I will be watching all 10 nominees from 1937 before I move on to the next year. The goal here is to watch them and have an internal discussion among them to try to piece together a “history” of the year. Let’s get to it.
Cary Grant could have had chemistry with a dead plant. Nineteen thirty-seven’s The Awful Truth showcases the man’s ability to play deadpan earnest while playing aloof goofball. The balance is impeccable and its allows all the characters involved to shine in their respective roles. This combination of traits works well for romantic comedy; it plays foil for a lover spurned and a more straight-edge love interest. The combo is pliable, too. It allows this character to jump from alpha to beta depending on the direction plot dictates. Because the traits are so pervasive, flexible, non-conformist, what does it matter that Irene Dunne wasn’t simply a fern stuck to the wall?
Because the last and most precarious variable is the combination of time and place. Grant afforded himself a niche that continues to cut across time. His accent placed him from San Francisco through Gary down to Raleigh and up to New York. The virtue of black-and-white photography is that it allows only for a limited range of saturation and hue, while brightness is relatively fixed between the binary of zero (black) to one (bright); this is what adds a layer of complementary guffaw to the opening scene, wherein Grant, as innocuous but conveniently wealthy Jerry Warriner is asked about his “suntanning.” In order to show this effect, perhaps his skin-tone did deepen – but it is almost impossible to tell. Could Grant, as Jerry, have conveyed aloofness in another manner and in another time? Probably, but it makes its more conducive to a 90 minute slice to have all the parts functioning at a high level, with a clear start and end to the thought process. The Awful Truth is the 1937 equivalent of the points in film form. Cary Grant is the catalyst that makes this movie tick. Continue reading