freedom of expression. and that could be all. but the useful detail remain the performances of Irene Dunne and Cary Grant. nothing new but the perfect science to use the details, to define the limits are the good thing who birth interesting experience. because it is just charming.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
So says Oklahoman oil man\rancher Dan Leeson (Ralph Bellamy) when he finally manages to give his Eastern dream girl Lucy (Irene Dunne) a peck on her cheek. Apart from the intriguing question of how many steaks Dan would wolf down if he actually got to, say, second or third base with Lucy, one sort of wonders why an hour and a half story about a "divorce" that seemed bogus and poorly motivated from Day One could earn five Oscar nominations. True, it's funny in spots. True, Cary Grant (as Lucy's "estranged" hubby Jerry) and Miss Dunne were fairly popular in the 1930s. Still, it seems this pair should have been able to ad-lib most of what's on-screen here, with little need for direction. This raises the question of WHY Academy voters diverted the best director Oscar from the helmsman of 1937's official "Best Picture" (William Dieterle, for his valiant attempt to save French Jews from the threat of Hitler with THE LIFE OF EMILE ZOLA) to Leo McCarey for THE AWFUL TRUTH. The awful truth is that Oscar voting always has been 10% thoughtful, 90% a whimsical popularity contest, in which non-Americans and Un-Americans join American One-Percenters to comprise a skewed electorate. As baseball learned years ago in All-Star balloting, it's even more urgent that the Academy gives the People the vote for the 12 main categories. (If the Academy does the nominations, this won't be some sort of People's Choice Awards with a Jackass flick being voted on--oops, THAT'S what the Academy itself is doing this year!) Give the People the Vote!
Grant and Dunne. It doesn't get any better. Add a fantastic portrayal
of an Okie hick by Ralph Bellamy, and that wonderful wire-haired
terrier, best known as Asta in the Thin Man series, plus a studio full
of some of the day's best character actors.
Plus a funny/clever/fast 'laughs-don't-let-up script, and you have an obvious winner.
Grant: His facial expressions, even when he is virtually expressionless, and those little 'hmmms' and grunts. Cameras and audiences loved him. One thing that frosts my testicles are some of today's critics who, once every year or so, proclaim some newcomer as the next Cary Grant. Hugh whatshisname was selected as such. What's he doing these days? He is not charming audiences.
As the old joke goes -- do you know what Irene Dunne did? No, what did Dunne do? She charmed moviegoers whenever she showed up. By the way, she is an excellent singer, but did not do much of that in films.
"The Awful Truth" has to do with infidelity, or something similar. The idea of breaking up each others next romances was milked beautifully. Grant, Dunne, the script, everything, everybody including the pooch (yesterdays Jack Russell terriers). I grew up with a wire hair. Tootsie was a fun dog.
This flick was definitely not a dog. It was a helluva lot of fun.
Cary Grant and Irenne Dune have it's relationship problems, most of all
in the thing of trust. So, they think in divorce and fight for their
This Leo McCarey's classic has some problems. I think it's script is very, very smart talking about the relationships that the pace get trouble in it's development. I found funny, of course, some of the situations (Specially with that lovely dog) and the last scene with the door are very lovely. The text also understand it's topic.
But, still, i think it hasn't aged well. The movie pace for ones, sometimes you only see this people fighting and talking about this and that fine with me but it think it just don't fulfill with all it's comedic intentions. Also i think this is not so screwball, and don't deserve to belongs to the same group of wild comedies as "Bringin' up Baby". It belongs more to the kind of "light comedy" like other Columbia pictures like "It Happened One Night".
So, its enjoyable but too light for my taste. See "The Philadelphia Story" instead, which share the same objective.
The romantic comedy The Awful Truth is directed by Leo McCarey and
stars Carey Grant and Irene Dunne. The film takes place in modern day
New York city.
The film begins with Jerry and Lucy Warriner (Grant and Dunne) deciding to get divorced because the two do not trust each other and Jerry believing that Lucy had an affair with her music instructor. The divorced takes place rather quickly without much thought so it really is a mistake. They go to court where it is decided who gets what and Lucy gets their dog only because she cheated when the dog chose which person. She cheated by having a toy hidden and squeaking it so the dog would come to her. Then it goes to Lucy living with her aunt and her aunt being depressed that everything they do nothing of excitement. Then while her aunt decides to go out alone she runs into a charming gentleman on the elevator. Her aunt takes the gentleman, Dan Leeson, to meet her niece Lucy and they hit it off even though Jerry is taking his turn visiting the dog and distracting the three of them. The rest of the film is how the two try to make each other jealous and ruining each other's chances at finding a new spouse.
The screenplay for this film was very fine. It was comedic throughout and the characters were all very charming. At some points the film dragged toward the beginning, but at the end it seemed somewhat rushed like it was trying to complete it. The ending was also predictable, but what do you expect being it is a romantic comedy. It was a smart concept and was written well overall, much more enjoyable than most romantic comedies today.
The direction for this film by Leo McCarey was also good. Now I am not sure that he should have won an Oscar for it, I did not think it was too impressive. But maybe it was a bad year for direction. He got solid performances from his cast which is always necessary for a successful romantic comedy. I cannot think of really any impressive shots throughout the film but I can say that some of the sequences involving the dog at the beginning and the cat at the end were quite funny. It was well directed, just not Oscar worthy.
