As the world celebrates various actresses who are dominating the big and small screens today – from Sandra Bullock to Robin Wright – so it did in the 30s through to the 50s, and every decade since Hollywood became the most attractive film industry in the world. actresses Irene Dunne, who dominated the screen during her time as an actress in the 1930s to the early 1950s, was one of the celebrated names in the film industry at that time. She has five Academy Award nominations for her works and received a Kennedy Center Honor as part of the recognition of her work in the arts. Learn more about the Hollywood icon below.
Irene Dunne Biography
There is a joy on earth when a family welcomes a newborn child, as the family of Joseph John Dunn and Adelaide Henry Dunn did on the 20th of December, 1898 in Louisville, Kentucky. Irene Dunne’s birth was a delightful event in the life of her parents – a father who was a steamboat inspector and a mother who was a music teacher.
Nothing describes Irene Dunne’s childhood better than her own words “No triumph of either my stage or screen career has ever rivaled the excitement of trips down the Mississippi on the riverboat with my father”. It is the confirmation of a great childhood for the iconic actress, which sadly came to an abrupt end when she was eleven years old due to her father’s death.
The sad incident prompted a relocation to Indiana for the rest of the family, which included her solitary sibling, Charles. While at Madison, Indiana, Irene Dunne, through her mother’s piano lessons began to gravitate towards an entertainment career. By the time she graduated from high school in 1916, Irene Dunne had become a singer who sang in local churches and in high school plays. Her education continued at Chicago Musical College after she had earned a diploma in art. She graduated from the Musical College in 1926.
Failure to pass an audition with the Metropolitan Opera Company denied her a dream of becoming an opera singer but armed with some of the words of her father, she did not give up and explored a career in musical theater. It was in the musical theater that her career began to blossom. Starting from 1921, when she was cast as the lead in the play, Irene, she toured different cities through to 1922. In 1922, she got her Broadway debut through the play, The Clinging Vine. As her name grew in popularity and reckoning in New York, she later moved to Hollywood in California along with the rest of her family.
Despite moving to California, she continued to appear in Broadway plays well into the late 20s, when she was discovered by Hollywood executives while she starred in the play, Show Boat. This led to her first appearance onscreen, in the film, Leathernecking in 1930. It was to be the first of several films Irene Dunne appeared on during her 40-year career. She starred in films like Back Street, Magnificent Obsession, Roberta and many more. She got her first Academy Award nomination, through the film, Cimarron in 1931.
Throughout her career, Irene Dunne appeared in over 45 films, over 10 television shows, and several radio appearances. Despite having five Academy Award nominations and never winning one, the recognition of her talents happened with several other institutions, including the Hollywood Walk of Fame. She also got a Kennedy Center Honor in 1985.
There is a conflict from different sources regarding the net worth of Irene Dunne. With some reporting $2 million and others $34 million, it is difficult to determine what her exact net worth was. It is, however, certain she was a rich actress at the time of her death as she and her foundation, The Irene Dunne Guild, has raised over $20 million in donations.
Irene Dunne was married just once throughout her entire life. Early into her career, she met and got married to Francis Dennis Griffin, who was a dentist in 1927. The couple remained together and lived in a Holmby Hills, California. Although they never had a biological child of their own, they had an adopted daughter, Mary Frances who they adopted in 1936.
Death – How Did Irene Dunne Die?
At the age of 91, Irene Dunne died at her home on September 4, 1990. It was the end of a great life and she was buried at Calvary Cemetery in East Los Angeles. At the time of her death, she had two grandchildren and two great-grandchildren from her daughter, Mary Frances.