starring: Cary Grant, Irene Dunne, Ralph Bellamy, and Cecil Cunningham
written by: Vina Delmar, based on the play by Arthur Richman
directed by: Leo McCarey
NR, 91 min, 1937, USA
"Well, let's drink to our future. Here's hoping you and Barbara will be very happy, which I doubt very much"
"No, let's drink to your happiness with Buffalo Bill, which doesn't even make sense."
A slight misunderstanding, based largely in truth, leads to the divorce of Lucy and Jerry Warriner (Irene Dunne and Cary Grant), but Jerry retains joint custody of the dog, Mr. Smith. On his court-ordered visitation day he learns of a budding romance with Oklahoma oil magnate Dan Leeson (Ralph Bellamy) and naturally makes it his goal to undermine the impending marriage. She, in turn, does the same to him and in the process they rediscover how they fell for each other in the first place.
It's awfully hard to dislike a screwball Cary Grant comedy and The Awful Truth is no exception. Ralph Bellamy gives a great performance as the rival suitor who has no idea just how far out of his element he really is, and Leo McCarey won an Oscar for his direction, but this is clearly Cary Grant's film. The rapport he shares with Irene Dunne is the foundation upon which the whole thing relies. If there ever was a love/hate relationship, this would serve as the template.
Cary Grant always struck me as the kind of actor who you could just put in front of a camera and let it run, trusting that he'd be able to keep the attention of the audience just by the sheer force of his charisma. Irene Dunne had a similar talent, but in a much more understated way. It takes her a bit to really get going, but once she hits her stride, she owns the screen. There are moments where you even forget Cary Grant's there. In the history of film there are precious few actresses who could accomplish that seemingly small feat, but she does it. Impressive indeed.