A few words about…™ The Awful Truth — in Blu-ray

A must own! 4 Stars

Columbia’s 1937 The Awful Truth, is to my mind, one of the finest screwball comedies to come out of Hollywood.

Ever!

Irene Dunne and Cary Grant are perfect, as a warring couple, that give us a myriad of delights.

For astute cinephiles, it’s also the first film to feature a reasonably fully molded Cary Grant, with many of the affectations and speech patterns that stayed with him through the decades. In effect, he came into full character in his early Columbia period, presumably under the guidance of director Leo McCarey, who had been at it since 1920, and had worked with some of the finest comedic talents.

One of the major discoveries for me, via this new Criterion release, was the overall quality. For the past four decades or so, the film was only available based upon 16mm dupes. Quality 35mm elements, had seemed to have slipped away.

Finally, seeing it from 35mm, is almost miraculous.

A must own!

Image – 4.25

Audio – 5

Pass / Fail – Pass

Upgrade from DVD – Without a Doubt!

Very Highly Recommended

RAH

Published by

Robert Harris

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30 Comments

  1. Love this film. The little terrier who played Asta in the Third Man movies is hilarious in this one — steals the show at several moments.

    We need more screwball on Blu-ray! I heard that LIBELED LADY is being restored (?). We're missing most of the Preston Sturges classics still (LADY EVE, MIRACLE OF MORGAN'S CREEK, etc.).

  2. Only Angels Have Wings, His Girl Friday, The Philadelphia Story and now The Awful Truth. A wonderful array of Cary Grant riches from Criterion and yet this just creates all the more hunger pangs for Bringing Up Baby; just as, notoriously, their Chaplin program had done for The Circus. Maybe both by years end? Call it greedy or call it the nature of the beast; but one can only hope.

  3. Dick

    Love this film. The little terrier who played Asta in the Third Man movies is hilarious in this one — steals the show at several moments.

    The Thin Man not Third Man but yeah the dog, real name Skippy, was great.
    Here are his movie credits per Wikipedia.
    1932 The Half-Naked Truth
    1934 Fog Over Frisco
    1934 The Thin Man
    1935 The Big Broadcast of 1936
    1935 Lottery Lover
    1935 It's a Small World
    1935 The Daring Young Man
    1936 After the Thin Man
    1937 China Passage
    1937 Sea Racketeers
    1937 The Awful Truth
    1938 Bringing Up Baby
    1938 I Am the Law
    1938 Keep Smiling
    1939 Topper Takes a Trip
    1939 Another Thin Man
    1940 Famous Movie Dogs Short
    1940 I'm Still Alive
    1941 Shadow of the Thin Man

    Retired in 1941. Per the internet some dispute if the dag was Skippy in Shadow of the Thin Man. Other dog(s) played Asta in later films. His owners never announced his retirement or date of death.

  4. Garysb

    The Thin Man not Third Man but yeah the dog, real name Skippy, was great.
    Here are his movie credits per Wikipedia.
    1932 The Half-Naked Truth
    1934 Fog Over Frisco
    1934 The Thin Man
    1935 The Big Broadcast of 1936
    1935 Lottery Lover
    1935 It's a Small World
    1935 The Daring Young Man
    1936 After the Thin Man
    1937 China Passage
    1937 Sea Racketeers
    1937 The Awful Truth
    1938 Bringing Up Baby
    1938 I Am the Law
    1938 Keep Smiling
    1939 Topper Takes a Trip
    1939 Another Thin Man
    1940 Famous Movie Dogs Short
    1940 I'm Still Alive
    1941 Shadow of the Thin Man

    Retired in 1941. Per the internet some dispute if the dag was Skippy in Shadow of the Thin Man. Other dog(s) played Asta in later films. His owners never announced his retirement or date of death.

    Yes, I grow tired of my mistakes like this one. The THIN MAN series is what I mean to type, but my fingers had other ideas.

  5. Saw this restoration at last year’s TCM Classic Film Festival in the huge Chinese Theatre. It won’t ever get any better than that. Day 1 purchase.

  6. With the now legendary story of how Mr. McCarey thanked the Academy for the Best Director Oscar, but informed from the podium, that they’d given it to him for the wrong picture; (would any director today have the brass to dare speak that speech?) it would be nice if that address was included in one of the special features on this bluray. And if not…then why not? We know that there is footage of that presentation at the 1937 Academy Awards Ceremony out there. As proof, I offer a wonderful moment found in the twentieth minute of the “Frank Capra Jr. Remembers,” accompanying special feature for “You Can’t Take It With You,” where Capra Sr. presents the Oscar to McCarey, shakes his hand, and then reaching back, grabs the statuette by the torso, and with a good-natured, mischievous expression, attempts to tug-of-war it away from Mr. McCarey. What Mr. Capra seems to jokingly be trying to say is that he thinks he should have won the award for his film, “Lost Horizon.” The ten-second clip ends before we see who wins the match, but we know that it is indeed McCarey, as we’re certain Capra would surrender it gracefully. And besides, McCarey has a hold of Oscar by the base.
    So, can anyone confirm or deny its inclusion on this disc?

  7. With the now near-legendary account of how from the podium, Leo McCarey graciously thanked the Academy for his 1937 Best Director Oscar, then continued to inform all of Hollywood's attending elite that they'd given it to him for the wrong picture; (would any director today have the brass to dare speak that speech?) it would be nice if that address was included in one of the special features on this bluray. And if not…then why not? We know that there is footage of that presentation at the 1937 Academy Awards Ceremony out there. As proof, I offer a wonderful moment found in the twentieth minute of the "Frank Capra Jr. Remembers," accompanying special feature for "You Can't Take It With You," where Capra Sr. presents the Oscar to McCarey, shakes his hand, and then reaching back, grabs the statuette by the torso, and with a good-natured, mischievous expression, attempts to tug-of-war it away from Mr. McCarey. What Mr. Capra seems to jokingly be trying to say is that he thinks he should have won the award for his film, "Lost Horizon." The ten-second clip ends before we see who wins the match, but we know that it is indeed McCarey, as we're certain Capra would surrender it gracefully. And besides, McCarey has a hold of Oscar by the base.

