Payday Loans
Irene Dunne (1898-1990)

  1. Ann Harding, The Animal Kingdom, 1931.   Years later in Gone With The Wind, Vivien Leigh was caught between two men - Clark Gable and Leslie Howard. Here, it is Howard stuck between two women: Harding and Myrna Loy. They were nearly Katharine Hepburn (or Karen Morley) and Dunne.

  2. Katharine Hepburn, A Bill of Divorcement, 1931. 
    Dunne preferred “less risky” roles. Besides, her $15,000 salary was too steep for the $300,000 budget.  Producer David O Selznick hated Hepburn’s  test:  “Godammit, that’s the worst fucking scarecrow I’ve ever seen...  A cross between a horse and a monkey.” Director  George Cukor tested many hopefuls including the the Brtish Peg Entwistle and  Jill Esmond (Mrs Laurence Olivier at the time) plus  Anita Louise. In from Broadway, Hepburn managed to see their tests and immediately understood why they were all rejected. It was a lousy scene! She chose another for her test. Bingo! Plus an RKO contract and  first of her 52 screen roles… opposite John Barrymore, no less. Or much less, said Kate, after her first day of her first film. OK,  she learned much about screen acting. But self-defence, as well. Having invited her to his dressingroom, Barrymore tore off his clothes and leapt in her general direction. “My dear, any young girl would be thrilled to make love to the great John Barrymore.” “Not me,” she cried. She them told the man playing her father to stop pinching her bottom or she’d stop acting with him. Said Barrymore: “I wasn’t aware you’d started, my dear.”  (Peg, from Wales, committed suicide that year at 24, jumping to her death from the 50ft high H of the Hollywoodland sign).

  3. Colleen Moore, The Power and the Glory, 1932.   “The minute I read the script,” Dunne cried, “I couldn’t wait...” Tracy said much the same in his diary: “Great script, great part. Sounds like a winner... I hope so.” It made him! But not with Dunne or Mary Astor as his wife. Fox borrowed Moore from MGM for the Preston Sturges (not Graham Greene) scenario - which critic Pauline Kael mistakenly called the model for Citizen Kane. (And Fox called Sturgess’ innovative narration: narratage).
  4. Margaret Sullavan, Only Yesterday, 1933. Sullavan's start (after Dunne and Claudette Colbert demurred). Margaret’s rushes led to a Universal contract on her terms: three years, non-exclusive and at $1,200 per week. Unheard of for a newcomer of 22 with two years' stage experience.

  5. Bette Davis, Of Human Bondage, 1933.   
    I never cared for ya, not once! I was always makin' a fool of ya! Ya bored me stiff; I hated ya! It made me sick when I had to let ya kiss me. bI only did it because ya begged me, ya hounded me and drove me crazy! And after ya kissed me, I always used to wipe my mouth! Irene Dunne, Katharine Hepburn and Ann Sheridan shied away from such lines. Bette Davis was delighted wotu them. .She saw Mildred Rodgers as her breakout role. Daily, for a month she begged head bro’ Jack Warner to allow her to make the RKO film. She even agreed to make such hodge-podge as Fog Over Frisco for him first. He was adamant that the film and the abominable Mildred would harm, even destroy  her career. He finally agreed…  just  to see her  fail.  Like who did she think she was, choosing her films!Director John Cromwell was keen after her support role in The Cabin in the Cotton and one of her favourite signature one-liners:  Ah’d like t’ kiss ya, but Iah just washed mah hair.”  Great fun compared to Mildred…  "My understanding of Mildred's vileness, not compassion but empathy, gave me pause… I was still an innocent. And yet Mildred's machinations I miraculously understood when it came to playing her. I was often ashamed of this.” The film made her the kind of star Jack Warner never knew how to employ. He was so annoyed at her triumph that he spread the word not to vote for her come Oscar time. She lost to Claudette Colbert in It Happened One Night and won  the following year for Dangerous in a sympathy vote for losing to CC… who she famously replaced her in  in All About Eve, 16 years later.
  6. Ann Harding, The Flame Within, 1934. After the Vienniese Mady Christians, Dunne was considered for that rarity in 30s’ Hollywood, a female shrink - falling for her patient, Louis Hayward in a scene- and, indeed, film-stealing debut
  7. Ann Harding, Peter Ibbetson, 1935. Irene preferred the weepier Magnificent Obsession.
  8. Harriet Hilliard, Follow The Fleet, 1935. Dunne was otherwise scheduled, allowing Hilliard’s screen debut. She was one of US TV’s best loved mothers - marrying Ozzie Nelson in 1935, led to radio then TV Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet with their sons, David and Ricky, 1944-1966
  9. Carole Lombard, Swing High, Swing Low, 1937. On paper it was Gary Cooper-Dunne. On screen it became Fred MacMurray- Lombard.
  10. Bette Davis, The Sisters, 1937. There were three of them: Louise, Helen and Grace Elliott. Only Louise really counted in this 190-4-1908 soap opera.  And that was Bette Davis as Louise. – instead of Irene Dunne, Kay Francis or Gjnger Rogers. Her co-star’s billing nearly read: Errol Flynn in The Sisters…!  Fredric March would have been Dunne’s partner. Ironically, Bette’s youngest sibling was Jane Bryan – her illegitimate daughter  the following year in The Old Maid, 1939. 

