Anyone else love her work?\
The Awful Truth was awesome!
She''s hilarious in The Awful Truth, My Favorite Wife, and Theodora Goes Wild. And she was quite fine in dramas like Penny Serenade.\
She''s just about intolerable as a singer--she had that semioperatic trill that audiences loved from before the turn of the century to the early 50s (Kathryn Grayson and Ann Blyth were the last two singers who sang this way), and it could shred metal at a distance of fifty feet.
Jerome Kern called her, in reference to her singing, Irene Over-dunne.
Monthly starring role on "Four Star Playhouse." She was always a delight.
Must play a part\
To light an eye, \
to fill a heart.\
They say a gown \
can almost speak\
If it is chic.\
Should you select\
The right effect\
You cannot miss,\
And night and day\
He is sure to say...
My mother bore a strong resemblance to Irene Dunne. That, among other qualities of Miss Dunne, have always kept her close to my heart.%0D\
Penny Serenade makes me cry to this day.%0D\
And she is hilarious in those screwball comedies.
Anna and the King...\
When the kid dies her reaction is heartbreaking..
Lifelong Republican, like her good gal-pals Barbara Stanwyck and Ginger Rogers. And much like them, a team player, a pro, a "good girl" to her studio bosses. Not like Hepburn, Davis, or Crawford.
Believe it or not, she made only ONE color film- "Life With Father".
Her pre-code BACK STREET is astonishing.
About 25 years ago James Harvey, a very good film historian, went to interview her for a book he was writing on romantic comedies. He came away saying that of all the actors he talked with, she was the nicest, the most down-to-earth, and the most comfortable in her own skin. It wasn''t that anyone else was especially nasty or stuck-up; it was just that she was so delightful.
She was really a great star.
Because she never won an Oscar, because her only studio contract was with RKO (which was never a major studio and disappeared more than 50 years ago), because she never was over the top like Crawford, Davis or Stanwyck, she's very much forgotten today, which is too bad.
Jerome Kern never called her Irene Over-done - that was Johnny Mercer. Kern loved her - he discovered her in 1927 and she played Magnolia in the first road company of SHOW BOAT before she became a movie star - in fact, it was when the tour played LA that she was seen and signed by RKO. Kern wrote almost all her musicals - Show Boat, Sweet Adeline, Roberta, High Wide & Handsome (a great film that pre-dates Oklahoma! and my favorite of her musicals), Joy of Living - and loved writing for her voice.
Besides High Wide & Handsome, she's also extraordinary in The Mudlark as Queen Victoria with Alec Guinness - makes Judi Dench's Victoria pale in comparison.
Unfortunately, a right-wing Rethug whose lifelong support of the Party got her friend Ronnie Reagan to sway the board and get her a Kennedy Center Honor. She was the only honoree who didn't attend her own gala - she injured herself in the day between the White House awards ceremony and the gala and didn't get to see her tribute.
Holly Wood HIlls
Anna and the King\
Yep, I''m a definite fan of the wonderful Irene Dunne!!
You need to go read a Kern biography, Holly Wood Hills.\
He did indeed make that comment about her voice. Gerald Bordman states that, although many regarded Dunne as his "muse" because she sang so many of his score, Kern himself didn''t care for her voice at all, although he liked her personally.\
And you imply that he wrote Roberta, Sweet Adeline, and Show Boat for her, when they were stage shows that were turned into Dunne vehicles as films.\
Kern was "for hire" as a Hollywood composer, and he wrote songs for the projects he was assigned to, just as all the other greats who did time in LA did.
Fans must check out her early 1950s appearance as the Mystery Guest on What''s My Line? on youtube. I believe she made two appearances over the years but the first one is truly priceless (for her hat alone!).
The WML Troll
[quote]Wow, you were right, r16. She''s pretty wonderful in the "What''s My Line" clip, and I''d forgotten what a good comic actor she was. What a shame that she gave it all up so early.\
The clip says she was 55, but she was 54 when it was taped - the reference to the inauguration is to Eisenhower''s Jan 1953 inauguration.
Cary Grant always said she was his favorite leading lady, though the fact that she neither made nor expected any sexual advances probably swayed him.
Irene Dunne was several years older than most of the actresses who were her competitive peers for roles. She attributed her preternatural youthfulness to an abundance of sleep. She had it written into her contract that she would never have to report to the studio before mid-morning hours.
Irene Dunne is one of the greats. Too bad there are no longer any great stars.
Didn''t she play Granny on the Beverly Hillbillies?
Theodora Goes Wild is a must-see for Dunne fans.