The acting in this film was quite delightful. Grant was charming as Jerry, always timing his remarks and actions perfectly. Dunne was great as Lucy and earned an Oscar nomination as well. What really made this film work was the chemistry between the two, it was just seeping out of the film. All the supporting cast was great too, no one underperformed on this one at.
Overall I give this film a solid 7/10, it is quite an enjoyable film. I would recommend it to anyone who likes classic romantic comedies.
There are a number of direct similarities between this movie and the
1935 Paramount film "Hands Across the Table," starring Carole Lombard
and Fred MacMurray. Both films have the main male character getting a
fake tan from a sun lamp. Both have scenes where the male and female
character are up at night in separate rooms, pacing up and down and
wondering whether or not one should join the other. Both have Ralph
Bellamy as the "other man," the "loser," certain to be dropped by the
leading lady in favor of the star. In fact, Bellamy's character in this
film is called "Leeson," which is how one would actually pronounce the
last name of the director of "Hands Across the Table," Mitchell Leisen!
(I was half expecting to see Bellamy bring out the wheelchair that he
had in the earlier film!)
Maybe the similarities in the two films lie with Viña Delmar? She's identified as being on the writing team for both. In a way, "The Awful Truth" is a more comedic, more zany re-working of "Hands Across the Table." Instead of Fred MacMurray trying to put one over on his fiancé with the help of manicurist Carole Lombard, in "The Awful Truth," it's Cary Grant trying to put one over on his wife Irene Dunne who in this case is now in on the gag.
"The Awful Truth" is the stronger film mainly because of the director and the actors. The material isn't taken too seriously. The improvisation that reportedly took place on the film works in playing up the extra light touch. It also gives the movie a kind of energy and a feeling of spontaneity that "Hands Across the Table" and other studio films from this period lacked. With "The Awful Truth," each scene feels like a moment.
One other interesting note: At the end, it seems likely that Cary Grant and Irene Dunne will now spend the night together in the one room on the one bed. But, as they mentioned, their divorce is official at midnight! They're going to wake up and not be married! Where was the Production Code here? Where's the reference to calling up a preacher to hurry over and remarry them quick, or to waiting until tomorrow to do the deed, after getting re-hitched? My goodness gracious!
When he received the Oscar for best Director for The Awful Truth, McCarey said" Thanks, but your giving me the oscar for the wrong picture". He believed that his best effort came in another picture that year, the unforgettably moving "Make Way For Tomorrow". He was right, but The Awful Truth is a very close second. Carey Grant and the superb Irene Dunne deliver two of the greatest comic performances, and the support ( especially Ralph Bellamy)is uniformly good.McCarey directs with precision, economy, pacing, and human insight. A 10
"The Awful Truth" is a wonderful screwball comedy from that most
fertile period of screwball comedies--the 1930s. Cary Grant and Irene
Dunne are a terrific match as a dueling husband and wife, each
determined to prove to the other that he/she can live without him/her.
Until they discover "the awful truth": they're made for each other.
Grant and Dunne have tremendous chemistry together, and Ralph Bellamy received his sole Academy Award nomination as the film's straight man, a macho Western man's man, about as far away from Cary Grant as you can get, who has a hankering for Dunne. And not to be outdone by "The Thin Man," there's even a cute dog thrown into the mix, given cute doggy things to do by director Leo McCarey.
McCarey, who had some experience directing the Marx Brothers before helming this, shows his flair for physical comedy, but he keeps a pretty tight reign and doesn't let the movie get too carried away by its own zaniness. In fact, he's able to give the film a rather serious tone running constantly underneath its silly surface, and I think that's probably why we remember this film now when we've forgotten so many other throw-away comedies from the same time period. There's something rather sad in the feud between Grant and Dunne; there's a very realistic bitterness that develops between the two, and their characters walk that very thin line between love and hate. They could have a beautiful, passionate partnership, but don't quite know how to pull it off. Of course the battle of the sexes is here plumbed for its comic potential, but it's not difficult to see how this movie could be played seriously, rather reminiscent of "Dodsworth", in which case we'd be remembering it as a fine example of 30s drama rather than the comedy that it is.
It's no wonder CARY GRANT reached his full-fledged stardom in THE AWFUL
TRUTH. It's a role that gives him the chance to demonstrate all the
warmth and skill he had as a natural comedian with the sort of style
and elegance that made him a superstar.
But it's IRENE DUNNE and RALPH BELLAMY who really come through with hilarious performances. Bellamy is a welcome surprise, usually playing the low-key second lead in romantic comedies, but seldom with such a flair for comedy skills. His naive, bumbling country man in love with Dunne is a delight, from start to finish. And Dunne has never had a better range of comedy material to work with. She's at her best posing as Grant's sister for a bunch of society snobs and getting lowdown and dirty for some laughs.
The script is a romp for its three stars and gets sterling direction from Leo McCarey that deservedly won him an Academy Award as Best Director. Bellamy too got a supporting role nomination and Dunne, of course, a Best Actress nomination. All the talent and skill in the playing makes this one of the best screwball comedies of the '30s, well worth viewing for a number of funny sight gags and amusing situations.
If you'd like a taste of good screwball comedy, the kind rampant in the '30s, this one has a flavor you can't resist.
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