There are a few movies that make me laugh every time I watch them. “The Awful Truth” (1937) is one of them. Leo MCarey’s screwball comedy is a true gem. It stars Cary Grant and Irene Dunne–with wonderful supporting performances from Ralph Bellamy and others.
Grant and Dunne play a well-to-do married couple, Lucy and Jerry Warriner. However, a little miscommunication leads them to file for divorce. They fight over custody of the dog, then begin to entertain new suitors. But each seems bent on sabotaging the other’s new relationships. Will Lucy and Jerry stay apart forever? Will their own antics do them in? Or are they destined to get back together?
The plot is admittedly light, but it’s witty and clever. The dialogue is brisk, with much of it improvised by the talented cast. McCarey’s direction demonstrates his command of comic timing. Grant and Dunne seem completely relaxed and comfortable together. They verbally spar and play with each other to great effect. Their non-verbal communication and slapstick is often hilarious. Just watch Grant squirm while his date performs a musical number in a club called, “My Dreams Are Gone with the Wind.” Also, watch him fight with a chair in the back of a crowded room while Dunne sings a piano-accompanied solo. Watch Dunne’s absolutely contagious laugh when she sees Grant struggle with the chair and finishes her song. Watch Bellamy and Dunne together in splendid awkwardness as he destroys the song “Home on the Range”. Plus, even the dog is funny.
“The Awful Truth” was nominated for six academy awards, winning one for McCarey’s directon. More importantly though, it’s a total hoot. Light, airy and fun. If you’re ever feeling down, just turn this movie on. It’s guaranteed to make you smile and probably laugh out loud.
Here’s a link to a video of Peter Bogdanovich on TCM’s ‘The Essentials’ giving a good intro and overview of “The Awful Truth” with several clips of the movie.
Rating: 3.5 out of 4 stars
1937, No Rating, 91 minutes, Comedy, Romance