“You've come back and caught me in the truth, and there's nothing less logical than the truth.”
The Awful Truth has Cary Grant in another great comedy pairing (well really the question who was he never paired greatly with?) with Irene Dunne. This is the first film in which Grant and Dunne would be paired. Right from the beginning you can clearly see the great romantic as well as comedic chemistry between them.
Lucy and Jerry Warriner divorce after hearing of the others’ infidelities. Lucy has apparently been seeing another man while Jerry was not on a business trip when he said he was. The two divorce but with one kick: Lucy got custody of their dog Mr. Smith (she cheatingly lures their dog with one of his toys in her arm muff) and Jerry gets visitation rights. They still have to see each other a few times a week.
Lucy is now living with her aunt in an apartment. Across the hall is a handsome man named Dan who lives with his mother. One night when Dan is over Jerry also comes over to play with Mr. Smith and the ex- husband becomes a little jealous of the new man in his ex- wife’s life. Throughout much of the film Jerry tries break things off between Lucy and Dan. He succeeds by accident when he comes across the man Lucy apparently had an affair with while they were still married. Lucy had the man hiding in her room. When Dan and his mother come by Jerry does not want to cause more trouble between Jerry and his mother and Lucy so he goes to hid in her bedroom. Well the other man is there and the two start brawling. They eventually run out of the room with Jerry chasing the other guy. Dan and his mother (more so his mother) will not stand for this and tell Lucy it is over.
After the incident at Lucy’s, Jerry finds himself a new girl and the two get engaged. Now it is Lucy’s turn to be a little jealous. Lucy goes over to Jerry’s just to talk about how their divorce is almost final. She orders a car and after the call the phone rings and she picks it up thinking it was the car. Unfortunately it is not a driver it is Jerry’s fiancé on the phone. Jerry clears things up saying Lucy is his sister. The woman invites Lucy as Jerry’s sister over for dinner.
Well Lucy gets her revenge on embarrassing Jerry after all he did to her. She gets to the party pretending to be a drunk jazz floozy. She even goes so far as to do a dance that a girlfriend of Jerry’s had done previously pretending her skirt is blowing in the air! The fiancé and her family do not approve of Lucy as Jerry’s sister so Jerry leaves with Lucy. Even in the car Lucy is wreaking havoc.
Circumstances bring them to the home of Lucy’s dad. There the exes finally come together (so to speak) and realize they still love each other a half hour before their divorce is final.
There are many good lines and scenes throughout the film and like His Girl Friday it is hard to point out specific lines and scenes that will not give away the whole film. Leo McCarey allowed for a great amount of improvising from the actors and he himself did as well with his directing so many of the lines were not in the script and are jokes made at the actors’ own expenses. One of my favorite lines is after something crazy happens and Jerry says to Lucy on his way out “I’m going to get some popcorn and lemonade, I’ve just seen a three ringed circus.”
Cary Grant of course hits his comedic stride wonderfully. His scenes are never dull, as Jerry he pushes Lucy’s buttons to no end. At the end when Jerry and Lucy are at her father’s place he has an old pair of pajamas on that looks like a nightgown. Lucy laughs at him and he lifts his leg in hair and says “Air conditioning” looking like he did not even think too hard about saying the line (could have been an improvised line).
I have some issues with Irene Dunne. I liked Lucy as a character but sometimes Dunne’s acting was a little too much. From the moment she opens her mouth in her first scene I felt annoyed. I like Dunne I enjoyed her immensely in Roberta and really liked her in My Favorite Wife she was a brilliant actress but I just did not like her acting in this film. Dunne’s acting does not take away from the film she is supposed to be silly and she is silly and wonderful but for some reason her acting rather annoyed me. I laughed and enjoyed Dunne in the scene where Lucy is pretending to be Jerry’s drunk sister. She walks in and asks “Could I have a drink? I had three or four before I got here but I think they’re starting to wear off.” When Jerry and Lucy leave they get pulled over and after some clever thinking Lucy makes something happen to the car where they both have to hitch some rides with cops on their motorcycles. Lucy is either playing a drunk really well or she really is because the way she is sitting on the motorcycle she starts bouncing up and down hitting the horn with her behind. That was probably my favorite scene of the film especially because Cary Grant just sits on the other bike like he is thinking oh lord what is this woman doing? Haha.
Ralph Bellamy plays Dan the bumbling, innocent fool who is very much in love with Lucy. It is almost like Grant, Dunne, and McCary had something going against Bellamy, nothing mean just joking. Maybe it was the way the characters of Lucy and Jerry played against Dan but it was so good whatever it was. One scene had Dan coming over and professing his love for Lucy with a poem he had written. Since Jerry was over Lucy did not let Dan in and had him read the poem in the doorway the whole time Jerry was on the other side of the open door. Jerry starts poking at Lucy and making her laugh and poor Dan just stands there not knowing what’s going on while reading his poem.
The Awful Truth is one of the great screwball comedies to have been made in the 1930s. Also like His Girl Friday we will never see comedy made perfectly like this again or a pairing that worked so well together like Cary Grant and Irene Dunne (I seriously think it is all Cary Grant he was just perfect with whoever he was paired with, it is almost as if he just knew how to blend with the other’s personality and acting). The plot when reading about the film may sound a bit old and a bit boring but trust me it is in no way boring it keeps you on your toes and very entertained.