Be Still My Heart
Nobody''s mentioned "I Remember Mama." She''s absolutely wonderful. And the part in "The Awful Truth" where she pretends to be Cary Grant''s sister is the most brilliant comic performance I''ve ever seen.
R20 I don''t think Rosalind Russell attended that church, she came up with the name Our Lady of the Cadillacs. %0D\
THE AWFUL TRUTH, THEODORA GOES WILD and LOVE AFFAIR are amazing.
In the first WML show she says she has just made a film.....what film would that be? Is it Bernardine with Pat Boone and was that another technicolor film for her besides Life With Father?
The Awful Truth is a terrific movie. The opening scene where they both coyly deal with the fact that they fuck around on each other would probably raise more eyebrows today then when it was released.
R29, Janet Gaynor was in Bernardine.......
I think that the final few minutes of "The Awful Truth", where Grant and Dunne are alone in the cabin and the sexual tension is thick with a "Will they or won''t they?" feeling, is one of the sexiest moments in film history.
Drama, comedy, musical, high or low, Dunne could do it all. Wildly underrated today.
[quote]Didn''t she play Granny on the Beverly Hillbillies?\
I loved her in THE WHITE CLIFFS OF DOVER.
She was the best part of the hideous Titanic movie with Leonardo and that fat girl. I cried when she threw the beautiful jewelry overboard at the end. Didn''t she just die recently? %0D\
Uh, she''s not underrated. She''s unknown.
The movie she mentions that came out in the last six months is "It Grows on Trees," which was released in September, 1952. It was her last feature film. (The WML clip is from January, 1953).\
The only Technicolor movie she did was "Life With Father," I believe.
I just bought this book I found at an antique store about Hollywood''s famous ladies then and now. It came out in 1984, and Ms. Dunne refused to be photographed because she wanted people to remember her how she was. She pulled a Dietrich.
"RKO was never a major."%0D\
Not so. It changed hands countless times but was a major player in all respects until the early 50''s. It did not survive Howard Hughes.%0D\
Kennedy Sr, Selznick and David Sarnoff were major players at%0D\
RKO had a huge movie theatre empire.%0D\
Irene Dunne will always be "Mama."
Wasn''t David O Selznick a major producer at RKO in the early 30s before he founded his own studio? He produced King Kong there among many other huge hits.%0D\
RKO also produced all of the classic Astaire/Rogers musicals and Katharine Hepburn''s 30s hits. Cary Grant often starred at RKO....it was not a second rate studio, at least throughout the 1930s.
The headmaster at my boys''school claimed that she "adopted" a boy whom she tried to enroll in the school. The headmaster rejected him because he was too "worldly". Has anyone heard anything about this?
Does "worldly" mean "gay"
"Too worldly" means the boy smoked and swore and played poker and wasn''t a virgin.
Who was High, Wide and Handsome?%0D\
Sounds like Randy Scott to me.
Irene said her favorite role was Marta Hansen in "I Remember Mama."
My two favorite movies are "Penny Serenade" and "I Remember Mama". She was robbed of Oscars both times and deserved one specifically for "I Remember Mama". I think the reason she isn''t as well known today is that she wasn''t a flashy actress. No histronics like Davis or Crawford, not exotic like Dietrich or Garbo. Just a nice, plain, competent actress who had a gift for comedy and a light touch for drama.
RKO was certainly a major studio in the thirties, but it was also comparatively small, which meant that it had less clout than, say, MGM or Paramount or even Warner Bros. when it came to Academy voting. The studio simply had fewer Academy members. Moreover, Dunne may have had deals with RKO, but she never had an exclusive contract there. That's why she was able to make movies elsewhere at the time, at Columbia and Universal. Those weren't loan-outs. She was a freelancer, much like Stanwyck and Cary Grant after his Paramount contract ended. It's no coincidence that neither of them won a competitive Oscar either. Why, for instance, wasn't Bette Davis nominated for her performance in Of Human Bondage, which had been praised extravagantly when the movie was released? She was stuck between two studios: RKO, the studio that made the movie, didn't feel it had much to gain by pushing a Warners star, and Warners, her home studio, thought it didn't have much to gain by pushing another studio's movie. Warners' attitude was fairly short-sighted, considering that Davis was under contract there and her nomination would have meant greater stature for someone who was committed to years of future productions at their studio.
[quote]She was a freelancer, much like Stanwyck and Cary Grant after his Paramount contract ended. It''s no coincidence that neither of them won a competitive Oscar either\
Indeed. The upside is that Grant, Stanwyck, and Dunne got to work with some of the best directors of the golden age because they weren''t tied to a studio.
