Cleaning Out The DVR #19: The Awful Truth (dir by Leo McCarey)

(For those following at home, Lisa is attempting to clean out her DVR by watching and reviewing 38 films by this Friday.  Will she make it?  Keep following the site to find out!)


First released way back in 1937, The Awful Truth is one of the most delightful comedies that I’ve ever seen.  In fact, if I could recommend one movie for you to make an effort to see, it would be The Awful Truth.  This is definitely the best film to ever have the word “awful” in the title.

(Speaking of being the best, The Awful Truth is also the rare screwball comedy to receive a nomination for best picture.  However, it lost to the far more serious The Life of Emile Zola.)

Jerry (Cary Grant) and Lucy Warner (Irene Dunne) are young, married, stylish, and rich.  They seem to have it all but, as the result of Jerry’s lies and a misunderstanding concerning Lucy and her music teacher (Alexander D’Arcy), they end up getting a divorce.  Fortunately, they still share a common bond.  They both love their dog, Mr. Smith (played by Skippy, the same adorable and incredibly talented dog who played Asta in The Thin Man).  Lucy wins custody of Mr. Smith and takes him with her when she moves in with her eccentric Aunt Patsy (Cecil Cunningham).

(It’s not a screwball comedy without an eccentric aunt.)

Jerry, however, has weekly visitation rights with Mr. Smith.  It’s during once such visit that Jerry discovers that, with only two months to go before the final divorce decree, Lucy has become engaged to her next door neighbor, Dan (Ralph Bellamy).  Dan is from Oklahoma and spends most of his time wistfully talking about tumbleweed, oil, and cattle.  He also can’t wait to marry Lucy so that they can both move back to Oklahoma City.  Dan is a nice guy but he’s no Cary Grant.  (He’s also dominated by his judgmental mother.)  Realizing that he still loves Lucy, Jerry wants to reconcile with her but complications and misunderstandings ensue.

(It’s not a screwball comedy without complications and misunderstandings.)

Eventually, in order to prove that he is over Lucy, Jerry starts to date a vacuous heiress, Barbara Vance (a hilariously shallow performance from Molly Lamont).  Suddenly, Lucy finds herself in the same situation that Jerry was in with her and Dan.  Now, it’s her turn to try to break up Barbara and Jerry…

Meanwhile, the day of the final divorce decree approaches…

There’s a lot of reasons to love The Awful Truth.  There’s the snappy dialogue, the physical comedy (at one point, three different men are scurrying around Aunt Patsy’s apartment, two trying to hide from each other and one totally oblivious to everything going on around him), and Leo McCarey’s fast paced direction.  There’s Mr. Smith, a dog so talented that even a confirmed cat person like me loved watching his performance.  There’s the wonderful supporting turns of Ralph Bellamy and Molly Lamont.

But the main reason to see the film is because of the wonderful chemistry between Cary Grant and Irene Dunne.  Grant is so smooth and effortless in his charm that it’s a lot of fun to watch him having to deal with the progressively strange world that he finds himself living in.  The Awful Truth works best when Grant simply reacts to all the craziness around him.  Grant could do more with one look than most actors could do with a Shakespearean monologue.  Meanwhile, Irene Dunne … well, who wouldn’t want to get in a time machine, go back to 1937, and be Irene Dunne for a day?  She’s lively, she’s beautiful, she’s witty, she’s classy, and she’s just neurotic enough to be relatable.

The Awful Truth is pure joy.  If you haven’t seen it, you’re missing out.  If you have seen it, watch it again.

Cleaning Out The DVR #18: How Green Was My Valley (dir by John Ford)

(For those following at home, Lisa is attempting to clean out her DVR by watching and reviewing 38 films by this Friday.  Will she make it?  Keep following the site to find out!)


Before I really get into this review, I should admit that I watched How Green Was My Valley with a bias.

Before the movie started, I was expecting to be disappointed with it.  I think that a lot of film lovers would have felt the same way.  How Green Was My Valley won the 1941 Oscar for best picture.  In doing so, it defeated three beloved films that have only grown in popularity and renown since they were first released: Citizen Kane, The Maltese Falcon, and The Little Foxes.  (As well, just consider some of the 1941 films that weren’t even nominated for best picture: Ball of Fire, The Devil and Daniel Webster, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, High Sierra, The Lady Eve, Never Give A Sucker An Even Break, The Sea Wolf, The Wolf Man, and Sullivan’s Travels.)  Because it defeated so many great films and since we’re all used to the narrative that the Academy always screws up, there’s a tendency to assume How Green Was My Valley was really bad.

