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The 4 Roles That Defined Irene Dunne's Career

By    |   Wednesday, 13 May 2015 10:28 PM

Irene Dunne was dedicated actress and it showed throughout her many roles, first on Broadway and then on the silver screen. Her musical education opened the door to musicals, but it was her determination to give her all to each role – be it comedy, drama, or musical – that made her one of the greatest actress of her time and earned her the nicknames “The Iron Maiden” and “The First Lady of Hollywood.”

Here are four roles that helped define Irene Dunne’s career:

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1. Sabra Cravat, “Cimarron” (1931)

This role is notable for three reasons: First, it earned Dunne her first feature film. Two, she proved her acting chops to RKO, the studio that had signed her to a contract and intended to make musical-comedies to start her career.

Dunne had other ideas in mind and convinced them to read let her read for the part of Sabra, which leads to reason three: “I had to fight hard to get my first role in the movies; the others came without special effort. Maybe that’s why Sabra, in “Cimarron,” is still my favorite part,” Dunne explained during an interview many years later for the “Saturday Evening Post.” Plus, it earned Dunne her first Oscar nomination.

2. Theodora, “Theodora Goes Wild” (1936)

As Dunne’s first comedy, her portrayal of Theodora opened up new possibilities for Dunne as a comedic performer, although Dan Callahan for Bright Lights Film Journals shares that “Dunne didn’t want to do the film; she saw herself as a dramatic actress, and even after her success in comedy, she disdained the genre and her career-defining efforts in it, saying that it was largely a matter of timing.”

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3. Lucy Warriner, “The Awful Truth” (1937)

This film paired Dunne with actor Cary Grant for the first time and also is her best well known role. This role was praised for showing off Dunne’s comedic chops, and Time magazine said, “Her astonishing hoe-down interlude in “Show Boat” indicated her aptitude for lighter things. “Theodora Goes Wild” gave her the first full-length try. “The Awful Truth” establishes her with her peers, Claudette Colbert and Jean Arthur.”

4. Mama, “I Remember Mama” (1948)

“I Remember Mama” earned Dunne her final Oscar nomination, but she still did not bring home the golden statue, although many believed she should have. Dunne worked with a dialogue coach to get the Norwegian accent required down just right, and she really showed her acting chops.

Stephen Reginald reveals how even after 30-plus years in the business, Dunne was the epitome of a professional: “Supposedly, she stayed in character while she was filming, speaking to friends and family in her newly acquired Norwegian accent. On screen, Dunne is completely lost in her characterization. There is no artifice or anything untrue in her portrayal of Marta.”

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Irene Dunne was dedicated actress and it showed throughout her many roles, first on Broadway and then on the silver screen. Her musical education opened the door to musicals, but it was her determination to give her all to each role - be it comedy, drama, or musical.
irene dunne, roles, actress, movies
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2015-28-13
Wednesday, 13 May 2015 10:28 PM
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