She was the only honoree who didn''t attend her own gala - she injured herself in the day between the White House awards ceremony and the gala and didn''t get to see her tribute.\
No she got a look at herself after the ceremony and chose not to appear. She pulled a Dietrich.
Who was her bf? Was she married to a non-pro like Claudette Colbert?
Her best work was on SNL, in my opinion. I thought she and Jan Hooks were just terrific as the Sweeney Sisters.
R30, you sound vulgar. Mrs. Dunne was the best at making it sound as if she were ad-libbing.
[quote]Irene Dunne was several years older than most of the actresses who were her competitive peers for roles. \
And on that note, it was said, (by Bette Davis I believe) that "There ought to be a rule that Irene Dunne''s leading men must be at least as old as her hands!"\
Never liked Irene Dunne. Yes she had a couple of good scenes in the Awful Truth but she was so damn ugly. Even on screen all made up and lit to perfection she just falls flat.
She was great! Especially when matched with Cary Grant. %0D\
Altho she was a Repug, in those days they were a bit different. Today there are no Republicans like there were then--no Ikes, no Rockefellers, Charles Percy, etc. The liberal Republicans even had there own group called the Rippon Society. Would be great if there were even a few like them today!
I have only recently come to appreciate Irene Dunne''s work, especially Cary Grant, as R55 said.\
R17, thank you for posting that link. I watched that and a few other "What''s My Line?" clips, thoroughly enjoying them. How nice it is to see women who aged more or less naturally and gracefully ... something the siliconed, botoxed frights that haunt us today should take a lesson from.
R54, must think Dietrich is a great actress because she is pretty.
The wonderful visit with the Vances from "The Awful Truth."
Exactly R55. If you watch the second WML (thanks R18!) she talks about refugees and caring for people and how cheap it is at 40 some cents per citizen per year. Today I can''t imagine a Republican even agreeing to BE a UN Delegate let alone arguing for the positive impact of the UN in the world. I think Republican''s today should rename themselves. They aren''t what they used to be. Today she''d be a Democrat, and a liberal one at that!
You are so right 55 and 59!!%0D\
Remember that Lincoln was a Republican, but he sure wouldn''t recognize the party today. (The Republicans were anti-slavery back then and the Dems were not. How times have changed!) I remember Eisenhower when I was a kid, and he was a good man. He didn''t like Nixon either but felt like he had to bite his tongue. I''d vote for Ike today. Sure wish the Repugs had a few like him. All that''s left of the "liberal" Repugs are one or two in New England, and they are really moderates. Sad!!
I'm bumping this thread because I think she was a great actress and I didn't see this when it was originally posted.
She loved to invite beer to her parties! It seemed to sort of fit in with the occasion!
I agree with R27 about her performance in "The Awful Truth". I also agree it was nice to see a woman age with grace and dignity. What Irene Dunne brought to the screen was the same as her other female actor friends: poise, smarts, dry, sharp wit, and common sense with a great touch of sin and experience. Even the great Meryl doesn't have that kind of talent.
The first time I ever knew who Irene Dunne was when my boyfriend brought home the Criterion edition of Show Boat.
There was Dunne, in full on blackface, singing a totally racist song about a black married woman who goes to Louisville to fuck EVERTHING In sight.
At the 7:50 mark:
She was TOTALLY deserving of her Kennedy Center Honor and I'd hate to think that Reagan had to coax anyone in DC to give it to her.
Is there a clip of the segment that was presented to honor her? I'd be curious to see it, even if she wasn't present. I checked on youtube but couldn't find anything but I am lame so....?
Did she ever win an honorary Oscar? Shecertainly deserved one of those as well.
I love her in both What's My Line? clips, especially the first one. What a great expressive face!!
r64, the lyrics are racist, alright: but musically it's a terrific number.
Most entertainment in those days that included black people were racist. However, Showboat featured Paul Robeson, who, even in the 1930's was hardly a Stephin Fetchit type. His performance alone is worth watching the film for. It was one of the few films he made. before being blacklisted.
R66 I think you meant the song is fine-anyone could sing the song- but the number is racist. At least that's what I hope you meant.
She was a gret actress, and I can't understand why she isn't more famous today. As far as her politics go, the Republican party of Eisenhower was as far from the current Repug Party as day is to night. Ike would never recognize his party today, nor would he endorse their platform or Romney or Ryan!
Face it. None of the actresses from her generation are still famous today except for Crawford, Davis and Hepburn who were still making films and public appearances until the 70s and 80s, virtually until they died.
Anyone alive today who would have seen Irene Dunne in the original releases of her best films (until the late 1940s) is over 75 or dead.
