But in either case our Monday Quiz subject — Irene Dunne — was a formidable figure for decades at the Hollywood box office. She was thought of as the essence of refined ladyhood, but she also could turn on the sex appeal when called for.
Dunne began as a singer (born in 1898 in Louisville, Kentucky, she had studied at the Chicago College of Music), and remained a solid vocalist for the remainder of her career. Her primary claim to justified fame was her ability as a versatile actress in a variety of formats — she was great in comedies, for example, but could also turn on the tears in “weepies.”
It has been said that Dunne is the best actress in Hollywood history never to have won an Academy Award. Ok, so how much did you know about her? Let’s get to our Monday Quiz answers and find out. (To review the questions, refer to the blog below.)
1) Answer: Dunne did NOT received an Oscar nomination for d) The Secret of Madame Blanche, a 1933 MGM melodrama. (Irene plays a cute showgirl.)
2) Answer: Dunne’s beauty secret was d) getting a lot of sleep. Her studio working schedule was in line with what used to be known as “bankers hours.”
3) Answer: As suggested in our introduction, Dunne was known as c) the “First Lady of Hollywood.”
4) Answer: d) Richard Dix, a popular actor-producer at RKO in the late 1920’s, who picked Dunne to costar in her first big hit, 1931’s Cimarron. No stopping Irene after that.
5) Answer: Dunne’s personal favorite of her movies was a) 1939’s Love Affair, a romantic drama costarring Charles Boyer. He and Dunne have plenty of onscreen chemistry in the picture, perhaps Irene’s sexiest. The movie was remade in 1957 as An Affair To Remember with Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr.
6) Answer: It was c) Orson Welles, who said years later that he turned down the male lead in 1946’s Anna and the King of Siam (which went to a young Rex Harrison) because Dunne was in it. “Such a goody-goody.” Added Welles, “To me she was a non-singing Jeanette MacDonald, you know. And I hated her as an actress.” (Part of Welles disdain was based on politics; Dunne was a lifelong Republican, Welles a dedicated leftist.)
7) Answer: d) Both Dunne and Peggy Wood played the Norwegian immigrant mother in 1948’s I Remember Mama (for Irene) and in the Mama tv series (for Wood), which ran on U.S. network tv from 1949 through 1957. Both were based upon the Kathryn Forbes’ novel, Mama’s Bank Account, about a close-knit family adjusting to America.
8) Answer: Dunne played Grant’s wife in b) three movies — 1937’s The Awful Truth, 1940’s My Favorite Wife and 1941’s Penny Serenade.
9) Answer: c) Show Boat. Dunne was discovered by Hollywood talent scouts while performing in a road company production of the 1927 musical by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein. She landed at RKO.
10) Answer: Obviously, d) Orson Welles was not counted among Dunne’s Hollywood friends.