My Personal Favorite Actress - Irene Dunne
Irene Dunne was born on December 20, 1898. Ironically, my own mother died on December 20th. I mention that only because Irene Dunne was also my dear mom's favorite actress.
Irene was born ten years too soon. That made her 42 years old in 1940, the beginning of the greatest decade of movies. Luckily, she looked very youthful for her age and if you take a look back at her leading men of the 30's and 40's you will see what I mean. She was six years older than Cary Grant, six years older than Robert Montgomery, two years older than Spencer Tracy, eighteen years older than Van Johnson, who I met personally, ten years older than Rex Harrison, ten years older than Fred MacMurray, eleven years older than Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., thirteen years older than Robert Taylor and one year older than Fred Astaire.
Point being, the studios realized what a great actress she was and what a beautiful woman she was and as long as she looked younger than her famous leading men she could have the parts that other younger women desired.
Her first starring role was in a musical comedy in 1930. She received an Oscar nomination in just her second film, Cimarron in 1931. She was persuaded in 1936 to star in a comedy role in Theodora Goes Wild which was an instant hit and gave her another Oscar nomination.
Her light comedy roles with the likes of Cary Grant were comparable to Doris Day's hit comedies with Rock Hudson. As big a box office attraction as Cary was Irene still received top billing.
What made Irene so great was her ability to switch from comedy to drama and give outstanding performances like the one she gave in Love Affair in 1939 and another Oscar nomination, A Guy Named Joe in 1943 and I Remember Mama in her later years that would earn her another Oscar nomination making 5 nominations in all.
Just look at her in this photo. What a beauty! You can see her charm and personality written all over her face. This is a picture of Irene in her late 30's and she looks around 20. Just think; if she had come along ten years later she would have been doing leading romantic roles late into the 40's rather than the more mature roles she had to take as she gravitated toward her 50's.
Irene Dunne was intelligent (college educated) faithful (married for 35 years to a dentist until his death) beautiful, funny, gifted actress and lived to be 91 years of age. She was appreciated by many who grew up in the 30's-50's, but overlooked to some degree by future generations probably because of the era that she performed in. I truly love this woman.