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Irene Dunne – MovieActors.com

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Dunne in THE AWFUL TRUTH.

About Irene Dunne (1898 – 1990)

Irene Marie Dunne was born in Louisville, Kentucky. Her father, Joseph Dunne, was a steamboat inspector. Her mother,  Adelaide Henry, was a musician, who strongly urged Irene to develop her talents in music and drama. Irene was in her first play at the age of five, in a Louisville stage production of  "A Midsummer Night's Dream." 

Her father had a profound influence on her life. In the midst of her successful career as an actress, Irene said, "No triumph of either my stage or screen career has ever rivalled the excitement of trips down the Mississippi on the river boats with my father."

Only 11 years old when her father passed away, Irene lived by these words he told her the night before he died in an accident; "Happiness is never an accident. It is the prize we get when we choose wisely from life's great stores."

After Irene's father died, her mother moved the family back home to Madison, Indiana, where they moved in with Irene's maternal grandparents. As Irene grew up there, she took piano and voice lessons. Irene earned some money by singing in Christ Episcopal Church. She graduated from Madison High School in 1916. She then studied for a year at a Indianapolis Music Conservatory.

When Irene won the annual Chicago Music College's scholarship contest, Irene studied on scholarship there at the Chicago Music College for a year. After the scholarship ended, Irene decided to go for her dreams and headed for New York, where she auditioned for the Metropolitan Opera Company. After her audition, Irene was told she was too young and inexperienced. Her voice had not matured enough.

Undaunted, Dunne then auditioned for a spot in a road theater company. She won the leading role, and was in lots of plays afterward.

In 1928, she married the love of her life, Dr. Francis Dennis Griffin, that lasted until Francis died in 1965. They adopted a daughter, Mary Frances, at the age of four from the New York Foundling Hospital, in 1938.

irene-dunne-imagesIrene Dunne worked in the theater, until 1930, when her comedic acting ability was noticed in the road tour company's stage production, SHOWBOAT, by Hollywood scouts. Irene went under contract with RKO Pictures. Irene had a very successful career as a comic actress in the movies for 22 years.

In 1936, Irene reprised her role as Magnolia in the musical film, SHOWBOAT.

Irene Dunne was nominated for five Academy Awards for her performances in the following films:for CIMARRON; (1931), THEODORA GOES WILD; (1936), THE AWFUL TRUTH; (1937);{with Cary Grant, as a divorcing couple who sabotage each other's attempts to find a new partner}, LOVE AFFAIR;(1939), and I REMEMBER MAMA; (1948).

For some unknown reason, Irene never received a lifetime achievement Award after she stopped acting completely in 1962. One can guess it was because she rejected the Hollywood culture, was a person of deep Catholic faith, and was supportive of the Republican Party.
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On her semi-retirement; (1952-1962), Irene commented; "I never formally retired. That would have been presumptuous. But an awful lot of the girls my age soldiered on in bad vehicles. I'd do a TV half hour drama every year just to keep my hand in it. But I couldn't run around with an axe in my hand like Bette [Davis] and Joan [Crawford] did to keep things going. The difference was I had a family and they didn't have one - only the all-mighty career."

Irene did win a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960, located at 6440 Hollywood Blvd.

When Irene retired from films in 1952, but not from a little television work, Irene Dunne started her work on civic, philanthropic, and Republican causes, as well as serving on the board of Technicolor.

Of her complete early retirement in 1962, Irene quipped; "I drifted into acting and drifted out. Acting is not everything. Living is."

Irene died of heart failure on September 4th, 1990, in Los Angeles, California. Irene was survived by a daughter, a granddaughter, a grandson and two great grandchildren.


Irene Dunne's notable movie credits include...

BACHELOR APARTMENT (1931)
SYMPHONY OF SIX MILLION (1932)
THIRTEEN WOMEN (1932)
THE SILVER CORD (1933)
THE AGE OF INNOCENCE (1934)
ROBERTA (1935)
SHOWBOAT (1936)
THE AWFUL TRUTH (1937)
MY FAVORITE WIFE (1940)
PENNY SERENADE (1941)
A GUY NAMED JOE (1943)
TOGETHER AGAIN (1944)
LIFE WITH FATHER (1947)
I REMEMBER MAMA (1948)
NEVER A DULL MOMENT (1950)
THE MUDLARK (1950)
IT GROWS ON TREES (1952)


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Irene Dunne with Cary Grant in THE AWFUL TRUTH.

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Irene in MY FAVORITE WIFE.

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Irene Dunne in PENNY SERENADE (1941).

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Irene Dunne in THEODORA GOES WILD (1936).

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Irene Dunne in LIFE WITH FATHER.