The Awful Truth is a 1937 screwball comedy film starring Irene Dunne and Cary Grant. The plot concerns the machinations of a soon-to-be-divorced couple, played by Dunne and Grant, who go to great lengths to try to ruin each other's romantic escapades. The film was directed by Leo McCarey, who won the Academy Award for Best Director, and was written by Viña Delmar, with uncredited assistance from Sidney Buchman and Leo McCarey, from the 1922 play by Arthur Richman.
The Awful Truth marked the first appearance of the uniquely effective light comedy persona used by Cary Grant in almost all his subsequent films, catapulting his career. Writer/director Peter Bogdanovich has noted that after this movie, when it came to light comedy, "there was Cary Grant and everyone else was an also-ran." McCarey is largely credited with concocting this persona, and the two men even shared an eerie physical resemblance.
Grant fought hard to get out of the film during its shooting, since McCarey seemed to be improvising as he went along, and initially even wanted to switch roles with co-star Ralph Bellamy. Although this initially led to hard feelings, it didn't prevent other McCarey-Grant collaborations, My Favorite Wife (1940), Once Upon a Honeymoon (1942), and An Affair to Remember (1957), from being made later.
The film is one of a series of what the philosopher Stanley Cavell calls "comedies of remarriage", where couples who have once been married, or are on the verge of divorce, etc., rediscover that they are in love with each other, and recommit to the idea of marriage. Other examples include The Philadelphia Story and His Girl Friday, both released in 1940 and both starring Grant, and the Noel Coward play and film Private Lives. The original template for this kind of comedy is Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing. Many screwball comedies are based on the audience enjoyment of the humorous dynamic of people who are clearly too smart for their own desires.
In 1996 The Awful Truth was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry, having been deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".
Jerry Warriner (Cary Grant) returns home from a trip to find his wife, Lucy (Irene Dunne), is not home. When she returns in the company of her handsome music teacher, Armand Duvalle (Alexander D'Arcy), he learns that she spent the night in the country with him, after his car supposedly broke down. Then, she discovers that Jerry hadn't gone to Florida as he had claimed. Mutual suspicions result in divorce.
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