I tend to think that all screwball comedies of the thirties are a priori better written, directed and acted than any comedies being made these days. The awful truth is that this is not the case, and actually the superior batch are a small bunch (Preston Sturges and His Girl Friday amongst ’em). How do I know this? I just watched The Awful Truth, Cary Grant & Irene Dunne in a flyweight divorce comedy. It has its moments, Cary Grant is as blasé and debonair as ever. But the film lurches from set-piece to set-piece without any real investment from the viewer.

The film starts with Grant trying to hide from his wife that he has actually spent his two week holiday in California rather than Florida. She wanders in late with her Italian singing teacher who she has spent the night with. The pair distrust each other so agree to get a divorce. There is a very artificial plot device of the divorce taking eighty days to take effect, not that it would matter if reunite afterwards. And the film apportions blame very one-sidedly. Dunne’s socialite is shown to be the match to Grant, be she gets to burden all of the blame, there is never any real investigation of his infidelities. In the end the film brings the warring couple to the understanding that for all of (or because of) their flirtations they cannot live without each other. It could be quite a forward looking piece. But it is just the cinematic forerunner of Mad About Alice (terrible Jamie Theakston sitcom), as episodic and on the whole lumpen. Which for all its gaudy screwball trappings, cannot be considered a good thing.