Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Awful Truth

The Awful Truth; romantic comedy, USA, 1937; D: Leo McCarey, S: Irene Dunne, Cary Grant, Ralph Bellamy, Alexander D'Arcy

Jerry has to assure his friend that he did not cheat on his wife, Lucy, even though he was not on a scheduled trip to Florida. However, when Jerry and his friends return home, he is surprised that his wife is also not at home, as scheduled, and that she was with a music teacher, Armand. Due to these inconsistencies, Jerry and Lucy do not trust each other and eventually file for divorce. Lucy starts seeing a man from Oklahoma, Dan, much to Jerry's jealousy, who hastily starts a relationship with a certain Barbara. When Lucy disguises herself as Jerry's sister to meet Barbara, Jerry and Lucy leave with a car and stop at her aunt's cabin. Spending the night there, they finally realize they love only each other.

Even though it is one of the lesser examples of the 'golden age of Hollywood', Leo McCarey's 'screwball' comedy "The Awful Truth" is still a joy to watch and better than most of modern comedies. A lot of the sequences and situations seem improvised, which can be felt here and there in the rather "abrupt" ending, yet this light comedy has a fair share to funny moments which all create a slow build up of comic timing. The opening sequence, when Jerry (very good Cary Grant) returns home only to find out that his wife Lucy (brilliant Irene Dunne) is in company of a dashing music teacher, Armand, thereby igniting his suspicion of her faithfulness, already leads up to a few great comical dialogues between the three of them ("I can assure you, Jerry, I am a great teacher, not a great lover!" - "Nobody can say that you are a great lover... Oh..."; "I don't know what to say." - "If you leave now, you won't have to say anything!"). However, McCarey seems to be very playful not only with sizzling lines, but also with sight gags and pure slapstick, some of which are remarkably relaxed and genuine (Jerry and Lucy unsuccessfully trying to call the dog in the middle to chose between one of them at the court during the divorce, until Lucy cheats by secretly offering him dog biscuits under her sleeve; the sequence where Armand is hiding from Jerry in Lucy's bedroom, until Jerry hides there as well upon Dan, Lucy's new lover, entering the home, which leads up to a delicious fight between Jerry and Armand off screen while Lucy tries to talk to Dan as if nothing is going on). Unfortunately, some of the subplots are rather pointless (Lucy masquerading as Jerry's sister) whereas a more romantic-emotional dimension is absent until the ending, which is why there were still room for a tighter structure despite many good moments.


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