The Awful Truth (1937)
July 8, 2024 12:09 AM - Subscribe

A married couple file an amicable divorce, but find it harder to let go of each other than they initially thought.

Jerry (Cary Grant) and Lucy (Irene Dunne) are a married couple who doubt each other's fidelity: Jerry suspects Lucy and her music teacher (Alexander D'Arcy) of spending an evening together, and Lucy is convinced Jerry lied about a business trip. When the jealous pair file for divorce, both rush into new relationships, but quickly realize their love never died. The soon-to-be-divorced husband and wife then both scramble to spoil each other's chances for newfound romance.

Otis Ferguson: It is quite grown up, and even the hotter passions are endured with consideration and suavity; at the same time it has an innocent zest for the homely that makes you think of Capra again.

Miss Dunne is getting a divorce from Cary Grant at the beginning, she can't
stand that man, and presently she is taking up with Ralph Bellamy, who apparently plays a perfect Good Time Charley from the long timber without realizing it much. She keeps running into Mr. Grant, who is killingly polite about everything, even Charley and his mother - much more helpful than is necessary, and perhaps a shade too apt in showing up at the wrong times.

Kimberly Wadsworth: I’ve rewatched that scene about three times now; Cary Grant and Irene Dunne’s reactions crack me up every time. Throughout the whole film, in fact, they consistently crack me up – especially Cary Grant, whose comic timing is impeccable. I was first shown this film during rehearsals for a play, when the director wanted to teach the cast about the screwball comedy tone she wanted for our own show. Cary Grant and Irene Dunne were a perfect case study for our actors.

But my own favorite character, both times watching, is a supporting player – Cecil Cunningham, as Lucy’s “Aunt Patsy”, a single socialite Lucy moves in with during the Warriners’ fallout. Aunt Patsy is no genteel wallflower – she is a lively snarker with some of the best lines in the whole movie. In one scene, Lucy is showing Patsy a “Dear John” letter she’s written for one of her rebound beaux – and the unlucky gent turns up unexpectedly, forcing Lucy to break up with him in person. As he’s leaving, he sneers that Lucy has “certainly taught him about women”, and in response, Patsy hands him the letter, quipping “here’s your diploma.”

Molly Haskell: Lucy and Jerry Warriner inhabit a not-quite-real perch alongside society but askew, at an ironic distance. They may belong to the right clubs, know the right people, and appear on the society pages, but they are not quite upper-crust, not the cultural arbiters or rich blue bloods who have to be careful of their position. They are scapegraces, his gentlemanliness no less in question than her virtue, orphans in each other’s care. One of the breathtaking qualities of The Awful Truth is the way we feel these two people, on the verge of divorce, rediscovering each other and their love as they go along, bound together by a matching sense of humor. There’s a whole subset of screwball comedy dubbed the comedy of remarriage by Stanley Cavell, but the rediscovery theme runs through McCarey’s other films too.

Full Movie
posted by Carillon (7 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Fun, but I was definitely stuck on the mores from the 30's that definitely felt off. Like how suspicious his new beau got when a woman answered the phone in his apartment, or how much the music teacher was suspected because he was foreign. The acting is great though, there's a lot of fun in the performances and you can feel the actors enjoying a lot about their roles.
posted by Carillon at 12:11 AM on July 8

This was on the list for my blog, but I'd already seen it back in the 90s when the director for a play wanted to show us all the kind of screwball energy she wanted. I loved it.

My favorite bit is in the nightclub with Cary Grant trying to boast about his new girlfriend - without knowing too much about what her act actually is.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:26 AM on July 8

In fact your blog was linked in the critics review portion :) I enjoyed what you had to say about it a lot!
posted by Carillon at 2:36 PM on July 8

In fact your blog was linked in the critics review portion :)

Holy shit. Thanks!
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:41 PM on July 8 [2 favorites]

posted by Ideefixe at 1:49 PM on July 9

I was surprised because I feel like today it'd be 6 different dogs. So that fact that it was not only the same dog, but I'm a bunch of movies too was cool.
posted by Carillon at 8:46 PM on July 9 [1 favorite]

This was one I had an interest in because of good reviews (also had been browsing your blog a while back Kim/Empress). Seeing it reviewed again here and now inspired me to pick it up at the Barnes & Noble periodic 50% off Criterion Collection sale (I try to find something when that rolls around - last time it was 'The Life And Death Of Colonel Blimp').

Haven't got around to watching 'The Awful Truth' yet, but this has been a good season for catching up with movies on my 'to watch' list.
posted by rochrobbb at 2:47 PM on July 16

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