The Battle of the Exes

Got my copy of THE AWFUL TRUTH from Criterion — excitingly, I have a video essay on this one, dealing with Cary Grant’s development from stage tumbler to great light comedian. I can’t entirely account for why we decided to call it Tell Me Lies About Cary Grant, but something about the phrase just seemed to click.


Stephen Horne did his usual magnificent job editing, and Danny Carr once more stepped in to create a title sequence (see also Ants in Your Plants of 1942 on SULLIVAN’S TRAVELS and On Transcendental Style and Flatulence on GOOD MORNING). I tentatively suggested replacing the words in AWFUL TRUTH’s main title with our own text, a task that proved to be more complex than expected — Danny basically animated everything you see here, the hand that turns the pages being the only moving element retained from the original shot.

Danny’s a genius, Kind of like Cary Grant in that way.

10 Responses to “The Battle of the Exes”

  1. Got my copy of this too. Your video essay as marvelous. “The Awful Truth” is Sheer Unadulterated Heaven. Cary Grant’s ascendency is the greatest thing to happen to cinema since Chaplin created his Tramp. I’ve been watching a lot of other 30’s comedies lately. Grant’s predecessors were Robert Montgomery and Brian Aherne. They were both experts at sophisticated comedy. I recommend the former in “Private Lives” and the latter in “The Great Garrick.” Grant took sophisticated comedy to a new level starting with this film. The scene with the hats is pure slapstick of the Old School, but the way he teases and spars with Dunne is something very new and very fresh and wonderful. I love the way he says “a little nutmeg?” to Alex D’Arcy in the opening scene, and his collapse on the chair in Dunne’s concert scene. She is of course Glorious Too — particularly in the climax where she pretends to be his sister. “Wait a minute! Can’t find my purse!”

  2. Thanks! Almost wish we could have done an essay on Dunne, as she’s substantially underrated these days.

    One could make a case – and I tried to – that Grant adds a physical, slapstick component to the drawing room comedy, borne of his experience as an acrobat. That’s something his predecessors didn;t have, but something he never exploited until he worked with McCarey.

  3. George Orwell Says:

    This is one of the greatest films of all time. There’s one scene where Grant accidentally calls the magnificent wire fox terrier by his real name, which was Skippy. (The dog’s stage name was Asta, and his name in the film was “Mr Smith.”)

  4. That’s very true it’s fascinating to see his acrobatic skill put to use in “Holiday” and “Bringing Up Baby” As for Dunne her career is rich and multi-faceted. I adore here her and in “Show Boat” and above all in “I Remember Mama”

  5. Skippy was one of the greatest sophisticated comedy performers of the 1930s

  6. His owner was silent comedienne Gale Henry!

  7. John Warthen Says:

    Am curious why an attempt to identify a lineage for CG’s strain of romantic comedy doesn’t include William Powell, whose finesse
    hasn’t aged a bit.

  8. You’re right. I should have mentioned Powell.

  9. Gentlemen, do not sell Ralph Bellamy short. The dance floor scene (and, of course, Cary’s reaction to it) is priceless.

  10. Oh, I yield to no one in my admiration for the Napoleon of Scnooks (and there’s so much more to him than that, of course).

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