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Irene Dunne

Irene Dunne

Irene Dunne (born Irene Marie Dunn) was an American actress who appeared in films during the Golden Age of Hollywood. She is best known for her comedic roles, though she performed in films of other genres. After her father died when she was 14, Dunne's family relocated from Kentucky to Indiana. She became determined to become an opera singer, but when she was rejected by The Met, she performed in musicals on Broadway until she was scouted by RKO and made her Hollywood film debut in the musical Leathernecking (1930). She later starred in the successful musical Show Boat (1936). Overall, she starred in 42 movies and was nominated five times for the Academy Award for Best Actress—for her performances in the western drama Cimarron (1931), the screwball comedies Theodora Goes Wild (1936) and The Awful Truth (1937), the romance Love Affair (1939), and the drama I Remember Mama (1948). Dunne is considered one of the finest actresses never to have won an Academy Award. Some critics feel that her performances have been underappreciated and largely forgotten, often overshadowed by later remakes and better-known co-stars. After the success of The Awful Truth, she was paired with Cary Grant, her co-star in that movie, two further times; in another screwball comedy, My Favorite Wife (1940), and in the melodrama Penny Serenade (1941). She has been praised by many during her career, and after her death, as one of the best comedic actresses in the screwball genre. The popularity of Love Affair also led to two additional movies with her co-star of that film, Charles Boyer; those were When Tomorrow Comes (1939) and Together Again (1944). Her last film role was in 1952 but she starred in and hosted numerous television anthology episodes until 1962 after having done numerous radio performances from the late 1930s until the early 1950s. She was nicknamed "The First Lady of Hollywood" for her regal manner despite being proud of her Irish-American, country-girl roots. Dunne devoted her retirement to philanthropy and was chosen by President Dwight D. Eisenhower as a delegate for the United States to the United Nations, in which she advocated for world peace and highlighted refugee-relief programs. She also used the time to be with her family—her husband, dentist Dr. Francis Griffin, and their daughter Mary Frances, whom they adopted in 1938. She received numerous awards for her philanthropy, including honorary doctorates, a Laetare Medal from the University of Notre Dame, and a papal knighthood—Dame of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre. In 1985, she was awarded a Kennedy Center Honor for her services to the arts.
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