Over the course of earning a degree in Cinema Studies, I'll be honest with you; I hardly ever got to watch the kind of movies that I liked. Call me lowbrow if you must, but remember, I'm talking about my university years, and getting up at eight AM to watch Berlin: Symphony of a Great City wasn't the best way to nurse a hangover. Don't get me wrong, I learned plenty and I was happy for the chance to see intellectually challenging films -- I just didn't always have that much fun. That is until I signed up for Classic Hollywood Cinema, and finally I got my chance to watch movies like Leo McCarey's The Awful Truth and pretend I was studying.
The great Jean Renoir once said, "[Leo] McCarey understands people - perhaps better than anyone else in Hollywood.", and Truth is a great example of McCarey's way with a character. The screwball romance centered on two 'gay divorcees' by the names of Jerry and Lucy Warriner (played by Cary Grant and Irene Dunne) who only realize how much they mean to each other after they have gotten divorced. McCarey strikes the right balance of farce and humanity with Jerry and Lucy, and even manages to make some keen observations about marital trust. But it is a comedy after all, and there is plenty of funny to go around thanks to stellar performances from Ralph Bellamy as a millionaire hick, and Cecil Cunningham as the wisecracking Aunt Patty.
In spite of all the pratfalls and slamming doors, you really do care about the Warriners, and McCarey even manages to make their reunion pretty sexy for a screwball comedy. Grant and Dunne would go on to star in several other films together, including the hilarious My Favorite Wife (which was also written and produced by McCarey). But, Truth was a little more about people than wild and wacky circumstances, and maybe that's why it will remain their best.
After the jump; Cary Grant meets his muttering comic match in Irene Dunne...
The Awful Truth Fun Facts:
- Large parts of the film were improvised by McCarey and the cast during each day of filming.
- It was in this film that Irene Dunne first utters the name 'Jerry The Nipper' implying that Grant's character was a drinker. The nickname became a movie in-joke when Grant starred in Bringing Up Baby the following year, and Katherine Hepburn uses the name as Grant's supposed criminal alias.
- It was rumored that Dunne (a musical star) had it written into her contract that she would get to sing in all of her films, and two musical 'numbers' were added to Truth to showcase her talents.