Awful Truth, The (1937)


Yes, there's even motorbikes in 1937, and doubling on handlebars!
Yes, there's even motorbikes in 1937, and doubling on handlebars!

Genre: Romantic Comedy

Starring: Cary Grant (North by NorthwestHis Girl Friday), Irene Dunne (My Favorite WifeCimarron)

Directed By: Leo McCarey (An Affair to RememberDuck Soup)

Overview: When a couple files for divorce, they spend their time attempting to sabotage each other’s new relationships.

By 1937, the technological growing pains of the advent of the talkie were resolved: wooden staging and sound-as-an-obstacle was no more. Of course, with the Hays code kicking into high gear in 1934, the freedom to produce lewd lasciviousness was pretty much nipped in the bud. Going into The Awful Truth, a story of a divorcing couple engaging in new romances, well that set an expectation of stiff characters eliciting not roars of laughter, but mild titters. Let me tell you, the awful truth is that this film is anything but tame.

From the start, Jerry (Cary Grant) and Lucy (Irene Dunne) are suspicious of each other’s faithfulness, leaving us with the question, “who is having an affair on who?” Lucy’s French music teacher is the last straw for Jerry’s accusations. Her defiant response: "You've come home and caught me in a truth". Jealousy calls in the lawyers and the divorce proceedings have begun. They split up, waiting for the divorce papers to clear. Whenever the once-couple run into each other, they’re sizing up each other’s new mate, tossing barbs and eyebrow raises, casting doubt on the choices they’ve made.

Think of the children! The terrier children.
Think of the children! The terrier children.

From the beginning Cary Grant steals the show with his impressive presence as Jerry Warriner. Not having seen him in too much comedy, it’s interesting to see him act so straight yet slapstick in The Awful Truth. Irene Dunne is great as Lucy Warriner too, and she would go on to make two more Romantic Comedies with Cary. Other actors get better billing but Mr. Smith, played by veteran actor Skippy (The Thin ManBringing Up Baby) very nearly upstages Cary. Yes, he’s the dog – but a dog that advances plot and has a wonderful portfolio of tricks that make him a worthy reason for the custody battle the couple engages in. The film even has some cat stunts in it.

I’ve not usually been one to find much hilarity in Romantic Comedies in general, but The Awful Truth is consistently laugh-out-loud. Full of big sets and tight tuxedos, this hilarious 30s comedy (sometimes of errors) is quite impressive, a little cheeky and most definitely worth it’s place in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.

I'd like tio say they're all embarassed about that hat, but no.

I'd like to say they're all embarassed about that hat, but no.

Performance: 8 Cinematography: 7 Script: 8 Plot: 8 Mood: 8

Overall Rating: 78% (Awfully Funny)

Ummm, yeees, this film has a fine bouquet and good legs. Undertones of honeysuckle and doggy-dog really made this a tasty sipping film.

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"I guess it was easier for her to change her name than for her whole family to change theirs"

Definitely one of the funniest films ever made! 

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