Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Awful Truth (1937)

Irene Dunne, Cary Grant, Ralph Bellamy, and Asta (the Wonder Dog from the Thin Man series--plus Bringing Up Baby): The cast alone makes this worth watching--and they're all young and fresh-faced--even mopey Bellamy, only in the picture (as he is so often) to help the plot go from boy-loses to boy-gets-girl.

Grant will fast-talk and caper like this in other pictures, most notably with Katharine Hepburn and Rosalind Russell; but in The Awful Truth he's up against Irene Dunne--and he'd better not be fooled by the good breeding and calm demeanor. Dunne's Lucy Warriner knows how to counter-punch, and the two of them play out this thwarted-divorce version of a screwball comedy with nimble, even athletic moves. The bit with the hat and the dog, and Dunne's pretending to be Grant's sister, and the business with the door in the cabin at the end--little of it makes sense, but all of it works, one snappy moment after another.

Watching these late-'30s-early-'40s comedies, I forgive myself--and them--if the plots and characters run together in my mind. I think they're meant to, if only because the term "formulaic comedy" is a little redundant: Half the pleasure of comedy is repetition, the familiar pattern realized--and, in the best of them, re-imagined--while the performers heroically run themselves ragged in the attempt to keep things fresh. Nothing is more fun than watching great comic actors like Dunne/Grant/Bellamy trying to out-think their own material, and that's all we need to know about The Awful Truth.

(See The Awful Truth at Netflix HERE.)


  1. This is one of my favorite classical Hollywood movies. I'm gald others like it too, because for a while (first part of the last decade) it was really hard to find.

  2. I hope this is still on, because I quite enjoy some screwball Cary Grant!

  3. Unfortunately, it's no longer on Instant Play. But it is on DVD, and worth fetching. And thanks for the comments, Josh and HereBeDragons; I should get back to work on this site.