There are some people who only know her from television, mainly Four Star Playhouse.
There were all kinds of revivals of her comedies, particularly "The Awful Truth," "Theodora Goes Wild," and "My favorite Wife," when I was growing up in the late 70s and early 80s at repertory theatre houses across the country.
The thing that makes me sad about the rise of home video and then DVD is the loss of repertory showings. That was how I first got exposed to all kinds of amazing actors and films from the Golden Age of Hollywood--because that's all that was available. I saw things I wouldn't have sought out otherwise. I'm a college teacher now and I'm often amazed how many of my students have never seen a black-and-white film, or a film made before "Star Wars."
I know there was also something special about attending screenings of those classic films in revival houses and campus film festivals with a large crowd of people the way they were meant to be seen. Not alone on your TV set.
[quote]There was Dunne, in full on blackface, singing a totally racist song about a black married woman who goes to Louisville to fuck EVERTHING In sight.
That exposing the hatefulness and hypocrisy of racism is one of the major purposes of SHOWBOAT just sort of went sailing over your head, didn't it?
I new the name, but didn't really know who she was until I saw "The Awful Truth" in a college film class..such a great performance! I admit I haven't seen much of her other work...my bad!
Seek out the first, pre-code version of BACK STREET (1931). Universal made a brand-new print of it a few years ago. Dunne is wonderful in it, very touching even when you are annoyed to see her debase herself to be with the dull, colorless John Boles.
The scene where she pleads with her lover to "give her a child" to end her loneliness is heart-rending.
[quote]That exposing the hatefulness and hypocrisy of racism is one of the major purposes of SHOWBOAT just sort of went sailing over your head, didn't it?
If you think that number was sardonic commentary, you are too stupid to be looking for lurking subtext.
She was a sympathetic character and the song was not meant to accomplish anything other than to allow the white audience enjoy her jolly performance.
Agreed, R72. As a kid I was obsessed with old movies and would read everything about them. I would set my alarm clock to get up in the middle of the night to watch movies, etc. I would scour the newspapers and magazines for movies showing at the revival house in the city (Chicago) and then beg my father to take me, which he'd do if he was free.
One of my favorite memories is the first time I saw THE WOMEN. I was probably 10 or 11. My father and I arrive and the crowd is entirely men. I didn't know I was gay yet but felt extremely comfortable. The movie was so much fun. Looking back I'm sure my father probably knew all of the men were gay. I'm sure he was uncomfortable but he didn't say anything about it or demand we leave. Just stayed with me and watched the movie.
IIRC Irene Dunne is sitting in the front row, practically next to LB Mayer, in that famous photo of MGM's 20th anniversary around 1946 so I guess she must have been under contract to that studio for a few years. She was certainly Mayer's type.
R78, you made me smile. You had a sweetheart of a father.
She always struck me as someone who was old even when she was young. And she was actually older than she was purported to be. She was born in the 19th century but took about 5-6 years off her age.
She was born in 1898 and am sure she never lied about that. Most people believe she looked younger than she was (like Jean Arthur)... Anywho, I've heard that Ms. Dunne was an ice queen. A damn good actress but someone you stayed away from.
Ugliest leading lady until Meryl Streep came along.
She was far from ugly, actually quite lovely and she aged gracefully, as you can see on the What's My Line? clips.
The lighting and camera work of early TV was not kind to middle-aged ladies but she looks just dandy, certainly softer and prettier than Dorothy or Arlene who were probably a decade or two younger.
Our Moderator, John Charles Daly
R83-I don't agree but that was funny. The sad part about those actresses compared to Meryl Streep was that there were no parts of substance for them as they got older.
I worked for a talent agency years ago.They told us Dunne saved her money and invested in land and collectibles, esp. Haviland china. That she did indeed take herself off the market when she felt she'd aged out of the business.
And that she was discovered by Flo Ziegfeld, by riding up and down in his office building elevator until he boarded the car, then dropping her hanky so that he had to pick it up (I wonder if she was wearing undies.) She charmed him with her syrupy Kentucky accent.
Would someone please start a thread on Merle Oberon? Thanks.
NO. Start your own thread on Merle. Pick your own dead star of yesteryear and stay with her.
[quote]She was born in 1898 and am sure she never lied about that. Most people believe she looked younger than she was (like Jean Arthur).
Her official bio had her being born in 1905. Other sources said 1902/03 as well.
In 1949 Irene starred in the radio audition (now called a Pilot) for "Mama," based on her movie. It was picked-up by Maxwell House Coffee at 8:00PM Fridays on CBS-TV. Irene declined. She was afraid of live television. Peggy Wood played the role for nine seasons.