The Awful Truth ★★★★

Part of My 1930s Challenge

Based upon Arthur Richman's 1922 stage play. this screwball comedy directed by Leo McCarey is actually a remake of the original 1925 silent movie directed by Paul Powell. This version stars Cary Grant and Irene Dunne as married New Yorkers, Jerry and Lucy Warriner, headed for divorce. The trigger comes when Jerry comes home from a trip he took, allegedly to Florida, to discover Lucy returning from a night spent in the country with music teacher Armand Duvalle (Alexander D'Arcy). Her excuse is that they attended his student's prom and his car broke down, but Jerry doesn't buy it anymore than she believes he was really in Florida.

Before we can blink, the Warriners are in court and Judge (Paul Stanton) is issuing his decree. But there's still one matter to be resolved -- the ownership of Mr. Smith (Skippy aka Asta), the couple's lovable wire-haired fox terrier. The Judge decides the animal should remain with Lucy, with Jerry granted visitation rights once a week. She takes the mutt home, where she's living now with her Aunt Patsy (Cecil Cunningham). But the Aunt thinks Lucy needs to get out more, so she tries setting her up with their new neighbor Daniel Leeson (Ralph Bellamy), a simple but wealthy rancher from Oklahoma.

Other characters in the story include Jerry's athletic club buddy Frank Randall (Robert Allen), the Warriner's maid Celeste (Kathryn Curry), Leeson's meddling mother (Esther Dale), and a hot blonde singer named Dixie Belle Lee (Joyce Compton), whom Jerry starts dating, but there's no real chemistry. On the other hand, within a matter of weeks, Dan has proposed to Lucy and she's accepted; it's just a matter of waiting till the divorce decree becomes final at the end of 90 days.

It's been said that McCarey had his actors improvise a lot, so we get some very natural and authentic dialog, especially from joke-a-minute Grant. The director also gives us a full array of screwball action, from air whooshing up Dixie Belle's skirt to a chair collapsing under Jerry, and Mr. Smith chasing after a hat and breaking a mirror. The film is quick-paced, sharp-tongued and unapologetic.

To get back at Lucy and perhaps take his mind of her, he starts dating the "madcap heiress" Barbara Vance (Molly Lamont). The new relationship quickly turns to plans for marriage. On the day the divorce decree is to become final, Lucy visits Jerry for a glass of champagne to "celebrate" the occasion. Of course, no good can come of this so expect plenty of misunderstandings a fireworks before this zaniness reaches it's required "happy ending."

This film was nominated for half a dozen Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actress in a Leading Role (Dunne), Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Bellamy), Best Screenplay (Viña Delmar) and Best Editing (Al Clark). The six nomination brought the film's only win, the Best Director Oscar for McCarey. If you were feeling depressed in the 1930s, this would certainly raise your spirits, and it still has the power to do so today.

Listed among Films Nominated for Best Picture

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