Sunday, July 5, 2009

Favorite Star Combinations: The Awful Truth (1937) 5/5

Now I will present one of my favorite acting combinations: Cary Grant and Irene Dunne. What chemistry, what timing! This pairing is one of the Golden Age's most electric.
After hitting the nail on the head with "Theadora Goes Wild" in 1936, Irene came back for more comedy in 1937. Although she was apprehensive at first about her comedic abilities, no one else doubted her talent. Early glimpses of her humor can be seenin a very short clip from the wonderful and underrated 1936 version of "Showboat", when she takes over the lead role in the play:

The person who uploaded that video considers the moment to be unintentionally funny, but if they had seen some later Dunne pictures, I think they would retract that statement.
On to The Awful Truth!
The Awful Truth is about Jerry and Lucy Warriner, a couple who have never been faithful to one another. After a public disagreement about suspicion and fidelity, the couple decides to split, but they continue to see one another because they share custody of their precocious dog Mr. Smith (a delightful appearance by Skippy, also known as Asta in the Thin Man series). It is obvious that they are still crazy for each other, though they are both too cowardly to admit it. Instead, Lucy jumps in to a serious relationship witha rancher and oilman from Oklahoma (an early appearance by Ralph Bellamy). Jerry hooks up with an heiress and they intend to marry as well. In a hilarious scene, Lucy visits Jerry on the night that their divorce becomes final, and answers the phone when Barbara calls.

After some automobile sabotage, Lucy sneaks Jerry away to spend the night in her aunt's cabin. There, they have some trouble keeping the door closed that separates their respective bedrooms, perhaps a sign that there should be no walls between them. They reconcile just as the clock strikes midnight, and they are no longer married. Time for another wedding!
This is such a hilarious film from start to finish. Like all films of the 1930s, it is not completely relevant to today;s society, making some parts a little slow, but still enjoyable.
My favorite jokes stem out of Lucy's impending marriage and move to Oklahoma. As a lifelong resident of Oklahoma, Jerry's jokes had me on the floor laughing! Especially when he says that if she gets bored with Oklahoma City, she can always come to Tulsa! I go to school just south of Oklahoma City, and was born and raised in Tulsa. I can safely say that neither are terribly entertaining towns.
I just read on the IMDB trivia that this film was improvised heavily. Of course, there was a working script for plot purposes, but jokes were made up during shooting. They make it look so easy!
My favorite thing about Irene Dunne comedies are her facial expressions (many can be seen in the phone scene above, when he's making up that she is his sister). I also love her snoody voice when she talks about people she doesn't like. My favorite example of this is from "My Favorite Wife" (1940, my favorite of their pictures) when they are "practicing" for him to tell Bianca that she has come back, and she repeats Bianca's name in this ugly character voice and does her high society snicker. Priceless.
Another great feature of "The Awful Truth" is Skippy. Although he is known worldwide as Asta from the Thin Man series and from Bringing Up Baby, he turns in an adorable performance in the Awful Truth. My favorite Mr. Smith part is when Lucy is playing hide the toy with him, and she makes him go hide his eyes. Here is a screencap:

Then she sas "no peeking!" and he looks up briefly. Too cute! I want to train my dog to do this.
In conclusion, see The Awful Truth. This is what comedy is and is supposed to be.

1 comment:

  1. Love your blog! The new layout is awesome! It also has let me post comments which your old one wouldnt!

    YOu're welcome to an invite, I'll need an email address to send it to though. Also, you have to promise to stick to the rules of the tracker as if you break them I get kicked out too! I'ts not hard though :P

    I'll make sure to check out "The Awful Truth" you've made it sound great, the Adams rib one though convinced me further that I couldnt be assed with Kate Hepburn! She messed with Ginger twice too many for me to like her :P

    Beth xx