The Awful Truth

Two years ago I wrote a piece about squash (and other racquet sports) appearing in films:

In the back of my head I had recalled one faithful reader of this blog long ago mentioning (back in 2009, it turned out) a Cary Grant film he had just seen on Turner Movie Classics. So, this summer, I tracked down the film. It was The Awful Truth, the 1937 screwball comedy directed by Leo McCarey (Duck Soup, An Affair to Remember; see: Sleepless in Seattle).

The Awful Truth was nominated for six Academy Awards and McCarey won Best Director.

The squash bit comes in the opening scene. It is a locker-room moment at the “Gotham Athletic Club” which is meant to stand in for all the men’s clubs then dotting Manhattan. Grant is on a tanning table and his friend, Robert Allen, strolls in twirling a racquet and practicing his swing. Then a quick patter:

“Hi, Jerry.”

“Hello, Frank.”

“How goes it?”


“Like to play a little squash?”

“No, thanks.”

They don’t get on the court but The Awful Truth does show that squash then was known enough to serve as a prop in a major film. It was about urbane confidence, like everything else with Cary Grant. “We could admire him for his timing and nonchalance,” Pauline Kael wrote in the New Yorker in 1975 about Grant. “We didn’t want depth from him; we asked only that he be handsome and silky and make us laugh.” That was squash in the 1930s.