Colossus of Rhode Island

1937-The Awful Truth

October 29, 2011
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The Awful Truth from

The Awful Truth from

I have to be honest, I looked over a list of movies from 1937 and I really haven’t seen too many from that year (I suppose this was bound to happen with certain years).  Of course, that doesn’t mean that The Awful Truth isn’t great and it’s definitely worth seeing.

Cary Grant could have made a very good career playing blandly heroic leading men.  He certainly had the look for it and it’s not like the studio system was challenging actors to change their images, particularly actors as handsome as Cary Grant.  The Awful Truth is the first film that cast him in a light-hearted, screwball, comedic role.  The number of movies he made in that type of role after this is an indication of just how successful he was.

Grant and Irene Dunne shine together as a couple (Jerry and Lucy) on the outs and soon to be divorced.  Each is suspicious that the other has not been faithful and they separate.  Lucy begins to date her aunt’s neighbor, played Ralph Bellamy, but he is so earnest and naïve (so unlike Cary Grant) that you can’t help but know that the relationship will not work out.  This is quintessential Bellamy, the handsome and friendly guy who is ultimately wrong for the female lead.  He played almost the exact same character in His Girl Friday, which (spoiler alert) you’ll be hearing about when I do my post for 1940.

Both Jerry and Lucy go back and forth between wanting a divorce and wanting to reconcile.  Unfortunately each of them never wants the same thing at the same time.  When Jerry wants to mend the relationship or vice versa, a series of comic misunderstandings take place which drive them further apart.  They both have poor luck and poor timing, but of course we know that ultimately love will overcome.

It’s sharp, it’s fun, and it’s the kind of movie I could watch again and again.  Cary Grant is one of my favorite actors and although he had made dozens of movies before this, The Awful Truth marks his ascension into the upper echelon of Hollywood.  In many ways, this movie is the beginning of his career as one of the biggest stars in the world (a position he maintained for decades).  Check it out, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Why this was a hard decision (other movies from 1937 worth seeing):

The biggest competitor to The Awful Truth for this year’s entry was San Quentin.  I’m a sucker for a prison film starring Pat O’Brian, Humphrey Bogart, Barton MacLane and the absolutely wonderful Ann Sheridan (it’s very fortunate for my wife that the famous actress I’d be most likely to leave her for died in 1967).

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was the first full-length animated film and is still a fun and exciting watch.

As you’ve probably noticed, I’m a huge Marx Brothers fan.  A Day at the Races is not their best, but it’s definitely worth a look.  I think anything by them is worth a look.

Paul Muni was one of the great American film actors and he is, unfortunately, not as well remembered today as some of his contemporaries.  He was nominated for an Oscar for his lead role in The Life of Emile Zola.  The movie itself won best picture.

Did you know?  (1937 Trivial knowledge)

  • After it’s release, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was the biggest moneymaker in film history (it was overtaken soon after by Gone with the Wind).
  • Cary Grant’s real name was Archibald Leach.
  • Walt Disney was given an Oscar for his achievement with Snow White.  They gave him one regular-sized statue and seven small ones.
  • Leo McCarey, director of The Awful Truth also directed the Marx Brothers classic, Duck Soup.
  • Cary Grant’s first marriage was to Virginia Cherril, best known as the lead actress in Chaplin’s City Lights, which was recently voted the Best Romantic Comedy of all time by the American Film Institute.

 Favorite Quote:

“Do you know what rebound is, that business of trying to get over one love by bouncing into love with somebody else.  It’s fine, except the rebound is rarely the real thing.  As a matter of fact, it’s the bunk.  There’s the first bounce, the second, and, well look at me.  You wind up like an old tennis ball.”  Aunt Patsy


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I write things...this thing that I'm writing and you're reading is a series of posts, starting with 1920 and focusing on a movie from each year that I think you should see.