Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Glass Slipper A Perfect Fit For Irene Dunne

She started Monty's March Madness tournament as a #10 seed, but Irene Dunne defeated a slew of film icons to win the title of All-Time Favorite Classic Movie Actress. Congratulations.

Dunne's road wasn't easy, and along the way, she defeated the likes of Clara Bow, Barbara Stanwyck, Claudette Colbert, Carole Lombard, Grace Kelly and, in the final, Scarlet O'Hara herself, Vivien Leigh.

"I don't know why the public took a liking to me so fast," said the typically self-deprecating Dunne. "Popularity is a curious thing. The public responds to a dimple, a smile, a giggle, a hairstyle, an attitude. Acting talent has less to do with it than personality."

The victory wasn't without contro- versy, however. With the heavily-favored Carole Lombard holding a command- ing lead in the Silent Era/1930s regional final, the voting had to be restarted when it was discovered a computer glitch had allowed fans to stuff the ballot box in Lombard's favor. When voting resumed, Dunne won comfortably, 58-43.

Ironically, during World War II, Dunne christened the Liberty Ship S.S. Carole Lombard with the traditional bottle of champagne at its launching.

I have written about Irene Dunne before and will no doubt do so again. Here's a brief summary of her career:

Irene Dunne is best remembered now as a comedic actress, one of the finest of Hollywood's Golden Age, but if she'd had her way, she would never have made comedies at all. For most of her career, she was a singer and a 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 have ended 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 and the regard was mutual. "I appeared with many leading men," she said. "But working with Cary Grant was different from working with other actors—he was much more fun! I think we were a successful team because we enjoyed working together tremendously, and that pleasure must have shown through onto the screen."

Dunne made her last movie in 1952 then turned her attention to politics, actively campaigning in support of Dwight Eisenhower's successful presidential bids. In 1957, Ike appointed her as a delegate to the United Nations General Assembly.

The actress married once, to Francis Dennis Griffith in 1928. The two remained married until his death in 1965.

Dunne died of heart failure in 1990 at the age of 91.


Yvette said...

Thanks for this. I'm not as familiar with Irene Dunne as I should be, I admit it. I like her though. Always did. I am taken with her self-depracating attitude. I love that she seemed to have taken her marriage seriously.

I never liked Eisenhower.
But hey, nobody's perfect. :)

Page said...

She was gorgeous, funny and one talented lady. The only movie of hers that I can say I wasn't crazy about was Penny Serenade.
This was a lovely write up on one of Hollywood's true stars from the beginning of her career to the end.

Mythical Monkey said...

The only movie of hers that I can say I wasn't crazy about was Penny Serenade.

I confess, I'm not a fan of Penny Serenade either.