Saturday, March 22, 2008

94. The Awful Truth (1937)

Directed by Leo McCarey
Starring: Cary Grant, Irene Dunne, Ralph Bellamy

The Awful Truth has a simple concept -- a husband and wife (Cary Grant and Irene Dunne) are on the brink of divorce. While the film never really addresses many of the reasons as to why their relationship has disintegrated, aside from Grant's infidelity, it at no point suggests that their marriage is unsalvageable. In fact, the chemistry between Grant and Dunne is such that you cannot doubt that the resolution of the film will involve a re-conciliation, and so The Awful Truth is a light and breezy account of, as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind so wisely put it, 'I'm fine without you' gender politics.

The constant one-upmanship of the pair instigates the question: why do they still care? And the film seems to approach marital conflict on the basis of a couple knowing each other perhaps too well. It's incredibly fun to watch, the ultimate joy being that their playful jibes and insistently independent facades matter little because each knows what the other is really thinking anyway. Their relationship seems a developed and lived-in one because the script and the actors seem to really understand how love can sanction and dismiss words as games of the heart: a truth that may be 'awful' in theory but a sheer delight to witness.


goatdog said...

Great pick! Irene Dunne deserved an Oscar for this, and poor Cary Grant at least deserved a nomination. Have you seen Leo McCarey's other 1937 film, Make Way for Tomorrow? It's the most depressing (and one of the best) melodramas of classic Hollywood.

Cal said...

I haven't.. shamefully. I'll be sure to add it to my list. The only other McCarey I've seen is Going My Way which I really didn't like.

goatdog said...

Make Way isn't on DVD anywhere. We showed it at our theater a couple years ago, and I have a bootleg of it now. (I think I'm the only film blogger in the universe who likes Going My Way.)