The Awful Truth Screen 11 articles

The Awful Truth

1937

The Awful Truth Poster
  • Why, why deprive yourself of the pleasure of Cary Grant? ...McCarey has a cuckoo clock gag planned for the ending, which requires, along the way, at least three musical numbers, one sad Oklahoma bumpkin, and a salon-full of the scandalized 1%. If you’ve seen Birdman recently, you’ll know to watch the elevator dial and wonder—when are we now?

  • Leo McCarey's largely improvised 1937 film is one of the funniest of the screwball comedies, and also one of the most serious at heart... The awful truth is that they need each other, and McCarey, with his profound faith in monogamy, leads them gradually and hilariously to that crucial discovery. The issues deepen in a subtle, natural way: the film begins as a trifle and ends as something beautiful and affirmative.

  • Who else would make the final scene of such a loud screwball comedy as The Awful Truth end as quietly as it does? Compare the film with Bringing Up Baby (1938) or Twentieth Century (1934) – Hawks’ strategy is to go faster, louder, zanier. McCarey, by contrast, slows down The Awful Truth at its climax, startlingly so. The ending, suddenly, is not screwball. This is something deeper, more realistically romantic, than “sophisticated comedy.”

  • Of all the great movies, this may be the one that most resists description in words – although some of film culture's finest writers, including James Harvey and Stanley Cavell, have tried their best. . . . Above all, the film is a monument to the sheer, magical lovability of its stars.

  • The solitary nature of DVD watching does a disservice to comedies, which always play better to a big crowd, so watching Cary Grant spar with Irene Dunne in one of the definitive screwball comedies is a definite highlight of Chicago's popular Outdoor Film Festival.

  • It's been described as a “tuning fork” for other comedies, and it’s obvious why. The tone of this film is so light, so crazed, so assured – the laughs come like clockwork – you know you are in great hands. You can see the set-ups for disaster and comedy a mile away, but instead of the plot feeling predictable, you just start to get excited, like: “Oh God, this is gonna be bad … how are they gonna get out of this one??” You watch with ghoulish delight as other people’s lives fall apart spectacularly.

  • The source of The Awful Truth’s historic popularity is not difficult to discern: McCarey’s screwball comedy certainly ranks among the funniest and most purely pleasurable comedic offerings of Hollywood’s “golden age”, with its extremely attractive leads Irene Dunne and Cary Grant delivering two of their signature performances.

  • McCarey is a genius, less for pointing out what has become a genre standard—the one you can’t stand is also the only one for you!—than for weaving it around spellbindingly uncomfortable set pieces with real teeth, littering the dialogue with one-offs so callous you’ll hardly notice the first time.

  • It's generally classed with screwball comedies, but McCarey has no interest in setting a land-speed record for snappy wisecracks—he just wants to kick back and watch Grant and Dunne go at it, and especially watch the fond pleasure that they take in one another’s mortification, as when a sparklingly spiteful Grant looks on while Oklahoman Ralph Bellamy galumphs Dunne around a Manhattan nightspot.

  • The screwball jewel The Awful Truth (1937) focuses on a married couple (played by Irene Dunne and Cary Grant) who must gather the force to divorce once they realize they no longer love each other—and the resolve to reunite once they realize that they love each other after all.

  • It's likely McCarey's best. It is certainly one where his talents are most evident, particularly his expert staging and his fine-tuned sense of comic cutting. From Grant hiding behind a door as Dan reads Lucy a tortuous poem, to the film’s barrage of unexpected entrances and inappropriate actions, McCarey was a master at having people in just the right spot at just the right time, either through composition or on-the-nose editing.

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