Saturday, June 11, 2011

Irene Dunne in The Awful Truth

Irene Dunne received her third Best Actress nomination for playing Lucy Warriner, a woman going through one of the funniest divorces in the history of movies in the Best Picture nominated classic comedy, The Awful Truth. It's such a scandal that Irene Dunne never won an Oscar, not even an Honorary one. With Barbara Stanwyck and Garbo they actually had the courage to admit having been crazy that they hadn't gave them awards. Dunne, however, was cheated in every possible way. I think she got closest to winning with I Remember Mama and The Awful Truth. I think she received many votes from Academy members and she might even have got ahead of Garbo though that's not very probable.

What can you expect from a movie in which two of your all-time favorite performers star? LOVE! LOVE! LOVE! The Awful Truth is one of my absolute favorite movies and the reason for it is that it has terrific actors giving terrific performances, a brilliant director, a great script and fabulous lines. I wish there were comedies like this nowadays and we wouldn't have to laugh at things like The Hangover (which is BTW good). The Best Director Oscar was richly deserved and it's a shame that the movie didn't win every award it was nominated for and that Cary Grant wasn't even nominated. Shame. I mean people love and remember this movie and what about The Life of Émile Zola?

Irene Dunne is a delightful presence and I love her so much. No matter what she does, she can't go wrong (OK, I had my problems with I Remember Mama) and I love that she could play any role. She could be a Sunday school teacher writing sexy novels, a caring mother, a heartbroken lover or you name it. In each and every role of hers you can observe what I call the Irene Dunne radiation, which can have fatal effects on you because you can easily get addicted to her and then you just can't get enough of her. I remember that after watching Love Affair, I watched two other movies of hers in a row. As you see, I'm a fan.

But if you're a huge fan, you get to worry if you dislike a certain performance of a favorite. And you're terrified if you don't like a performance that much for a second time. Ever since I saw her in The Awful Truth for the first time, I announced it to the whole world everywhere how brilliant she was. No imagine what a slap in the face it could have been if I hadn't liked her this time. However, it is a could have. I shouldn't have worried. She was just as good, if not better than the first time.

One word sums up this performance the best: laughter. Irene laughs, Cary laughs, you laugh. It's just fantastic how much laughter you can experience. Irene shows several ones: giggling, chukling, cackling and all of them are just brilliant. Just imagine the scene where Lucy gives a concert and Jerry falls with his chair. Irene's laugh after the song is so brilliantly timed and its so damn funny. She gradually cracked me up. First, I was smiling when Cary Grant fell, then I started laughing and when Irene laughed I almost died.

I must also mention Irene's brilliant singing. She could play with her voice so well and that's so immensely cool. I must say, though, that Irene's whole performance is very colorful and playful. I didn't feel that any of her work was forced or planned. Naturally, she was confident but this only helped her. She let herself go and played along with her co-stars and yet she held herself back from looking like an idiot. I think it was incredibly difficult to find the perfect balance with this character. Lucy is not a complicated personality but playing her is a very complicated and tricky task. Just imagine someone less talented than Irene as Lucy. It would have been a total disaster. I picture a remake (God forbid!) with for example Jennifer Aniston as Lucy. She's a good comedienne but I could never imagine her delivering the lines like Irene.

And yes, those line readings are brilliant. When Ralph Bellamy says he can't sleep at nights because he's so in love with her, Irene asks why doesn't he try hot milk. That's one of the funniest lines ever.

If you think that nothing funnier could come, there comes the scene where Lucy plays Jerry's sister. And Irene reaches the real highlight of her performance. That's the top and she just cannot go further, she reached the stars with this role. Moreover, the little drama that she adds to Lucy is also fantastic and it just makes her work even more amazing.

When I almost gave up on 1937, along came Irene Dunne to charm me with this incredible performance as Lucy Warriner. Not only does she give, what I consider one of the funniest performances ever, but she also breaks your heart a little bit as you really start to care about Lucy and her life. It's really incredible work and it's 100% right what Cary Grant said about Irene: "Her timing was marvelous. She was good that she made comedy look easy. If she'd made it look as difficult as it really is, she would have won her Oscar".
What do you think? Time for your last predictions!


Louis Morgan said...

Your really quite enthusiastic about this one, I don't think I am as enthusiastic, but she certianly gives a very funny and charming performance.

Fritz said...

Ha, I knew you would give her 5! :-)
My prediction is still possible!

Personally, I am a little less enthusiastic about her and the movie.

dinasztie said...

I really love this performance.

Anonymous said...

I sort of love her too :)

Renata said...

I love this! Irene Dunne is my favorite actress, she's just the best =)

Anonymous said...

I think Dunne's performance in "The Awful Truth," is the single greatest comedic performance by a female actress in film. If you don't feel the same way, you might suggest any actresses in performances that exceed hers?

dinasztie said...

Anon: Right now I can't think of any. :)

Lola's Girl said...

I think the scene (towards the end of The Awful Truth) where Irene Dunne crashes Cary Grant's engagement party constitutes the funniest moments in any film I have ever seen. Her alter ego "Lola" comes from out of nowhere and steals the show by being delightfully tacky but somehow elegantly refined at the same time. Miss Dunne hailed from Louisville and spent the latter half of her childhood just up river in Madison Indiana. Last Mother's Day I took a bouquet and laid it on the sidewalk outside the Dunne family home. Can't do the same in Louisville because that site is now a parking lot.