Combustible Celluloid
 
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With: Irene Dunne, Cary Grant, Ralph Bellamy
Written by: Viña Delmar (with uncredited help from Sidney Buchman), based on the play by Arthur Richman
Directed by: Leo McCarey
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 91
Date: 10/21/1937
IMDB

The Awful Truth (1937)

4 Stars (out of 4)

In the Course of Divorce

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Director Leo McCarey, who was the subject of a recent New York retrospective, was something of a forerunner to Woody Allen. Starting in two-reel silent films, McCarey cranked out dozens of slapstick shorts with Laurel and Hardy and other comedians -- none of which would indicate any particular signature style. As the sound era came in, and especially during the pre-code era, McCarey translated his talents to a group of scrappy feature film comedies like Six of a Kind, Belle of the Nineties with Mae West, Ruggles of Red Gap, The Milky Way with Harold Lloyd and especially the great Marx Brothers movie Duck Soup. Then, in 1937, McCarey made his breakthrough with The Awful Truth. Cary Grant and Irene Dunne star as a married couple who divorce, then swindle each other's new romantic conquests. It was a hilarious -- and largely improvised -- comedy with moments of touching truth, and it was the first real Cary Grant movie in which he locked into his screen persona. But its sophistication convinced the Academy that it was more than "just" a comedy and they awarded McCarey the Best Director Oscar -- just as Allen graduated from "mere" comedies to the sophistication (and Oscars) of Annie Hall. Ralph Bellamy plays the slow-witted foil and the short-lived object of Dunne's affections, but Grant outwits him here as easily as he did three years later in Howard Hawks' His Girl Friday. The movie's greatest scene comes at the end in which a flimsy door is the only thing that keeps our heroes apart. McCarey used a cuckoo clock to get around the Hays Code and reunite his lovebirds. Columbia/TriStar's DVD ($24.95) comes with various trailers and subtitle options.

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