Monday, May 19, 2008

I Heart Irene Dunne

Back in February I wrote about really enjoying the 1937 screwball comedy The Awful Truth and that film’s star—Irene Dunne. Well, since then I’ve been trying to catch up on my Irene Dunne (yay Netflix queue!) and how I’ve enjoyed discovering Dunne’s many charms with three more films: My Favorite Wife (1940, really great), Love Affair (1939, kind of disappointing) and Roberta (1935, good). While none of those equal the absolute wondrous that is The Awful Truth—Dunne is great in all of them.

What makes Dunne so talented is that she possesses a level of versatility that allows her to do comedy, belt out songs (in both serious and comedic vein), drama and play romantic leads—all while being smart, sympathetic and likeable for the audience. Dunne seems to be good in any genre you put her in but she’s a master in anything with romantic comedy in it. Timing, wit, flair and spunk—Dunne has all those things and the screen radiates with her presence in these black and white films from the past.

I just watched Roberta earlier tonight and Dunne is not the main focus of the film—Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers singing and dancing seems to take up the bulk of the action. While I enjoy watching that legendary tandem do what they do best—I wanted more of Irene Dunne! Her “almost” romance with Randolph Scott’s John Kent is the heart of the picture. I hate to say it but the Astaire/Rogers scenes are just fillers to get to the scenes with Dunne stealing the picture.

Roberta, set in a Parisian fashion house and in a music hall, lets Dunne play to all her strengths—romantic longing, whipping off intelligent barbs and singing until Kent comes to his senses. I’m not sure what takes him so long but you have to be patient in older films—but patience will often reward you with something good and films from the 1930s are especially generous in what they give.

I’m not finished with my “catching up” with Irene Dunne as I’ve got four more of her films waiting in my queue—Life With Father and Penny Serenade among them. Unfortunately, not enough of her films are on DVD—I count about 25 or so I’d love to watch but they don’t seem to be available. If anyone sees Turner Classic running an Irene Dunne marathon—someone out there needs to tell me about it.

6 comments:

Laura said...

It's too bad you don't have Tivo because you could set up an Irene Dunne wishlist and it would record anything that came along with her in it. Maybe your DVR has a similar feature?

Replicant said...

If Tivo does it you'd think my DVR might. I'm going to check into that...

Laura said...

I just tried it and A GUY NAMED JOE (with Spencer Tracy!) is coming on TCM on 05/25 at 5:45am.

Silver Screen Kid said...

Off topic completely: had to tell you, Replicant. I'm loving your new profile pic. Very fresh. Like you're embracing the mechanics of art and light. Good show.

Replicant said...

Laura: I've set my DVR for that one. It's not available on Netflix so thanks. I don't think my DVR can do that kind of search for recordings.

Kid: Doing some work on that projector at the Circle.

Anonymous said...

love Irene Dunne. I actually enjoyed Love Affair more than the Carey Grant version. I actually think its so romantic! Although - I think Irene Dunne elevates any film she's in - even the cameos. I saw a really great piece from early 1930's with Myrna Loy as a maniacal villian who tries to torture Irene's character through her young child. Good idea about setting the DVR to record movies that include Dunne. Although..I did catch a marathon of her movies sometime last fall. Maybe TCM will do another run. Cheers.

Janet in Seattle :-)