Irene Dunne may not have initially been confident in her skills as a comedic actress, but she was one of the best who ever lived. She remains undoubtedly one of the queens of the screwball comedy genre, consistently portraying her characters with a mix of hilarity and enviable elegance.
Irene Dunne has also become one of my favorite actresses as I’ve continued to delve into her filmography.
First film of hers that I saw: My Favorite Wife (1940)
Of course, my first exposure to Irene Dunne was through one of her films co-starring the great Cary Grant. I fell in love with this film within the first view minutes of my initial viewing of it, and it has remained one of my favorite and most frequently re-watched classic comedies in the years since.
Irene is absolutely hilarious as Ellen, the wife who Nick (Grant) thought was dead after she disappeared in a tragic shipwreck. She finally returns seven years later, coincidentally on the day of her husband’s marriage to his second wife.
Confusion takes over for Nick as he tries to come to terms with the fact that his wife is, in fact, alive. He must also decide what to do about his new bride. And on top of all that, it turns out that Ellen had been living on an island for the past seven years with a hunky stranger (Randolph Scott).
A better cast could not have been chosen for this film. The chemistry between Grant and Dunne is through the roof. The result is an amusing and adorable (if highly implausible) sequence of events that never lets go of its hold on the viewer.
Roberta (1935): Stars alongside Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers and Randolph Scott as Stephanie, who runs a fashion house. Dunne’s storyline in this film takes a back seat to Astaire and Rogers, who completely steal the film, but Dunne’s performance is still very good and she gets to show off her lovely singing voice.
Theodora Goes Wild (1936): Stars alongside Melvyn Douglas as Theodora Lynn, a respectable young lady who happens to write scandalous novels under the pen-name of Caroline Adams. This was Dunne’s first big comedic role, and it is also one of her greatest performances.
The Awful Truth (1937): Stars alongside Cary Grant as Lucy Warriner, a wife who is in a battle with her soon-to-be-ex husband, Jerry. As the finality of their divorce looms, Lucy and Jerry do their best to ruin each others new romances.
My Favorite Wife (1940): Stars alongside Cary Grant as his back-from-the-dead wife, Ellen.
And the following are some of my favorite photos of Irene, who was born on December 20, 1898:
(Photos courtesy of the always amazing Doctor Macro’s High Quality Movie Scans)