“You’ve come back and caught me in the truth — and there’s nothing less logical than the truth.”
A husband (Cary Grant) and wife (Irene Dunne) seeking a divorce find that they’re actually still in love with one another.
Response to Peary’s Review:
As Peary notes, “there’s nothing special” about the story underlying this beloved screwball comedy about a divorcing socialite couple who are too prideful to admit that they really still love each other — but it remains an enduring treat due to its “terrific” stars (Grant and Dunne) who make “amusing lines sound downright sophisticated”, and who fearlessly employ both improvisation and physical comedy. Indeed, in his Alternate Oscars book, Peary gives both Dunne and Grant awards as best actor and actress of the year, thus duly acknowledging their expert comedic work in the film. In …Oscars, he argues that while Grant’s ghostly character in the same year’s Topper was simply irritating (as is that entire film, truth be told), his “Jerry” in The Awful Truth “remains likable even when deliberately annoying Lucy [Dunne] or the other men in Lucy’s life”. And, while he’s consistently charming, Grant is “never afraid to be the total fool” — as in the classic top hat sequence (surely inspired by director Leo McCarey’s earlier work with Laurel and Hardy), or when he’s “putting on” Dunne’s unsophisticated new love interest (Ralph Bellamy).
As for Dunne, while she’s never been a favorite actress of mine (Chris Dashiell of CineScene accurately points out that she “too often comes off as smug”), she is indeed (in Peary’s words) “charming and funny” in this film, as she gamely “[lets] fly with one-liners”, and “has a field day showing there’s fire under her ladylike facade”. Bellamy deserves special note as well for his pitch perfect portrayal of a “dull, mother-dominated” bumpkin; as DVD Savant puts it, “Bellamy deserved an Oscar for the self-effacing thankless performances he provided” in this and His Girl Friday (1940). Watch for plenty of humorous moments sprinkled throughout the otherwise predictable screenplay — including the truly inspired final bedroom scene, featuring the most creative use of a cuckoo clock in a film — ever.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Cary Grant as Jerry Warriner
- Irene Dunne as Lucy Warriner
- Ralph Bellamy as Dan Leeson
- Plenty of hilarious, largely improvised sequences
- The final “bedroom scene”
Yes, as a fine screwball classic.
(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)