Film: Design & Architecture

The Awful Truth

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A film that opens with a valentine doily. A 1937 screwball comedy starring Irene Dunne and Cary Grant, The Awful Truth was one of the first, if not the first, of a series called “comedies of remarriage”, where separated or divorced couples rediscover that they are still in love with each other. In this film the interior sets are rich, varied, and will never disappoint.

(above) Here’s the entry foyer to the home of the soon to be separated couple.
(above) Here’s the entry foyer to the home of the soon to be separated couple.
(above) The interiors are quietly majestic.
(above) The interiors are quietly majestic.
(above) The interiors, which includes the furniture, are very Adamesque with the exception of the couch with its Edwardian-style chintz slipcover.
(above) The interiors, which includes the furniture, are very Adamesque with the exception of the couch with its Edwardian-style chintz slipcover.
(above) Cocktails in the morning?
(above) Cocktails in the morning?
(above) Never mind. It’s eggnog, a smart and healthy choice to serve in the morning.
(above) Never mind. It’s eggnog, a smart and healthy choice to serve in the morning.
(above) I love this fireplace surround. Note the abundant use of columns and pilasters in this home, which is typical of the Adamesque style.
(above) I love this fireplace surround. Note the abundant use of columns and pilasters in this home, which is typical of the Adamesque style.
(above) In those days, you could call your attorney at home and not be charged for the time. At least that was the case in the movies.
(above) In those days, you could call your attorney at home and not be charged for the time. At least that was the case in the movies.
(above) I’m intrigued with the signage of that time. I’m pretty sure that the top tube contains a fluorescent light that when on would cause the etched letters to glow. Here in Dallas, a good example of this technique still exists at the Inwood Theatre. Next time you’re there for a film check out the staircase railing.
(above) I’m intrigued with the signage of that time. I’m pretty sure that the top tube contains a fluorescent light that when on would cause the etched letters to glow. Here in Dallas, a good example of this technique still exists at the Inwood Theatre. Next time you’re there for a film check out the staircase railing.
(above) Marble lined walls in important public buildings was common in those days.
(above) Marble lined walls in important public buildings was common in those days.
(above) Jury duty would be a pleasure if courtrooms looked like this one.
(above) Jury duty would be a pleasure if courtrooms looked like this one.
(above) The soon-to-be-ex-wife’s apartment happens to be Adamesque with a touch of Regency.
(above) The soon-to-be-ex-wife’s apartment happens to be Adamesque with a touch of Regency.
(above) Here’s something you don’t see much of anymore, drapery surrounding the interior openings.
(above) Here’s something you don’t see much of anymore, drapery surrounding the interior openings.
(above) Depression can influence one’s choice of dress. Here is the classic selection for a lonely woman who has chosen to stay home for the evening with her dog.
(above) Depression can influence one’s choice of dress. Here is the classic selection for a lonely woman who has chosen to stay home for the evening with her dog.
(above) Does New York City still have elegant apartment corridors such as this one?
(above) Does New York City still have elegant apartment corridors such as this one?
(above) a detail of the elevator
(above) a detail of the elevator
(above) another corner in her apartment
(above) another corner in her apartment
(above) Electric table lamps at every table in this night spot?
(above) Electric table lamps at every table in this night spot?
(above) Another example of how shadow silhouettes were used in film sets
(above) Another example of how shadow silhouettes were used in film sets
(above) Another view of her apartment
(above) Another view of her apartment
(above) It’s fun to figure out the floor plans in these sets. Here Cary Grant is sprinting from the kitchen, through the dining room (with the entry foyer to his left) and into the living room.
(above) It’s fun to figure out the floor plans in these sets. Here Cary Grant is sprinting from the kitchen, through the dining room (with the entry foyer to his left) and into the living room.
(above) Notice how elegantly she drapes.
(above) Notice how elegantly she drapes.
(above) I don’t care if this clock works or not. I want it.
(above) I don’t care if this clock works or not. I want it.
(above) Note the decor and labeling of this apartment door.
(above) Note the decor and labeling of this apartment door.
(above) Here's an up-close detail view of the apartment door. I’m guessing that these name cards are engraved.
(above) Here’s an up-close detail view of the apartment door. I’m guessing that these name cards are engraved.
(above) Smith looks for treats on the family sofa—the satin tufted sofa.
(above) Smith looks for treats on the family sofa—the satin tufted sofa.
(above) another day, another outfit
(above) another day, another outfit
(above) a built-in banquette with a view of the veranda
(above) a built-in banquette with a view of the veranda
(above) Note the partition that divides the entry from the dining space.
(above) Note the partition that divides the entry from the dining space.
(above) We’re now at his apartment.
(above) We’re now at his apartment.
(above) Common features in manly apartments in these old films are glass-block walls, plaid or striped curtains, and low partitions with built-in seating.
(above) Common features in manly apartments in these old films are glass-block walls, plaid or striped curtains, and low partitions with built-in seating.
(above) He’s ready to serve.
(above) He’s ready to serve.
(above) Another magnificent home
(above) Another magnificent home
(above) He doesn’t seem to know any poor people. Note the gorgeous pilasters.
(above) He doesn’t seem to know any poor people. Note the gorgeous pilasters.
(above) A closer view of the pilasters
(above) A closer view of the pilasters
(above) If I had a lake retreat, this is what it would look like. Minus the live-in caretaker.
(above) If I had a lake retreat, this is what it would look like. Minus the live-in caretaker.
(above) Another view inside their lake house
(above) Another view inside their lake house
(above) Flannel pajamas would have been more appropriate.
(above) Flannel pajamas would have been more appropriate.
(above) I'm not explaining.
(above) I’m not explaining.

4 thoughts on “The Awful Truth”

  1. Margaret Downs-Gamble says:

    This is beautifully explored, Patsy Ann. I thought you’d like to know that my son’t loft in L.A. is a converted office building from the period. The renovators retained the marble walls and the opaque (wavy) glass doors. It’s genuinely lovely.

    I’m guessing that “The Philadelphia Story” is part of this genre of film. Cary Grant must have often been cast in this sort of comedy. Interesting. I think of him as being perfect in “Notorious” with Ingrid Bergman, but also perfect in “Philadelphia Story.” Again, so gorgeous interiors.

    Thanks for this!

    1. Patsy Ann says:

      I’m so glad your son’s loft is in a preserved building. Someday I would love to see pictures (colored ones) of it. Missing color information is the only negative thing about these old films.

      And yes, this was the film that launched Cary Grant into the romantic comedy genre.

      Thanks for visiting, Margaret

  2. Kathy Biehl says:

    A delightful (and so visually educated) analysis! Your writing style is lovely, and your eye is excellent.

    I look forward to more of these! What’s your position on Palm Beach Story?

    1. Patsy Ann says:

      Thank you very much, Kathy. I don’t recall having seen Palm Beach Story. My process is to see the film on TCM, and if it has really cool sets, I then rent it from Netflix. After that there are numerous boring software steps I must go through in order to capture individual stills. I will add Palm Beach Story to my Netflix rent list and also make sure I don’t miss it on TCM when it’s shown in the future.

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