Sunday, December 20, 2009

Happy Birthday, Irene Dunne

Today is Irene Dunne's birthday. Already a star in 1931, with an Oscar nomination and best picture (Cimarron) to her credit, the work we now know her for—the comedies she made with Cary Grant—is still a few years up the road.

Actually, audiences in 1931 would have been surprised to learn Dunne is best remembered as a comedienne; so would Dunne, for that matter. She was primarily a singer and dramatic actress and didn't do her first comedy until 1936, one of Katie's and my favorites, Theodora Goes Wild.
At an age (38) when a flop might end her career, Dunne was so unsure of her ability to do comedy that she fled the country for a couple of months, hoping the studio would recast the part (those were the days of long-term contracts when even stars had little control over what they played) then reluctantly consented when it didn't. She needn't have worried—Theodora Goes Wild was a big hit and she received her second of five Oscar nominations (she never won).

Comedy, she later said, "demands more timing, pace, shading and subtlety of emphasis. It is difficult to learn but once it is acquired it can be easily slowed down and becomes an excellent foundation for dramatic acting."

Cary Grant said she was the sweetest-smelling actress he ever worked with. Unfortunately, my copy of The Awful Truth doesn't come with a scratch-and-sniff card, so I'll have to take his word for it. I can say she is one of the sweetest actresses to watch I've ever seen.

The wallpaper, by the way, is courtesy of Sylvie. Toddle over to "Divas—The Site" and check out some others.

And now one last picture of Irene Dunne—and some guy you may or may not recognize.

12 comments:

Zoe said...

it looks as though Dunne is checking for nits in that pic with cary grant Haha.
Happy Birthday Irene Dunne.

Mythical Monkey said...

It's probably a still from the deleted original ending of The Awful Truth:

"I've got a nit to pick with you!"

"What, again? But I shampoo every day. With Head and Shoulders, no less!"

"No matter, your head is crawling with lice. If you'd stop taking floozies to cheap hotels --"

"But I can't afford to take them to nice hotels. I'm saving all my money to spend on you!"

"Aw, that's the nicest thing anyone's ever said to me! Come and kiss me, you gorgeous hunk o' man!"

"Rowr!"

Director Leo McCarey loved the gritty neo-realism of the original ending but test audiences were skeeved out by the unresolved hygiene issues so a new ending involving a clock, a spare bedroom and a creaky attic door was hastily written.

At least I think that's what Robert Osborne said ...

Zoe said...

haha classic lines, i haven't been able to get a hold of the Awful truth to watch yet. but it looks and sounds superb.
well the photo still suits those lines. lol you are most likely on the money.

Beveridge D. Spenser said...

Wasn't she in Idiot's Delight? She gets to play two delicious phony roles. Meanwhile, Clark Gable has to sing and dance.

Mythical Monkey said...

Welcome Beveridge -- I only this afternoon added a link to your site (Cool Beveridge under the Movie Links section). You have to like a movie fan who mixes movies with their cocktails.

I hate to admit it, but I've never seen Idiot's Delight -- I'll put it on my list. The notion of Clark Gable singing and dancing makes my head hurt ... a real must-see!

Mythical Monkey said...

Zoe -- The Awful Truth is a great movie, Cary Grant and Irene Dunne are at their best and they very clearly enjoyed working together. This is the movie that really put Grant on the map. I foresee Katie award nominations for him, Dunne -- and even Ralph Bellamy in a supporting role.

It's worth tracking down.

Lupner said...

Irene D. and Cary G. -- what a divine pair. And once again the Katies come to right one of the many wrongs of the 'Academy'. Three cheers for Irene, Cary, and the Katies!

Need I say, again, that CG was the LIVING END -- with or without lice? Recently saw my favorite 'don't send me away' scene from 'The Bishop's Wife", followed soon thereafter by 'The Philadelphia Story' . . . somebody pick me up off the floor. Sigh.)

Mythical Monkey said...

Recently saw my favorite 'don't send me away' scene from 'The Bishop's Wife", followed soon thereafter by 'The Philadelphia Story' . . . somebody pick me up off the floor. Sigh.)

We happened to watch The Bishop's Wife recently too. What a great movie. I'll go for a while without seeing it and forget how good Cary Grant is then see it again and think, "Hey, this is really good!" Don't know why I'm surprised. He's always good.

Say, did you know the studio originally planned to cast Grant as the bishop and David Niven as the angel? It was Grant who talked the director into switching the parts. Glad he did. I don't think it would have worked nearly as well the other way around. As Katie-Bar-The-Door pointed out, Cary Grant looks like he actually could have been from heaven.

Lupner said...

I believe I did hear about the switcheroo per CG's request at some point fairly recently -- could you have mentioned this before? -- or perhaps they discussed it on TCM or AMC during a previous viewing -- but had forgotten about it. He was excellent, a very moving performance. That last scene of his almost always brings me to tears.

'As Katie-Bar-The-Door pointed out, Cary Grant looks like he actually could have been from heaven.'

Amen to that, KBTD!

Mythical Monkey said...

I believe I did hear about the switcheroo per CG's request at some point fairly recently -- could you have mentioned this before?

Oh, almost certainly. Now you know what it's like to be married to me. I suspect one of the reasons Katie likes reading my blog so much is because now she doesn't have to hear the same old movie anecdote over breakfast again.

Lupner said...

Yes, well -- join the group of Repeaters, bub. And since I'd already managed to forget the information, it's a good thing that you found yourself repeating it. And now I can start repeating it. If I can remember it . . .

not.Goro.Adachi said...

Dunne and Grant had great chemistry!