The Awful Truth

Released:  1937

Cast:  Irene Dunne, Cary Grant, Ralph Bellamy, Alexander D’Arcy, Cecil Cunningham, Molly Lamont

Oscar Wins:  Best Director (Leo McCarey)

Oscar Nominations:  Best Picture, Best Actress (Irene Dunne), Best Supporting Actor (Ralph Bellamy), Best Writing, Screenplay (Vina Delmar)

SUMMARY:  Jerry Warriner (Cary Grant) has recently returned home from a business trip, which he told his wife was in Florida.  Jerry was not in Florida, but buys a large tropical gift basket for his wife, thinking that she will be fooled.  He also gets a fake tan to help the deception.  Instead, Jerry arrives to an empty house:  his wife, Lucy (Irene Dunne) is not home.  When she shows up some time later, it is with her music teacher Armand Duvalle (Alexander D’Arcy), who seems to be smitten with Lucy.  According to her, Armand’s car had broken down the night before, forcing the two of them to spend the night in the country before getting help in the morning.  Jerry does not believe this story, and Lucy doesn’t fall for his Florida story.  For both, these deceptions are the last straw, and they decide to get a divorce.  Everything goes smoothly until it comes to custody of the couple’s dog, Mr. Smith.  Eventually Lucy is granted custody, but Jerry makes arrangements to see the dog periodically.  The divorce goes through, but will not become legal until a further 90 days have passed.  Lucy moves out of the couple’s apartment and in with her Aunt Patsy (Cecil Cunningham) – only to find a handsome man living across the hall.  Dan Leeson (Ralph Bellamy) is from Oklahoma, and is in New York for business, along with his mother.  He quickly falls in love with Lucy, who also believes herself to be in love with him.  However, Dan’s mother does not approve of Lucy, which she makes clear.  The relationship is also troubled by the frequent appearance of Jerry, who comes to see the dog.  Jerry goes out of his way to cause problems for the couple and prove to Lucy that they are ill-suited.  Finally, Lucy realizes that she is still in love with Jerry, and breaks things off with Dan.  She intends to tell him as soon as possible, but Armand shows up just then.  When Jerry arrives just a few minutes later, she makes Armand hide in the next room.  Lucy is thrilled to learn that Jerry also wants to get back together, but Dan and his mother then knock on the door as well.  To provide some privacy (and prevent further complications), Jerry goes into the next room – where he finds Armand.  In his mind, this confirms that Armand and Lucy are having an affair, and he drops his intentions of reconciling.

A few months later, Lucy learns that Jerry is involved with heiress Barbara Vance (Molly Lamont).  Lucy still wants to remain married to Jerry, so she decides to use his own methods against him.  She goes to his apartment to talk to him, and when she accidentally answers a phone call from Barbara, Jerry says Lucy is his sister.  Barbara then invites the sister to that evening’s dinner party, but Jerry makes various excuses.  That evening, things are going smoothly until Lucy arrives, dressed up like a showgirl and pretending to be Jerry’s sister.  She proceeds to make the worst impression possible, appearing to drink large quantities (of what is really ginger ale), have terrible manners, and reveal that Jerry’s (and supposedly her) father was really a gardener at Princeton, not a star athlete like Jerry claimed.  She also plays up her role as a showgirl, and even though Barbara’s family discourages her, decides to perform her routine for them.  This routine is a risqué song and dance that she had seen performed in a club, and involves jets of air blowing her skirt up.  The Vance family are horrified, and Jerry finally ends the torment by nearly dragging Lucy out of the house.  He then drives off in the car, intending to take Lucy home.  Lucy has sabotaged the radio so that it plays at warp volume, and the couple are soon pulled over by police.  While they and Jerry are occupied, she allows the car to roll away and wreck.  The police give them a ride to Aunt Patsy’s house, where they decide to stay the night.  Both suddenly realize that in a few hours they will be officially divorced, but Jerry begins to reconsider his decision.  Just before midnight, the two reconcile.

MY TAKE:  Apparently these two have a love-hate relationship, because they bicker like cats and dogs but can’t live without the other.  Of course, that makes for great entertainment.  At first, I think Jerry was honestly trying to irritate Lucy, not break her up with Dan.  He seemed to take great enjoyment in watching her be uncomfortable.  However, after he breaks in on a concert she’s given and realizes that her relationship with Armand is completely innocent, he has a major change of heart.  He realizes that he wants to be with Lucy, and goes to her apartment – only to find Armand hiding in the next room.  After this, Jerry apparently abandons all ideas of reconciling, and moves on to Barbara Vance.  Lucy doesn’t give up, though, and uses the same abilities that drive Jerry crazy to get him back.  She’s really funny putting on her showgirl act, especially since it’s a lot different than her real personality.  She manipulates him the whole way, even with the radio bit – she knows exactly how to turn it off, she just pretends she doesn’t.  It’s one of those instances in which you see how smart a person is because they’re acting like a moron.  Lucy comes off to the Vance family and the cops like a complete airhead, but every move is calculated.  Jerry acted like he suspected what she was doing, although he seems to believe that it’s more because of bad luck.  You would think that after he’d been married to her for a few years he’d be a little more used to her shenanigans, but whatever – it’s funny to watch the two of them harass each other.  Of course, everything ends happily, as the two get back together just before their divorce is final.

RATING:  Funny.


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