Saturday, October 29, 2005

100 Films: The Awful Truth

As far as I can tell, the 'awful truth' is that Jerry (Cary Grant), rather than spending the past two weeks in Florida as he told his wife, has been bumming around New York, presumably playing golf [1]. The truth about his wife Lucy (Irene Dunne) is that in between wearing expensive evening dresses and fur coats she has been spending a little too much time with her European singing teacher. As this is not merely a superficial romantic comedy about the idle rich, the story has morals:
1) A marriage must be based upon faith.
2) If a couple has a beloved pet, they should make sure to put some language about it in their prenuptial agreement.
The Awful Truth [2] begins with Jerry and Lucy failing both 1 and 2, and the movie takes off when a Divorce Judge gives Jerry visitation rights to their dog, Mr. Smith (the Judge, who obviously lacks have the wisdom of Solomon, doesn't even attempt to cut Mr. Smith in half, and Lucy gets custody). You don't get this sort of story anymore except in bad sitcoms, but even in 1937, they weren't even trying to be original[3]: we watch it for the performances. Cary Grant is at his best, but Irene Dunne steals the movie. Dunne is perfect at being nervous (reminds me of Diane Keaton at her funniest, as in Love and Death) most of the film, but launches into full screwball neurosis near the end. The scene where she pretends to be Grant's sister has got to be a comedy classic. Near the end she gets a bit too over the top for me, and it raises that age-old question: Is it overacting when you're playing a character who's overacting?

[1] See The Awful Truth on IMDB or Lucas's review.

[2] Not to be mixed up with The Awful Tooth, Little Rascals movie from the following year, or the Michael Moore anti-corporation TV series.

[3] Thanks to IMDB, I learned that this is a remake of a 1929 film (which I believe was based on a play).


At 5:03 PM, Blogger lucas said...

she's so great when she pretends to be cary grant's sister.


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