The Awful Truth (1937)
One of the best exes-destined-to-remarry-before-their-divorce is-final movies ever, The Awful Truth opens with husband, Jerry Warriner (Cary Grant), putting the icing on the lie that he has been in Florida all week, while wife Lucy (Irene Dunne) strolls into their home in evening clothes the morning of his "return" with her handsome music teacher, It's also one of those movies where friends and acquaintances just hang around the apartment of someone who isn't even there, drinking their liquor and talking about them behind their back.
Misunderstandings and suspicions are fueled by friends and flimsy explanations, ultimately leading the couple to decide that since they can no longer trust each other, they should just get divorced. So they do. It isn't until they get before the judge, that they realize they'll have to share custody of Mr. Smith (Skippy, the wire terrier who also played Asta in you-know-what), the dog who brought them together in the first place. This guarantees enough contact with one another that sooner or later they'll realize what an idiotic thing they've done.
You see it coming a mile away, but you don't care, even when Lucy's well-meaning Aunt Patsy (Cecil Cunningham) facilitates a diversion for Lucy in the form of their new neighbor, handsome doofus Dan Leeson (Ralph Bellamy), knowing that whatever romance might come of it will be doomed.
And it's so very very doomed. Even Leeson's mother, who hasn't yet met Lucy, is aware that Dan is riding for a fall. She actually defines "rebound" for her poor, dumb cluck of a son. No matter. They get engaged anyway, but it doesn't take long (one chorus of "Home on the Range," in fact) for Lucy to realize that life with an Oklahoma oil man is probably not for her and that she's really still in love with Jerry.
Just when it looks like the Warriners are going to get back together, the music teacher reappears to cause yet another misunderstanding that finally sends Jerry off to look for another women in earnest. As luck would have it, there is an available heiress with whom Jerry might actually fall in love. If not in love, then at least engaged. Because this is also one of those movies where recently-divorced couples immediately get engaged to other people before their divorce is even final.
On the very evening said divorce IS to become final, Lucy crashes the engagement party at Jerry's wealthy soon-to-be in-laws by posing as Jerry's fictitious sister, Lola (it's his fault she has to do this, by the way), whom she decides to play as a chorus girl. Party successfully ruined and thinking Lucy is hammered, Jerry drives her up to Aunt Patsy's cabin, where Lucy was planning to spend the weekend for a "visit."
Patsy isn't there, of course, and having disposed of any way for Jerry to get home, Lucy provides time for the two to have the conversation they should have had at the beginning of the picture.
The Awful Truth is a symphony of one-liners, reaction shots, and brilliant comic timing. The chemistry between Cary Grant and Irene Dunne is real, if not downright steamy; they quarrel like people in love and show the greatest appreciation for one another, even in situations that might otherwise hurt. If these two didn't really like each other in real life, then they're the best actors I've ever seen.
If you haven't yet seen this film, you will be very glad you did. It's the best 90 minutes of inevitability you'll ever spend.
Poor Ralph Bellamy
Poor Cary Grant
This post is my contribution to The Romantic Comedy Blogathon, co-hosted by Backlots and Carole & Co.
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