Movie Reviews

Cary and Irene Are As Charming As Ever in The Awful Truth (1937)

So as I promised (more or less), I’m back with another review of an Irene Dunne film, none other than The Awful Truth, one of her best known movies and her first collaboration with Cary Grant, with whom she went on to make two more films (My Favorite Wife and Penny Serenade).

The Awful Truth Was directed by Leo Mccarey, who, from what I have read, in directing this particular film, had a special approach to directing where he wouldn’t let the actors know the whole script whilst filming. Besides Cary Grant and Irene Dunne in main roles, other recognizable cast names include Ralph Bellamy, Alexander D’Arcy, Mary Forbes and let’s not forget the famous pup actor Skippy (best known for playing Asta in The Thin Man franchize, but he also played the dog George in Bringing Up Baby!). Alas, he wasn’t mentioned in the credits in The Awful Truth – in spite of playing an important role in the relationship of the two main characters!

The film is a classic comedy of remarriage, a screwball subgenre quite popular during this era. I was just going to say how I hadn’t seen any movies which follow this trope prior to this one – and indeed I hadn’t seen many of them – but then The Philadelphia Story and His Girl Friday came to my mind. And the fact that i immediately could think of two more such films only proves the popularity of this trope within the screwball genre, I guess!

According to IMDb, there is the basic plot oberview of The Awful Truth: “A married couple file an amicable divorce, but find it harder to let go of each other than they initially thought“.

After suspecting each other of infidelity, Lucy and Jerry Warriners, a married couple, decide to file a divorce. The tension of the first scene of Jerry arriving from California (I mean Florida) with a bunch of friends to find the flat empty is already hilarious. Things get even more awkward when Lucy, Mrs Warriner, arrives followed by her handsome music teacher Armand Duvalle – all that in front of Jerry’s totally discreet, well-meaning friends who would never spread gossip around. Awkward. Fast forward to the court room, where it is decided that the divorce should be finalized in 90 days. In the meantime, Lucy gets custody of the dog, but Jerry has visitation rights. Both try to move on with their lives even before the divorce is finalized: Lucy moves to her aunt Patsy and quickly starts dating a marinated Oklahoma businessman Dan Leeson (played by Ralph Bellamy), a boisterous lad living next door with his mother.

Daniel:.[…]I’m in oil, you know.

Aunt Patsy: Marinated, so to speak.

Daniel: Say, that’s a good one. I gotta remember to tell that to my mother.

Jerry has a far less durable fling with a nightclub singer called Dixie Belle Lee (that’s not her real name; but I guess “it was easier to her to change her name than for her whole family to change theirs!”). She plays a somewhat important role though, as her nightclub performance inspires Lucy to liven up a particularly dull party later in the film and get her sweet revenge on Jerry for meddling in her and Dan’s romance, while also managing to accomplish her own goal. Win-win.

Irene Dunne is absolutely wonderful in this role. Besides the rest of the cast, it is Irene and Cary who, in my opinion, really shine in this film. It definitely makes me want to watch two of their other projects. I sometimes forget this, as I don’t usually list him as one of my favorite actors, but I really adore Cary Grant – I think that his presence can brighten up any film (I have yet to see a dull film with Cary Grant, but I dare say he would add charm even to some otherwise boring film). Add to that Irene Dunne, a cinematic light in her own right, and brillant humour, and you get cinematic heaven that is The Awful Truth.

A word or two about the costume designer, Robert Kalloch, because some of the costumes are gorgeous. I mean, all of them are, but some of them I liked especially. Some of Kalloch’s other notable works include It Happened One Night, Holiday, His Girl Friday to name a few. My favorite costume in The Awful Truth probably would be Lucy’s sparkly dress she wears to visit Jerry after she hears about his new relationship with Barbara Vance, a renowned heiress. If Lucy wanted to leave an impression with this choice of clothing, she certainly made an impression on me! This isn’t the only time we see her wearing sparkles though, as shown in the pictures below.

I know I said that Irene and Cary are really the stars of this movie, but I feel like I shouldn’t completely ignore the rest of the cast either. They all add their own charm to the film. Like Alexander D’arcy, who is quite charismatic (and funny) in the role of the not-so-great lover Armand Duvalle. And I have to admit, I didn’t realize until literally now that he is also the guy who played Marilyn Monroe’s love interest in How to Marry a Millionaire. Bonkers!

Armand: […] I have never yet been in a scandal.
Jerry: Never been caught, huh?
Armand: No. I am a great teacher, not a great lover.
Lucy: That’s right, Armand. No one could ever accuse you of being a great lover. That is, I mean to say, well, well who’s to say whether you are or not. It’s all so silly, but maybe you had better go.

Ralph Bellamy is also very charming in the role of Dan Leeson, a loud-laughing, steak-loving, poetry-writing Oklahoma chap madly in love with Lucy.

Dan Leeson: certainly learned about women from you.

Aunt Patsy: [handing him the letter Lucy intended to break up with him in] Here’s your diploma.

All in all, I am looking forward to seeing more of Cary and Irene in the future, even if they made only two more films together. It’s a joy seeing them on screen separately, but even better seeing them together. Until the next time!

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