Well, after years of assumptions, I finally actually watched How Green Was My Valley?  Was it bad?  No, not really.  Was it great?  No, not all.  If anything, it felt rather typical of the type of films that often win best picture.  It was well-made, it was manipulative enough to be a crowd-pleaser while serious enough to appeal to highbrow critics, and, perhaps most importantly, it never really challenged the viewer.  Unlike Citizen Kane and The Maltese Falcon, How Green Was My Valley is a film that doesn’t require that you give it too much thought and, as such, it really shouldn’t be surprising that it was named the best picture of the year.

How Green Was My Valley was directed by John Ford and, as you might expect from Ford, it deals with a changing way of life and features good performances and a few impressive shots of the countryside.  Taking place in the late 1800s, How Green Was My Valley tells the episodic story of the Morgans, a large family of Welsh miners.  The film is narrated by Huw (Roddy McDowall), a youngest member of the family.  Though Huw’s eyes, we watch as his once idyllic and green village is transformed by the growing mining industry and blackened with soot, poverty, and death.

The film starts out as a fairly even mix of sentiment and drama.  Huw has a crush on his brother’s fiancee.  His sister, Angharad (Maureen O’Hara), has a flirtation with the new preacher, Mr. Gruffydd (Walter Pidgeon).  Much emphasis is put on communal gatherings.  There is a wildly joyful wedding celebration.  We often see the villagers in church and hear them singing both hymns and folk songs.  In their isolate village, they are are united against a changing world.

Or, at least, they think they are.  As the mining industry grows, that united front and sense of community starts to vanish.  A strike sets family members against each other, as each miner is forced to decide whether to side with management or with his fellow workers.  Each year, the wages become lower.  When management realizes that its cheaper to just continually hire new miners, several of the veteran workers are fired and end up leaving the village to seek a living elsewhere.  As new people come to the village, even Mr. Gruffydd finds himself the subject of gossip.

As for Huw, he grows up.  He goes to school, deals with a sadistic teacher, and learns how to defend himself against bullies.  And eventually, like everyone in his family, he is sent down into the mines and soon, his once innocent face is covered in soot.

And, of course, there’s a big tragedy but you probably already guessed that.  How Green Was My Valley is not a film that takes the viewer by surprise.

For the most part, it’s all pretty well done.  The big cast all inhabit their roles perfectly and Roddy McDowall is extremely likable as Huw.  Maureen O’Hara shows why she eventually became a star and even Walter Pidgeon gives a surprisingly fiery performance.  How Green Way My Valley is a good film but it’s too conventional and predictable to be a great film, which is why its victory over Citizen Kane and The Maltese Falcon will always be remembered as a huge Oscar injustice.

But, taken on its own terms and divorced from the Oscar controversy, How Green Was My Valley may be a conventional but it’s not a bad film.  It’s just no Citizen Kane.

4 Shots From 4 Films: Little Hero (1967), Computer Superman (1977), Return of Mr. Superman (1960), Asi kabadayi/Turkish Wolverine (1986)

I am in the middle of watching the Indian film Dariya Dil (1988), which is commonly known as Indian Superman and Spiderwoman. It’s awesome, but I won’t be able to have it finished by tonight or maybe even tomorrow. As a result, I thought I would share four more superhero knockoff movies that I won’t be able to review because I don’t have subtitles for them.

Little Hero (1967, dir. Reza Safai)

Little Hero (1967, dir. Reza Safai)

This film from India apparently has not only Superman in it, but Tarzan and The Ringo Kid. That also looks like it could be Supergirl. I thought that only the Filipinos knocked off Supergirl. Apparently, even before we did the Helen Slater movie.

Computer Superman (1977, dir. Sompote Sands)

Computer Superman (1977, dir. Sompote Sands)

This movie from Thailand is mainly about the Thai version of The Six Million Dollar Man, but also has a host of other characters such as this guy who has giant ears.

Return of Mr. Superman (1960, dir. Manmohan Sabir)

Return of Mr. Superman (1960, dir. Manmohan Sabir)

Like Superman a bunch, but wish he looked more like Spy Smasher? No worries. This 1960 Indian film has got you covered. He flies and everything! Strangely, there was another Indian movie that came out the same year with the same lead actor, but was just called Superman. Oh, and yes, I am aware there is a Turkish Spy Smasher, but I have subtitles for that one.


Asi kabadayi/Turkish Wolverine (1986, dir. Çetin Inanç)

From probably the king of Turkish knockoffs comes the movie that has become known as Turkish Wolverine. You could also call it Turkish Rambo Wolverine if you want. I mean he does shoot arrows as well, and is played by Serdar Kebapçilar who played Turkish Rambo. I swear there’s Turkish everything.