Irene Dunne was an American singer and actress who worked on stage, in movies, and on TV. During her very successful time in Hollywood, she was nominated five times for the “Best Actress” Academy Award. During Hollywood’s “Golden Age,” she was beautiful, graceful, and full of life. She also had a natural talent for acting in silly situations. She was very popular because she was able to act with both depth and humor. She played roles in plays, movies, and TV shows with the same ease and skill. She was very careful about keeping her privacy, which was the most interesting thing about her. Even though she showed people her beauty and talent, she never told anyone about her private life. She also never gave interviews or wrote her autobiography. There are no photos of her husband or daughter that were taken for publicity, and she was never a source of rumors. Even after she got married to a man who lived and worked on the other coast, she never got involved in any gossip or cheap publicity. She kept herself to herself and didn’t get too involved in the business. She thought that “living” was more important than “acting.”
Early years and childhood
Irene Dunne was born on December 20, 1898, in Louisville, Kentucky. Her father, Joseph John Dunn, was a steamboat inspector, and her mother, Adelaide Henry, was a music teacher.
When her father died in 1909, she and her brother moved in with their grandparents in Madison, Indiana.
Irene’s mother taught her how to play the piano and also encouraged her to learn how to sing and act. She helped support her family by singing in the choir at the “Christ Episcopal Church.”
She went to school at the “Loretta Academy” in St. Louis, Missouri. In 1916, she graduated from “Madison High School.”
She went to the “Indianapolis Conservatory of Music” for the next two years and got a teaching certificate when she was done.
She wanted to be an opera singer, so she won a prestigious scholarship and spent a year studying at the “Chicago Music College.”
After going to this college for one year, she tried out for the “New York Metropolitan Opera Company” in 1920, but she was too young for the job and was turned down.
She spent another year studying at the “Chicago Music College.”
Irene Dunne’s Career
Irene Dunne started working as a professional stage singer in 1921 when she auditioned for traveling theater companies that had heard about her. Around this time, she added an “e” to the end of her last name, Dunn.
In the play “The Clinging Vine,” which opened on Broadway in 1922, she played the supporting role of “Tessie.”
In 1923, she was in a light opera in Atlanta, Georgia, for the whole season.
The next year, she toured the country in “The Clinging Vine” as the main character. She kept acting on stage, mostly in lead roles for women, for a while longer.
In 1929, Florenz Ziegfeld chose her to play Magnolia in the Chicago version of “Show Boat,” which had been a big hit on Broadway and was made by Kern and Hammerstein. She did a great job playing the role, and talent scouts from Hollywood saw her and offered her a contract with RKO studios in Hollywood.
In 1930, he had his first part in a movie called “Leathernecking.” It was a movie version of the musical comedy “Present Arms,” which had been on Broadway in 1928. Neither the movie nor her part had any effect on the people who saw it.
In 1929, she was in RKO’s most expensive movie, “Cimarron.” For her role in the movie, she got her first nomination for “Best Actress” from the Academy Awards.
She started acting in movies that made people cry, like “Back Street” in 1932, “No Other Woman” and “Ann Vickers” in 1933, and “Magnificent Obsession” in 1935. These movies were especially popular with women.
She also played roles in musicals like “Roberta” with Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire in 1935.
In 1936, she played Magnolia again in the classic musical film version of “Show Boat,” which was directed by James Whale.
Irene got her second nomination for “Best Actress” at the Academy Awards in 1936 for her lead role in “Theodora Goes Wild,” which showed how good she was at playing comedic roles.
In 1937, she worked with Cary Grant on “The Awful Truth,” which earned her a third nomination for “Best Actress” at the Academy Awards.
Her most popular movie was “Love Affair,” which she starred in with Charles Boyer in 1939. It was a big hit, and she was nominated for the “Best Actress” Oscar for the fourth time.
In 1940, she worked with Cary Grant again in the comedy film “My Favorite Wife,” in which she showed how good she was at comedy roles. She also worked with Cary Grant in the 1940 movie “Penny Serenade.”
She was in the movies “Together Again” and “A Guy Named Joe” in 1944, “Over 21” in 1945, “Anna and the King of Siam” in 1946, and “Life with Father,” a wonderful comedy, in 1947.
In 1948, she got her fifth and last nomination for “Best Actress” for her part in the movie “I Remember Mama.”
In the movie “The Mudlark” from 1950, she played Queen Victoria very well. In the same year, she also acted in “Never a Dull Moment.”
She stopped making movies after being in the comedy “It Grows on Trees” in 1952.
She kept acting on TV shows like “What’s My Line,” “The Colgate Comedy Hour,” “Ford Theater,” “The Schlitz Playhouse of Stars,” and “It’s Showtime” for the next ten years.
After she stopped acting, she was seen in public less and less, but she got involved in charity work and politics. She worked for President Eisenhower in the 1952 and 1956 elections, which led to her being named a U.S. delegate to the UN.
She was the first woman chosen to be on the board of “Technicolor” in 1965.
Awards & Achievements
Irene Dunne got the “Laetare Medal” from “Notre Dame University” in 1949, the “Bellarmine Medal” from “Bellarmine College” in 1965, and the “Colorado’s Women of Achievement” award in 1968.
In 1958, she was put into the “International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame.”
She got a star on the “Walk of Fame” in Hollywood.
She was up for an Oscar Award 5 times.
Personal History and Legacies
In 1928, she got married to New York dentist Francis Griffin.
In 1938, she took in a girl named Mary Frances, whose birth name was Anna Mary Bush.
Irene Dunne died on September 4, 1990, in Los Angeles, California. She was 91 years old.
Her Humanitarian Work
The Irene Dunn Guild, which was started by Irene Dunne, has raised more than $20 million for charities so far.
Estimated Net worth
Irene is one of the wealthiest movie stars and is on the list of the most popular movie stars. Based on what we know and what Wikipedia, Forbes, and Business Insider say, Irene Dunne’s net worth is about $1.5 million.
She was lovingly called “The Iron Maiden” and “The First Lady of Hollywood.”