    Since I'm still awaiting my copy, can anyone confirm or deny its inclusion on this disc?

  8. Randy_M

    Bringing up Baby for me, too. I would also love to see "People Will Talk" – one of my favorite Grant movies.

    Interestingly, People Will Talk is one of the four movies in his filmography that Grant "disowned". Although he made 72 features, his own personal listing from his papers cite only 68.

    Personally, it's not my favorite of his but it's not his worst – not even his fourth worst.

  9. Mike Frezon

    Man, I hope Bringing Up Baby comes soon…

    I have seen what is, I guess, supposed to pass for an HD master, but it looks awful, more like a badly up-converted DVD. My guess is that the elements for this RKO production are in pretty ropy condition, and would require a new 4k scan from a negative, if that even exists.

  10. PEOPLE WILL TALK doesn't really work. As is sometimes the case with Mankiewicz' more ambitious projects from the 50's, the literacy of the script clashes with the straight-forward camera set-ups, as well as the tendency to attempt to pigeonhole the film into the format of a romantic comedy, with fairly glossy photography. Except it isn't about romance, it's about McCarthyism. But Grant's performance is the most interesting and successful aspect of the film, as he tries to break out of a typical "Cary Grant film" and express the ideas contained in the script, giving the film a more serious and substantial tone, while continuing to play the "Cary Grant" character. For me, watching Cary Grant in this film is continually fascinating.

  11. I just saw the Criterion Blu-ray. It probably looks better than ever and as good as possible. Still very grainy, but many Columbia films during this era have this huge grain. What really blew me away were the documentaries. I had no idea they had no script and many of the lines were improvised and the scenes were written the day on the set! Irene Dunne even says that they improvised the dance scene! She said they had no choreographer and just made it up! What! I laughed out loud at that scene and the cat scene at the end! Every time I watch this film I'm amazed at what they got away with in terms of innuendo (or as Virginia Weidler said in THE PHILADELPHIA STORY — inundo). The cat sitting against the door —-blocking Irene Dunne and the coo-coo clock. The more I see this, the more I love it! Thank you, Criterion! Now how about ARSENIC AND OLD LACE and MY FAVORITE WIFE?

  12. Dick

    I have seen what is, I guess, supposed to pass for an HD master, but it looks awful, more like a badly up-converted DVD. My guess is that the elements for this RKO production are in pretty ropy condition, and would require a new 4k scan from a negative, if that even exists.

    It is an HD master – it's an HD transfer of a less than perfect element, so you're seeing it warts and all.

    The HD master that circulates on iTunes/Vudu and similar services appears to be the same transfer used as the basis of the DVD. If I were to venture a guess, I'd guess that in making the DVD, they took that HD transfer, and downconverted to SD, and then did some cleanup on the SD version before putting it on a disc.

    It's an RKO film, and those are generally all problematic. And we all know that Warner loves to let the perfect be the enemy of the good, so I'm concerned that Bringing Up Baby may remain a holy grail that they don't attempt to put out on disc. Would very much love to be wrong.

    warnerbro

    I just saw the Criterion Blu-ray. It probably looks better than ever and as good as possible. Still very grainy, but many Columbia films during this era have this huge grain.

    I believe the original negative doesn't survive, so what's on the disc is several generations away from the original, which doesn't help with the grain. But it still is a massive improvement over the DVD.

    warnerbro

    What really blew me away were the documentaries.

    FWIW, and I'll touch on this in my review when I finish writing it, there are a few factual inaccuracies in the "Tell Me Lies About Cary Grant" featurette, and at least one in the Leo McCarey featurette. It's unfortunate that they were allowed to slip through, and I think the bulk of the documentaries are good, but the fine details are questionable.

  13. Based on nothing, Josh, but my gut says that the no-brainer finale to Criterion's tremendous flow of Cary Grant and Charlie Chaplin can only lead to "Bringing Up Baby" and "The Circus". Sooner, of course, rather than later.

  14. JoshZ

    It does sort of announce itself in the title, though, doesn't it? 🙂

    Haha, that is true. It's just annoying because it gets enough right that I think most viewers will accept everything in there as fact. And since more people will probably buy this disc than the latest biography of Cary Grant, the info in the documentary will be what people remember. It's unfortunate.

    PMF

    Based on nothing, Josh, but my gut says that the no-brainer finale to Criterion's tremendous flow of Cary Grant and Charlie Chaplin can only lead to "Bringing Up Baby" and "The Circus". Sooner, of course, rather than later.

    I think The Circus is more likely, since Criterion can license that directly from MK2. I think Bringing Up Baby is a harder ask – between Warner's "perfect or nothing" policy and their general unwillingness to license titles with few exceptions, it's a tough ask. The precedent for this could be The Philadelphia Story. Apparently part of the reason they were willing to license it was because they found an element in better condition than what Warner had, and it wasn't in Warner's possession, which made the studio more willing to deal. If an excellent copy of Bringing Up Baby can be found in an archive somewhere that Criterion can access, they may have a better chance of getting the license than if they had to depend on what Warner has on hand. Don't get me wrong, I'd love to see it – I'm just not holding my breath for it either.

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