Isn’t research fun? We find that whenever we look into the history of a film or a performer we find the most fascinating tidbits of information.
Joe became enamored with actress Irene Rich when he discovered she’d played Harriet Craig in the first film based on the Pulitzer Prize winning play by George Kelly (Grace’s uncle), Craig’s Wife. It was a silent. Subsequent talkie versions starred Rosalind Russell and Joan Crawford. None of the three films are as good as the play. That’s because the censors wouldn’t allow filmmakers to use one of the key elements of the story, a wife who withholds sex to control her husband.
But back to Miss Rich. What a life! What a career! A top star in the silents and early talkies. She was a favorite of Will Rogers who used her in most of his films. She portrayed Jackie Cooper‘s mother in The Champ. And was a top leading character actress throughout the 30s and 40s.
And, for over a decade she had a hit radio program, an anthology series that began each week’s episode with her reading a letter that began with “Dear John.” Yep, you guessed it. That’s the origin of the term. For those of you too young to remember, when a serviceman during WWII received a break up letter from his girl it was dubbed “a Dear John letter.”
Miss Rich’s private life was somewhat of a drama itself. She married four times, was involved in a scandal love triangle. Had two daughters. One of whom, Frances Rich, became a nationally known sculptor.
Irene starred on Broadway with George M. Cohan and on film with people like John Wayne, Rita Hayworth, Henry Fonda, and our old friend, Deanna Durbin.
And researching all the films Miss Rich made during her time in Hollywood we can across a little gem, New Orleans. But more of that in another blog.