The Awful Truth

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The Awful Truth (1937)

Directed by Leo McCarey

Based on the play The Awful Truth by Arthur Richman

Screenplay by Viña Delmar

Starring: Irene Dunne, Cary Grant, Ralph Bellamy, Cecil Cunningham

Lucy (Dunne) and Jerry (Grant) have had their suspicions about one another. After they divorce, they begin sabotaging one another in their search for new companions.

This film is one of three films that Cary Grant (Charade) and Irene Dunne (When Tomorrow Comes) made together. The other two being My Favorite Wife and Penny Serenade. This one is based on a 1922 play written by Arthur Richman (Only Yesterday). Viña Delmar (Make Way For Tomorrow) wrote the screenplay, and Leo McCarey (Going My Way) directed the film. The Awful Truth would earn McCarey his first of two Academy Awards for Best Director. The movie was also a Best Picture nominee that year. In addition to Grant and Dunne, this one features Ralph Bellamy (His Girl Friday) and Cecil Cunningham (People Will Talk).

This classic screwball comedy was written by Viña Delmar. Delmar was primarily a novelist, writing in multiple genres over a career that spanned five decades. This is one of two scripts she wrote, the other being Make Way For Tomorrow, which was also produced in 1937. This is a typical screwball comedy from the era. The story begins with a series of silly scenes that highlight the personalities of both main characters. Along the way the story introduces oddball characters in totally wild scenarios. This mix of personalities creates some really fun moments throughout the movie. The film also creates a lot of laughs with sexual innuendo and suggestive moments. The dialogue in this one is witty and playful. The comedy is situational, and the back-and-forth between the characters has some great moments. There aren’t many surprises in the story, and the final destination seems evident early. Despite being predictable, it’s still a really fun movie that has a lot to offer. Delmar earned an Oscar nomination for Best Writing, Screenplay for her efforts.

Cary Grant spent the better part of the production of this movie trying to get out of it. He disagreed with McCarey’s methods and even tried to switch to the role that went to Ralph Bellamy. History would prove that his instincts were incorrect. This film marks the introduction of the lighthearted persona that Grant would become known for. Peter Bogdanovich argued that, when it came to light comedy, “there was Cary Grant and everyone else was an also-ran.” McCarey has been credited for creating the persona that would become part of most of the films Grant would go on to make. Despite the issues that Grant might have had with McCarey, the film doesn’t seem to suffer. Grant does a great job in a role that seems typical of much of his more popular work. He has wonderful chemistry with Dunne, as well as with Bellamy. (He would work with Bellamy again on His Girl Friday in 1940.) Irene Dunne also does great work in this one. Her comedic timing and connection with Grant really pay off. She earned an Oscar nomination for Best Actress for her work on the film. Like Grant and Dunne, Ralph Bellamy and Cecil Cunningham seemed to understand the style of comedy. Their work is playful and fun throughout the movie. Bellamy does a particularly good job with a sort of “fish out of water” character. He got a nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his performance. The entire cast creates a wonderful group of oddball characters that make this one a lot of fun.

This movie looks good and sounds good. It’s amazing that a film made over 80 years ago holds up so well. The cinematography does a great job of bringing an embellished version of 1930’s America to life. The set design is good, and the costuming adds a nice touch to the film. This one also earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Film Editing. It is a film from the 1930’s, so the limitations of production are evident at times. Thankfully, these limitations don’t take away from this one, and it holds up wonderfully.

This type of story has been told many times. Fans of films like The Philadelphia Story and A Palm Beach Story should make sure to check this one out. I would also suggest this to fans of any of the stars mentioned above. It’s especially interesting to see the first use of a character that Grant would play frequently throughout his career. It’s not a perfect movie, but it’s a lot of fun and it holds up wonderfully. I give this one 4.3 out of 5 stars.

Rating: Not Rated

Running Time: 91 Minutes

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