8 April 2018

THE CRITERION COLLECTION PRESENTS: CARY GRANT IN SCREWBALL COMEDY 'THE AWFUL TRUTH.' (1937) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.




THE AWFUL TRUTH. (1937) DIRECTED BY LEO MCCAREY. STARRING CARY GRANT, IRENE DUNNE, RALPH BELLAMY, ALEXANDER D'ARCY, CECIL CUNNINGHAM, MOLLY LAMONT, JOYCE COMPTON, ESTHER DALE AND SKIPPY THE DOG AS MR. SMITH.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Aw, good old motor-mouth Cary Grant. Did he ever make a film where he wasn't quipping nineteen to the dozen, firing barbs and retorts and witty comments out of his mouth with the speed of a machine-gun, and all the while dressed impeccably for dinner in white tie and tails?

According to the promotional material, THE AWFUL TRUTH, an Oscar-winning screwball comedy, is the first film in which he did this. It's 'the role that first defined the Cary Grant persona.' I wonder if he ever got tired of playing the same role over and over again, lol. He was the indisputed King of Light Comedy for that era and very few actors ever came close to de-throning him.

This is almost a carbon copy of the role he played in HIS GIRL FRIDAY, coincidentally another film from THE CRITERION COLLECTION, three years later. In this film, Grant plays a quick-thinking, quick-talking newspaper editor who's about to lose his ex-wife and former star reporter once more to Ralph Bellamy, and all because he hides his genuine love and affection for her under a barrage of glib quips and zany schemes.

And he never tells the truth where a lie would suffice, even on occasions when he's actually done nothing wrong, because lying and thinking-on-his-feet is what he's used to and it comes more easily to him than the other thing. Stunted emotional growth, anyone...?

Ralph Bellamy's character in HIS GIRL FRIDAY, Bruce Baldwin, is going to give the ex-wife all the things she could never get from Cary Grant's character, Walter Burns. That is to say, a nice, quiet, fulfilling but frightfully dull existence in the sticks as a busy little housewife and mother, pottering to the store and back with the perambulator weighed down with groceries and brown paper parcels tied up with string.

Life with Walter Burns is lived at top speed, clinging on for dear life as the roller-coaster hurtles you ever closer to the precipice, hopefully yanking you back at the last minute just in time to save your life. So that you can immediately climb back into the roller-coaster and do it all over again, lol. Rosalind Russell's character Hildy Johnson has to decide before the credits roll just what it is she really wants from life...

Even in SUSPICION, not a screwball comedy at all but a magnificent thriller with a possible murder at its root, Cary Grant plays a gadabout playboy-about-town who gambles his money and wastes his life and hides his true feelings for his wife under a volley of quips and meaningless chit-chat and presents he bought on credit and can't afford to pay for when the bills come due.

Co-starring Joan Fontaine and Nigel Bruce from the SHERLOCK HOLMES series of films starring Basil Rathbone as the deer-stalkered one, this is a superb film that brings Cary Grant's and Joan Fontaine's married-couple characters right up to an actual precipice, before the top-hatted quipster will stop gadding about and admit to his love for his wife and how he's not after all trying to kill her by poisoning her, lol.

Anyway, in THE AWFUL TRUTH, the suave and sophisticated Jerry Warriner, played by Grant, is married to social butterfly Lucy Warriner but there's a strong suggestion that he's not being strictly faithful to her. Why else would he come back from a supposed week in Florida without a tan? Mind you, he suspects her of infidelities too, particularly with her French singing teacher Armande Duvalle.

Jerry and Lucy quip to beat the band. They thrust and parry at each other but any real feelings have long since been buried under an avalanche of brittle niceties and sparkling, sophisticated back-and-forth repartee. There's some genuine hurt in there too. They each think the other is cheating and they're hurt and saddened by the suggestion but they don't know how to express their feelings to each other out loud.

They foolishly decide to get divorced, more, it seems, to spite each other and because they've kind of backed themselves into a corner than because they genuinely can't stand the
sight of each other a second longer. It's while they're waiting for their decree absolute or whatever it's called that Lucy meets and becomes affianced to Ralph Bellamy's character.

Ralph Bellamy plays Dan Leeson, a rich but unsophisticated countrified businessman. Much like his character in HIS GIRL FRIDAY, he wants to marry Cary Grant's soon-to-be ex-missus and bury her in Hicksville. Jerry hates him on sight, knowing that he's all wrong for urban princess Lucy, and tries to sabotage the romance.

Jerry is an utter bitch when he's reminding Lucy of all the things she's going to miss about New York. The hustle and bustle, the restaurants, the shows, the late nights, the cocktail parties, the drinking and the dancing, the crowded streets, the cabs honking their horns, even the hangovers. Lucy looks sincerely discomfited about saying goodbye to all of this and saying hello to the rather dreary-sounding cornfields of Oklahoma.

Dan has a mother too, the kind that Lucy doesn't care for too much as a ma-in-law. The elder Mrs. Leeson is a wealthy dowager, the type who's always being scandalised by gossip in films and peering dimly through her lorgnette at low-life types. She never leaves her precious son Daniel, a nice enough guy but a real Mummy's Boy, out of her sight. She quite obviously views Lucy as a gold-digger and a loose woman.

She digs around in Lucy's past and comes up with some scandalous tittle-tattle, which doesn't endear her to her prospective daughter-in-law one whit. And Dan even says at one point: 'Well, I guess a man's best friend is his mother.' A full twenty-three years before these words are uttered once more, only this time more ominously, by cinema's most infamous son of cinema's most notorious, ahem, Mother...

Can Jerry and Lucy rise above these trials and tribulations and come together once more in a spirit of true love and reconciliation, or is it too late for them? A precarious trip to Lucy's Aunt Patsy's countryside home on the front seats of two policemen's motorcycles and a log cabin with faulty bedroom door locks might be the deciding factors...

Lucy's not at all above a wee spot of romantic sabotage of her own. The prize for the funniest scene goes to the one in which she masquerades as Jerry's 'sister' in order to scupper his romantic chances with one Barbara Vance, a snooty heiress. Ms. Vance does not take at all kindly to Lucy's drunken showgirl antics and neither do her stiff-necked, snobbish family. 

There's a definite element of 'bedroom farce' about this film and the costumes and interior settings are positively to die for. Irene Dunne appears in the most fantastic long sequinned dresses and fur coats, the kind you really only see in 'Thirties and 'Forties movies. Women all wore long dresses and darling little hats and men wore top hats and tails. Not like the clothes of today, humph. Do NOT get me started on the fashions of today...!

The couple's dog Mr. Smith, the subject of a hotly-contested custody battle between the dotty pair, is the most adorable and super-talented creature. He can even hide his eyes for realsies when playing hide-and-seek with his beloved 'parents,' and he can find the ball no matter where they hide it. He one-million-percent deserves a doggy-Oscar for his performance here. The strange thing about him is, though, that he's called Mr. Smith, right, but we never once see him go to Washington...

THE AWFUL TRUTH will be available to buy from THE CRITERION COLLECTION on 23rd April 2017.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

http://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com








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