Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Bogdanovich Challenge: Week Three


The Awful Truth, released October 21, 1937. 

Directed by Leo McCarey. 

Starring Irene Dunne, Cary Grant, Ralph Bellamy and Alexander D'Arcy.


"Certainly among the great American comedies, this remains as remarkably fresh and buoyant as ever--more so. It has, too, an adult kind of witty sophistication that is perfectly representative of the best aspects of the glorious Thirties. How did we ever get so dumbed down to the prevalent sophmoric humor of the Nineties?
The Awful Truth is perhaps the supreme example of light comedy that's also real, human, and mature in dealing with man's often frivolous idiosyncrasies and foolishness."


Of the three films that I've watched so far for this year-long challenge, The Awful Truth is the earliest released and easily my favorite.

It's amazing to think that this was Cary Grant's first real leading role, because the man is brilliant as the recently separated Jerry Warriner. He's charming in a way that doesn't quite seem possible; a little weaselly at first, but it's difficult not to let him win you over by the film's end. Even when it's his own dishonesty and distrust that destroyed his marriage in the first place. Even when he's openly sabotaging his soon to be ex-wife's new romance. It's no surprise that Grant and the word great are only a few letters off.

Actually, forget I said that last bit. What a stupid thing to say.

The real surprise is that actress Irene Dunne never received an Academy Award, despite being nominated on five separate occasions for Best Actress. That includes one for this film, where she portrays Grant's wife, Lucy Warriner.  Their chemistry together is fantastic, sure, but Dunne isn't just a pretty face for Cary to play off of. She's perfect in every scene she's in. I was impressed with how well she pulls off the comedic, but doubly so by one well-placed dramatic delivery in the final act. It's a wonderful little moment that reminds the viewer that, despite all the shenanigans and word-play, there's actually something at stake for these two former lovers.

Bogdanovich was spot-on when he referred to The Awful Truth as fresh. Even though the film is over seventy-five years old, it rarely feels dated. Definitely one that I'll be revisiting sooner rather than later.


  1. I just love these old movie posters they just don't do them like those anymore.

    1. Don't get me started on the lost art-form of movie posters or VHS covers. Although, I'll take anything from the '80s, even over these posters from the Golden Age of Cinema. I love the art, but they seem to suffer from the same thing that posters these days do; billing the acting talent over anything else.

  2. I was just reading about this challenge somewhere lately, it sounds like something I could really get behind being a big TCM junkie and all. I ought to look into more closely.

    Actually I saw this movie for the first time around this time last year

    The screwball comedy aesthetic is certainly one that hasn't gone away, though it struck me as odd how people could enjoy a movie were the actors lived in such glamorous in the midst of the Great Depression. Than I thought about the lifestyles depicted in movies over the past couple years and came to the conclusion that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

    1. TCM has recently aired more than a few of Bogdanovich's picks over the last few weeks. It's actually sort-of a shame, because I've dedicated to watching each film during their appropriate weeks and not before. Both OUT OF THE PAST [week 14] and THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS [week 26] were playing on the same night, back to back!

      I never even considered the class of the characters in relation to the year that it was released. It makes sense, I guess, that a more lavish lifestyle is on display for this type of screwball comedy; with references to oil barons and cowboys with farms and lots of land.

      Film as escapism or a form of wish-fulfillment.