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Irene Dunne was born in Louisville, Kentucky in 1898. She wanted to be an actress and singer from a young age, but she was sensible enough to study to become a music teacher, in case her career never took off, and she graduated from the Chicago Music College and married a dentist, and we might never have heard of her! But she started working in plays, and she had success, most notably in Show Boat in 1929, a role she would re-create in the 1936 movie version. Her very first movie role was in the forgotten Leathernecking, but the following year she starred in Cimarron, the western that won the Best Picture Oscar, and Dunne was nominated for Best Actress, and she was a star, after just two pictures. In the next five years she appeared in around 20 mostly romantic melodramas, including the very successful tearjerker, Magnificent Obsession, in 1935, opposite dashing young Robert Taylor. But the following year she appeared in a new kind of movie for her, a romantic comedy, Theodora Goes Wild (nominated for the Best Actress Academy Award for this film), and the public loved this new Irene Dunne. She appeared in several more memorable romantic comedies, including The Awful Truth (nominated for the Best Actress Academy Award for this film), and My Favorite Wife (both opposite Cary Grant), and she also made several more memorable romantic melodramas, including Penny Serenade (again opposite Cary Grant) and Love Affair (nominated for the Best Actress Academy Award for this film; the first version of An Affair to Remember, opposite Charles Boyer). In the late 1940s Dunne took several of the best roles of her career, including Anna and the King of Siam (the original version of The King and I), Life with Father, and the role she is likely best remembered for today, the lead in I Remember Mama (nominated for the Best Actress Academy Award for this film). In the early 1950s Dunne basically retired from acting, making mostly some cameo appearances on TV. Dunne was nominated for five Academy Awards as Best Actress, but never won, and certainly there were many movies for which she could have won, but it is especially surprising she did not win for I Remember Mama, and it is also sad that she was not given an honorary Oscar. She worked with many of the very best directors and the top male stars of her era, and appeared in some of the best-loved movies of the 1930s and 1940s. She passed away in 1990 at the age of 91.
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