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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.37:1 Standard
  • English PCM Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • New interview with critic Gary Giddens about director Leo McCarey
  • New video essay by film critic David Cairns on actor Cary Grantís performance
  • Illustrated 1978 audio interview with actor Irene Dunn
  • Lux Radio Theatre adaptation of the film from 1939, starring actor Claudette Colbert and Cary Grant
  • An essay by film critic Molly Haskell

The Awful Truth

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Leo McCarey
1937 | 91 Minutes | Licensor: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #917
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Release Date: April 17, 2018
Review Date: March 30, 2018

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SYNOPSIS

In this Oscar-winning farce, Cary Grant (in the role that first defined the Cary Grant persona) and Irene Dunne exude charm, cunning, and artless affection as an urbane couple who, fed up with each otherís infidelities, resolve to file for divorce. Try as they each might to move on, the mischievous Jerry canít help but meddle in Lucyís ill-matched engagement to a corn-fed Oklahoma businessman (Ralph Bellamy), and a mortified Lucy begins to realize that she may be saying goodbye to the only dance partner capable of following her lead. Directed by the versatile Leo McCarey, a master of improvisation and slapstick as well as a keen and sympathetic observer of human folly, The Awful Truth is a warm but unsparing comedy about two people whose flaws only make them more irresistible.


PICTURE

Leo McCareyís The Awful Truth comes to Blu-ray courtesy of the Criterion Collection. It is presented on this dual-layer disc in its original aspect ratio of 1.37:1. The 1080p/24hz high-definition presentation comes from a new 4K restoration conducted by Sony. The original negative is long lost so the primary source for the restoration was a 35mm nitrate duplicate negative created in 1943 along with a couple of other nitrate prints. A nitrate fine-grain was used to fill in missing or severely degraded frames that couldnít be used in any of the other elements.

Source elements hinder things a wee bit yet even then there is a wonderful filmic texture to the finished product, thanks mostly to the rendering of the grain present. Grain can be heavy, a byproduct of the print used Iím sure, but it looks natural, doesnít pixilate, and neither shows signs of compression nor noise. And despite this not being the original negative the level of detail is still surprising, the image featuring some beautifully crisp close-ups of the actors along with longer shots that donít come off too shabby themselves, conveying a sufficient sense of depth. Patterns in some of the outfits are clearly visible and thereís also some nice looking textures to be found.

Contrast and gray levels are also strong a majority of time, with clean tonal shifts, strong whites and rich blacks. When a less than ideal source has to be used, though, itís in this area where it becomes evident. Sporadically throughout the film (usually somewhere during a transition) the contrast shifts a bit, turning darker, which eats up details. The image also softens a bit more. These shifts usually only last a few frames and are infrequent so theyíre not in any way a real problem, just something the viewer will probably notice.

Still, that fairly insignificant side effect is thankfully the worst aspect this presentation has to offer. Outside of that the image is about as clean as can be, no significant marks or damage ever showing up, the amount of effort having gone into the restoration being instantly recognizable. Altogether itís a wonderful looking image.

8/10

All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

The mono sound track, delivered in lossless PCM 1.0, fairs surprisingly well. Despite some audible noise in the background itís quite clean for its age with adequate fidelity. Dialogue is easy to hear and the music manages to remain clean without any severe harshness or distortion.

6/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Iím a bit surprised at the modest little collection of supplements we get but at the very least theyíre all good, the release going aiming for quality-over-quantity, even the inclusion of the Lux Radio Theatre adaptation proving to be fascinating. These radio adaptations are just about standard for Criterionís classic Hollywood releases but I found myself especially fascinated with this one and I canít say why exactly. Maybe because this film had a lot of visual slapstick that the radio play tried to adapt over? The hour long feature (including commercials) is a fairly straightforward adaptation of the film (not the play on which it is based), sticking quite close to the general plot and featuring Cary Grant reprising his role (Claudette Colbert replaces Irene Dunne). Like other slapstick film-to-radio adaptations itís the dialogue that shines (and a lot of that is kept) but itís almost painful how it tries to adapt a lot of the visual gags from the film. For example, during the courtroom scene involving who Mr. Smith (the dog) will go to, the radio play retains the gag involving Lucy bribing the dog with a chew toy to come with her. This was a completely visual in the film of course but this adaptation has to stop to explain what just transpired since we obviously couldnít see it, which of course destroys the pace. But smartly it doesnít bother with some of the other visual gags and tries to turn them into more verbal ones or just leave them be: the scene where Dixie sings loses the skirt-lifting gag and focuses more on Lucyís verbal venom while the dance between her and Daniel is completely dropped. The one-hour time slot (again, with commercials) also means the story is rushed through, some scenes truncated severely or dropped entirely (the police escort near the end is completely gone). It also rushes the conclusion, pretty much getting right to the point, in turn cutting out all the playfulness with the door that wonít stay closed. I like the inclusion of these adaptations (even if itís really just for posterity) but this one made me more aware of the visuals and the editing of the film, highlighting just how well constructed it really is.

Further examining the film are two more academic features: an interview with Gary Giddens and a visual essay by David Cairns called Tell Me Lies About Cary Grant. Cairnsí fascinating 16-minute essay looks at how this film cemented the Cary Grant persona by first looking at some of Grantís earlier films and how he worked to build up his screen image, trying different things out here and there that would work for him later, though with varying results at the time (he could either come off too self-conscious or too stiff most of the time). Cairns feels it was McCarey, though, that saw Grantís strengths and how they could be best used in a comedy, even his self-consciousness (the gag with the hat and Grantís ears was probably born out of Grantís own insecurities with his ears). Interestingly Grant was so horrified by what McCarey had him doing he even tried to get out of the film, but thankfully that didnít work out.

Giddens (who I have just seen or heard from in so many features as of late itís almost like heís becoming a friend) talks a bit more generally about the film and how McCarey constructed it. Though there was technically a script (it was required before a film would be greenlit) that already changed the original play significantly, that shooting script was pretty much trashed and scenarios were usually come up with by McCarey on the day of shooting and written up right there and then. This did lead to some ďchaosĒ (that is how actor Ralph Bellamy would describe the set) but to the surprise of just about everyone in the cast at least the film did come together. An included audio interview from 1978 with Irene Dunne pretty much confirms this, and she describes some of her unease, but she would got right into it (she recalls how she couldnít properly do a ďbumpĒ in her one dance routine close to the end so she just worked with that, which of course offers some good laughs). I felt there was some spontaneity in the film (at least its energy implied this) but I admit I actually had no idea how improvised this film really was. Dunneís interview only runs 7-minutes while Giddensí is 24-minutes.

A lengthy essay by Molly Haskell closes off the release in the included booklet (yes, an actual booklet). To an extent she summarizes some of the points found in the discís features though puts more focus on McCareyís way of playing out jokes in this film with references to some of his other work.

So no, it didnít take long to get through everything but I still feel Criterion has done a great job breaking down the individual elements that went into the film. Itís one of those films that can almost look effortless but the features (even the radio play) set that straight rather quickly.

7/10

CLOSING

Not a stacked special edition but it still sports some solid supplements and a really pleasing looking restoration and final presentation. This should make fans and admirers of the film very happy.


View packaging for this Blu-ray

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Purchase From:
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