Old Movie Review: The Awful Truth

Old Movie Reviews: The Awful Truth.

The Awful Truth CoverWhen I initially put together this blog category, I thought it would be interesting to comment on movies that were not exactly new. Thus the "Old Movie" title. With my schedule and my tendency to begrudgingly part with money, I do not get to the theater too often to see new releases. I have a couple genres that I usually go out to see and usually on opening night, (some day I will blog about why I love comic book opening night movie releases), but the truth is, by the time I see most movies, they are past their prime.

But since I tend to watch a lot of movies that are a few years older than the typical movie goer, I thought it would be fun to blog about what I think of these films years after they have been out. Anywhere between 1- 10 years old.

But this weekend I saw a movie that by any standard would be considered old.

The Awful Truth, which was released in 1937, and featured Cary Grant and Irene Dunne is so old, few people are alive who were able to see it in the theaters when it first released, and if they are alive, they likely are too old themselves to remember much about it.

Before I get to the actual review, I want to preface something.

This is not the typical movie I would watch if given an hour and a half of uninterrupted movie time. Like most men my age, I prefer movies where stuff blows up, men get kicked in the nether regions for comic relief, or guys in robes are running around with lightsabers. Call my cliche sure, but I like sci-fi, fantasy, thriller, and action movies. In terms of comedies, my all time favorite is Galaxy Quest, which couples explosions, Sci-fi and humor all at once. I mean you'd have to be sick in the head not to love that collection.

My wife, however, is a bit of a black and white movie fan. The story goes that back in college, when she was struggling under the weight of working part time, going to school part time and helping her brothers and sisters get to and from school, her sparse downtime would be spent in a dark room with a black and white movie on the TV. That was more constructive than the dark rooms I frequented, but we won't go there.

When we were married my wife exposed me to all sort of wonderful things I would have otherwise avoided out of sheer manly bias. At the top of that list would have to be the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice (sorry modern film fans, I can't get past Keria Knightly enough to like the modern installment) starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth, which we first watched while we were dating. I remember being so drawn into the story that my wife - who was only my girlfriend at the time) had fallen asleep on the couch next to me, and as each tape ended (that's right, I originally saw this on VHS tapes - Click here if you are so young as to not know what a VHS tape is.), I kept popping them in one right after another in spite of the fact I would be late to work the following day and exhausted. Since then, my wife has brought home several black and white films from days gone by, and I have thoroughly enjoyed many of them.

Now I get to add to that list, The Awful Truth.

I would give this a rating of 4 out of 5 cans of Mountain Dew. (This is the new rating system I will be using rating movies. This is because I don't want to use thumbs, or stars, or heaven forbid the plain old percentage rating. Also I love Mountain Dew, it's the greatest drink ever made, and since it makes me happy, it just makes sense).

This movie was really quite funny. Of course you have to overlook some of the nuances that exist in nearly all black and white films. Namely the dialogue exchanges that take place at the speed of light, where one person seems anxious to jump right onto the breath of the person who just finished speaking. Yes, it can be a little disconcerting, because you can't help thinking: "Did people really talk like this? Yikes, it must have been exhausting to carry on a conversation. No wonder they were all so thin, it wasn't from walking, it was from sprinting through conversations."

The movie is all about a couple who catch one another in a lie, and those lies, build up a perception of distrust that snowballs into accusations of cheating and from there, divorce.

While the divorce is pending in the waiting period, the two begin to see other people, yet keep bumping into one another and their dates. From there, they try their best to appear friendly, while working to wreck the newfound happiness of each other.

Admittedly, I have not seen many of Cary Grant's films, but my wife borrowed this movie from the library after reading his biography and reading a snippet of the movie in the book which sounded funny. The movie lived up to its billing in the book. There were several times I found myself pausing the movie from laughing so hard.

I like a good comedy, and while I enjoy what might be described as "Immature humor" (you may insert your own specific definition of that term), what really makes me laugh is intelligent humor, 'play on words', and situational humor. After a while most of what gets labelled as funny today, wears thin on me. I find sexual humor as funny as the next person I guess, but I like humor that's more about truly funny or ironic situations than a bad sexual tryst and embarrassing naked elevator rides and the like.

This is really where The Awful Truth shines for me. The humor in it is all very intelligent, the dialogue is incredible sharp. At the same time, there is no straight man in this one, the roles are interchanged between Cary Grant and Irene Dunne. At one moment Grant is the straight man, the next it's Dunne.

While both leads at times embarrass the other, and in turn are embarrassed by the other, in extremely funny situations, the one that is most memorable for me, has to be where Dunne wrecks a dinner party of sorts where Grant is talking with his new fiance's parents.

Grant is trying his best to impress the parents, but as a result of a perfectly innocent situation earlier, was forced to lie to his Fiance about the existence of a make believe sister who answered his phone at his house, which in reality was Dunne - his soon to be ex-wife. Grant does his best to lie his way out of the situation, and shows up at dinner that night to impress the new soon-to-be in-laws. While there, he begins to tell a story about his father, when rather surprisingly, his estranged wife shows up, to resume the part of his sister, all in a bid to wreck his future happiness.

Dunne does an excellent job of this, having previously played the prim and proper lady. She shows up drunk, and ruins all of Grant's stories, tarnishes his reputation and in the end destroys any chance he has at salvaging this new relationship with his finance.

In the end, the two realize that though they fight like two cats in a sack, they are still madly in love with one another, and to the very end of the movie, the dialogue is sharp and witty, the acting is superb and the characters are enthralling.

Grab yourself a Mountain Dew and give it a shot.

JSS

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