Irene Dunne (who is Irene Dunne?)

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Irene Dunne (born Irene Marie Dunn, December 20, 1898 – September 4, 1990) was an acclaimed American actress who achieved success in film, theatre, and television. She was known for her versatility and was one of the most popular and enduring stars of the golden age of Hollywood. Here's detailed information about her life, career, and legacy:

Early Life

  • Irene Dunne was born in Louisville, Kentucky.
  • She was the daughter of Joseph Dunn, an inspection engineer for the U.S. government, and Adelaide Henry, a concert pianist and music teacher.
  • Dunne was a talented pianist and singer from an early age, studying at the Chicago Musical College and even considering a career in opera.


  • Dunne started her career on Broadway, debuting in 'Irene' (1921), though she later became best known for her work in film.
  • Her breakout role came in the film adaptation of Edna Ferber's novel "Show Boat" (1936).
  • She starred in more than 40 films, with a versatility that allowed her to excel in a range of genres: from romantic comedies to dramas and musicals.

Notable Films

  • "Cimarron" (1931): This film, in which she played Sabra Cravat, won an Academy Award for Best Picture and earned Dunne her first of five Oscar nominations.
  • "Theodora Goes Wild" (1936): A comedy that showcased Dunne's skill in light, comedic roles.
  • "The Awful Truth" (1937): A screwball comedy that became one of her most enduring hits.
  • "Love Affair" (1939): A romantic drama which was later remade as "An Affair to Remember."
  • "I Remember Mama" (1948): A drama where Dunne delivered a performance that would garner her final Academy Award nomination.

Awards and Nominations

  • Dunne received five nominations for the Academy Award for Best Actress but never won the award.
  • Her nominations were for her performances in "Cimarron," "Theodora Goes Wild," "The Awful Truth," "Love Affair," and "I Remember Mama."

Personal Life

  • She married Dr. Francis Griffin in 1928, and they remained married until his death in 1965.
  • The couple adopted a daughter, Mary Frances.
  • Despite her success in Hollywood, Dunne was known for her stability and normal family life, shunning the glitz of the celebrity lifestyle.

Later Life and Legacy

  • Dunne effectively retired from acting in the early 1950s, though she made sporadic appearances on television and in public spheres.
  • She involved herself in charitable work and politics, later serving as a delegate to the United Nations General Assembly at the behest of President Eisenhower.
  • Irene Dunne passed away in 1990 in Los Angeles, California.


  • Dunne has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in recognition of her contributions to Motion Pictures.
  • In 1985, she received the Kennedy Center Honors, a prestigious award for those who have contributed significantly to American culture through the performing arts.

Influence and Cultural Impact

  • Although she never won an Oscar, her status as a five-time nominee cemented her place in Hollywood history.
  • Dunne was admired for her ability to master comedic timing, emotional depth, and singing—all requisites for a long-standing career during her time.


Irene Dunne's career spanned various facets of performance, from stage to screen. She remains an iconic figure in the entertainment industry for her memorable performances and contribution to the golden age of American cinema.

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