Blog Directory CineVerse: The wonderful "Truth"

The wonderful "Truth"

Thursday, May 7, 2015

CineVerse's exploration of sophisticated screwball comedies came to a close, bookend-style, with a standout Cary Grant picture: "The Awful Truth," which brings our study full circle, since we began this monthly series in January with Grant's "Holiday." Here's our group's take on this classic comedy:

This is the film that truly gave Cary Grant his famous suave but sometimes silly screen persona and began his reign as the king of screwball comedies.
The subject matter is somewhat controversial for a 1930s Hollywood film: divorce and separation.  While this topic had been tackled before, the degree to which it is jovially and irreverently handled here could have raised a few eyebrows among viewers.
There's a pervasive sexual undercurrent throughout the proceedings here: backspace.  Blogger Richard Cross wrote: " There’s a lot going on under the surface of The Awful Truth, and the film’s sophistication lies in the persistent sexual subtext rather than in the characterisation of Lucy and Jerry. It’s there in the scene in which Lucy tries to prevent Daniel from passing the threshold of her apartment because Jerry is already there, hiding behind the door that seals that threshold, and poking Lucy with a pencil to make her laugh at Daniel’s earnest, but hopelessly sappy, love poem; it’s also there — and less subtly so — in the scene in which Lucy and Jerry are each escorted home on the front of policemen’s motorbikes, and Lucy begins bouncing up and down in order to sound her driver’s horn. It’s a sophisticated subtlety that modern movies lack because they’re no longer constrained by the implacable rules laid down by the 1930s Production Code, which essentially forced writers of that era to dig deep in order to express the sexual element of their stories without falling foul of the censors.”
As zany, madcap, slapstick, farcical, and silly as The Awful Truth can get, at its core it's a sensitive film with humanist sensibilities, one with undeniable depth of emotion, sweetness, and endearing charm.  And consider, for example, how romantic and quiet the end scene is, which underscores the true love and affection shared by the reunited husband and wife.
The film also feels a circular in construction, coming full circle by the end in mirroring the situation that sets the plot in motion: the movie starts with Lucy supposedly having an away from home a fair with Armand, and bands with her having an away from home affair with Jerry.  Also, Jerry and Lucy are paired with romantic opposites they aren't really compatible with, creating a love quadrangle vs. love triangle.
This is also a picture replete with metaphors and motifs, the primary ones being clocks or dials, wind, dogs and cats, music and the ability of music to cause pain (consider how Jerry and Lucy cannot make beautiful music together and are out of harmony, yet they each use music to cause the other discomfort) and doors.  Throughout the film, doors open and close literally and figuratively, suggesting the boundaries or lack of boundaries between lovers.  And
o Reviewer Ed Howard suggested the following: “Doors dictate the film's relationships. Here, the door keeps the two men apart even as it subtly connects Dunne and Grant, especially once Grant starts playfully poking her under her arms, tickling her in order to get her to laugh at Bellamy's earnest love poem. The door defines this romantic triangle and its sexual ground rules: Grant, the current husband not yet divorced, is already inside, while Dunne is trying to keep Bellamy, the interloper from outside, from, ahem, crossing her threshold (a metaphor used even more blatantly (and hilariously) by Hitchcock, in The Trouble With Harry).”
o Howard further posited, about the last scene: “The final door of importance here is, naturally enough, a bedroom door, the final degree of intimacy in the progression from entryway to guest room to boudoir.”
This movie echoes the double standard that women experienced at this time; consider how Lucy has never really cheated on Jerry, although it's possible that Jerry has cheated on her.  The former is explained and Lucy is exonerated, but Jerry's story about his trip to Florida is never fully explained.  Often in Hollywood pictures, women are forced to defend and explain themselves, while the actions of their male counterparts are often brushed under the rug.
The movie often has a loose, improvisational free-spirited feel, which plays into the rumor that director McCarey loved improvisational, impromptu acting and ad libbing; the duet between Bellamy and Dunne was supposedly unscripted.
This is considered among the subgenre of screwball comedies called "comedies of remarriage," in which couples previously married or on the brink of divorce rekindle their romance and matrimonial commitments.

The Philadelphia Story and His Girl Friday, both starring Cary Grant
The Palm Beach Story
The Noel Coward play and film Private Lives
Neil Simon’s Seems Like Old Times
Shakespeare's Much Ado and About Nothing

Duck Soup
Going My Way
The Bells of St. Mary’s
An Affair to Remember
Various shorts featuring Our Gang and several Laurel and Hardy films

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