Greatest Film Scenes
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The Awful Truth (1937)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

The Awful Truth (1937)

In director Leo McCarey's classic and zany screwball comedy of the 1930s, filmed previously in 1925 and 1929, and remade as the musical Let's Do It Again (1953) - the romantic marital farce was based on Arthur Richman's 1922 play, and featured the first on-screen pairing of Irene Dunne and Cary Grant:

  • one of the earliest scenes was of the divorce proceedings of a distrusting married couple in a courtroom (following an argument and a series of false accusations and suspicions): socialite Lucy (Irene Dunne) and Jerry Warriner (Cary Grant) agreed to a 90-day interlocutory divorce (with a waiting period) - but needed to settle one final matter: a custody battle over their fox-terrier dog Mr. Smith or "Smitty" (Asta of the Thin Man series) who was present in the court
  • the "final decision" was left up to the dog who was placed equi-distant from them and caught in a dilemma - with calls and pathetic entreaties from both sides for the dog's affection, Mr. Smith swiveled his head back and forth between his two owners, and eventually jumped in Lucy's lap when tempted by its favorite squeeze toy (a Chihuahua's head)
  • with rapid-fire, witty and sophisticated dialogue (and much sarcasm), they each tried their best to thwart or sabotage each other's romances and marriage plans with others, since they both had visiting rights; Lucy was determined to spite Jerry although she wasn't that enthusiastic about her various suitors, while Jerry felt that her romances with new people were not worthy of her; at the same time, Jerry made engagement arrangements to cause Lucy to attempt to win him back
  • in one instance, a tickling scene, Jerry hid behind Lucy's apartment door as she greeted neighbor-suitor, rich but naive Oklahoma native Daniel Leeson (Ralph Bellamy) who read her a sugary love poem he had written: ("Oh, you would make my life divine If you would change your name to mine") - while Jerry tickled her in the side with a pencil as she listened and tried to maintain her composure; he caused Lucy to laugh inappropriately: "I do laugh at the oddest times"
  • in a disruptive scene, Jerry barged in on Lucy's first vocal recital and accidentally tipped back in his chair and noisily fell to the floor
  • the two experienced awkward nightclub dates when the couples accidentally turned up with separate dates: Lucy with Dan, and Jerry with singer Dixie Belle Lee (Joyce Compton), and Lucy was forced to awkwardly dance with Dan; Jerry insulted Dan's homely ways: "And if you get bored in Oklahoma City, you can always go over to Tulsa for the weekend!"
  • in a sequence often known as the "two men in a bedroom farce" (regarding dual derby hats and their clever dog "Smitty") - both Lucy's French singing voice teacher and handsome love interest Armand Duvalle (Alexander D'Arcy) and Jerry arrived at her apartment, but were kept separated; the dog - in a game of hide and seek, persistently kept retrieving and bringing out Duvalle's incriminating derby hat from behind a flower arrangement and a mirror where Lucy had stashed it; Lucy struggled to conceal its whereabouts behind the couch; as Jerry was leaving, he put on what he thought was his derby hat - but the over-sized hat descended down over his ears; quizzically, he looked at himself in another mirror: "Well that's funny, I only bought the hat an hour ago and look at it"; she suggested: "Did you have a haircut, maybe?...Well, maybe you had it on backwards. Put it on the other way around... it is a little roomy, but maybe they're wearing them that way this year"
  • in another attempt at sabotage, Lucy pretended to be Jerry's drunk sister after crashing a party at the home of his new fiancee, heiress and debutante Barbara Vance (Molly Lamont) - Lucy delivered a rowdy rendition (with uplifted skirt) of a vulgar nightclub routine and song, My Dreams Are Gone With the Wind, in order to ruin Jerry's relationship
  • when stranded after an automobile 'accident' on their way to her Aunt Patsy's (Cecil Cunningham) cabin, the couple had to be transported on cops' motorcycles in evening dress

Couple on Cops' Motorcycles

Connecting Bedrooms in Rustic Cabin

Reunited Cuckoo-Clock Figurines: Metaphor
  • during the final separate but connecting-bedrooms scene in the cabin, the door between their rooms had a weakened and faulty latch and kept opening (on their last night before the 90 day waiting period expired)
  • at the film's final fade-out, there was a metaphoric, sexually-tinged, suggestive image of reunited, male and female cuckoo-clock figurines (stand-ins for Lucy and Jerry) entering the same opening, after the two had reconciled and realized "the awful truth" that they were irresistible to each other, and that they didn't want to marry anyone else

Jerry (Cary Grant) and Lucy (Irene Dunne)

Mr. Smith ("Smitty") - Tough Custody Decision in Court

Jerry's Hiding Behind Lucy's Door - While Daniel Reads Love Poem to Lucy

Jerry's Tipped Back Chair During Vocal Recital

Awkward Nightclub Dates

The "Two Men in a Bedroom" Farce with Two Derby Hats

Lucy's Vulgar Nightclub Routine


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