  11. Barbara Stanwyck, Union Pacific, 1938.   For CB De Mille, Arthur was the perfect Molly in the 1862 railroad battle between Central Pacific and Union Pacific. She, apparently, did not agree. Next came Dunne and, finally, Stanwyck.
  12. Barbara Stanwyck The Man Miss Manton, 1938.   Katharine Hepburn  refused... on hearing it had first been offered to Irene and Barbara Stanwyck... who was   almost buried by the gigantic flop.
  13. Vivien Leigh, Gone With The Wind, 1938.
  14. Katharine Hepburn, Holiday, 1938.  Or Unconventional Linda and Vacation Bound when Joan Bennett, Irene  Dunne and Ginger Rogers  were in the frame for Linda Seton – opposite Cary Grant as the, er, non-conformist Johnny Case,  falling for his girl’s sister. However, director George Cukor insisted on Hepburn!! She had understudied the role on Broadway.Columbia borrowed her from RKO for this production after she refused to play the lead in RKO's Mother Carey's Chickens, despite her being named as "box office poison" after a series of flops…. Including,  would you believe, the classic Bringing Up Baby..
  15. Jean Arthur, Only Angels Have Wings, 1938.   Probably the most personal fllm of  Howard Hawks. ”I knew every character. I knew how they thought and how they talked… there wasn’t a single scene in the whole film that wasn’t real.”  But Jean Arthur “didn’t fit into the type of girl that I liked.”  Ditto, apparently, for Irene Dunne.  Neither suited  the great line to Cary Grant: "I'm hard to get, Geoff.  All you have to do is ask me."
  16. Rosalind Russell, His Girl Friday, 1939.  Knowing she was #9 on the list of nine women seen for Hildy Johnson – and that director Howards Hawks only ever  wanted Jean Arthur – poor Roz Russell kept wailing her insecurities. "You don't want me, do you?Well, you're stuck with me, so you might as well make the most of it." Co-star Cary Grant told her if Hawks didn’t like her, he’d say so.  And he did. In what, from him was the highest praise: “Just keep pushing him around the way you're doing."  Her other rivals had been Claudette Colbert, Joan Crawford, Marion Davies, Irene Dunne (“too small a role”), Carole Lombard (too expensive), Ginger Rogers (“Never knew it was going to be with Cary”) and Margaret Sullavan. Hawks cleverly changed Hildy from male to female and quickened the dialogue by having actors overlapping each other’s lines – long before Robert Altman was locked out of Warner Bros for doing it in Countdown, 1966… and for ever after.
  17. Loretta Young, The Doctor Takes A Wife, 1940.    The screwball comedy would have worked better with the orginal plan - Dunne and Cary Grant - rather than the slow burning Young and rapidly boring Ray Milland.
  18. Rita Hayworth, Tales of Manhattan, 1941. Or Tails, at first, as the anthology tales were - flimsily - linked by a tail coat passed from one to another. Dunne was first listed for Thomas Mitchell’s wife, chased by Charles Boyer in the opening stanza and then…
  19. Ginger Rogers, Tales of Manhattan, 1941. …opposite Joel McCrea in the second - taken over by Rogers and Henry Fonda.
  20. Jane Wyatt, Week-End For Three, 1941.   With Dunne hung up on a previous gig, Ginger Rogers, Ruth Warrick and Dorothy Comingore came and went as the wife of the leading man... changing from Cary Grant and Peter Lind Hayes to Dennis O’Keefe. Budd Schulberg’s story was scripted by Alan Campbell and… Dorothy Parker.

  21. Jean Arthur, Talk of the Town, 1941. Third time she refused a Cary Grant film after their consistent box office winners (The Awful Truth, 1937, My Favorite Wife, 1940, Penny Serenade, 1941) "Heavy, dramatic roles are essential for an actress of my type."
  22. Barbara Stanwyck, The Gay Sisters, 1941.   Fretting that she’d have to look older than Mary, who already “photographed old,” Bette Davis told Jack Warner  to shove it to someone else. He called up Dunne, Katharine Hepburn and tried to borrow Norma Shearer, MGM’s First Lady. The problem was solved when Astor split for The Maltese Falcon.   Except by then, La Barb was signed.

  23. Bette Davis, Now Voyager, 1941.
    Production  chief Hal Wallis also sent  the book to Dunne, Ginger Rogers and Norma Shearer. Davis was incandescent with rage when learning  Warners was borrowing Columbia's Dunne  and rapidly reminded head brother Jack Warner who was under contract to his studio. Oh, Jack, don’t let's ask for the Dunne - we have the stars... The most famous scenes has Paul Henreid (Bette’s favourite leading man) lighting two cigarettes at once in his mouth and then handing one to Davis.  For years,  Davis and Henreid  claimed they improvised the ciggie bit on-set. Oh yeah and MGM’s lion is a tiger…!  First, it was written in one of the drafts of Casey Robinson’s script. Well, no, actually first, director Irving Rapper said he remembered it from a DW Griffith silent, circa 1917. Second, in another Bette movie, George Brent lit two up for him and Ruth Chatterton in The Rich Are Always With Us, 1931. Third, Tyrone Power also performed the trick for Loretta Young in Second Honeymoon, 1936.

  24. Bette Davis, Watch on the Rhine, 1942.  Edna Best, Rosemary DeCamp, , Irene Dunne, Helen Hayes, Margaret Sullavan were shortlisted but Bette won  the  American wife of a German patriot Paul Lukas hounded by Nazis in Washington DC. It was a support role, almost a thank you to Lilian Hellman for also writing Bette’s 1941 fjlm, The Little Foxes. Bette Davis thanking someone?!
  25. Bette Davis, Old Acquaintance, 1942. The Warner Bros. Collection at the USC Cinema-Television Library says Dunne and Rosalind Russell were also lined up for the best-selling novelist Kit Marlowe - the first name suggested by Columbia for Marilyn (later Kim) Novak.
  26. Bette Davis, Mr Skeffington, 1943.  David O Selznick wanted the book in 1940 for James Stepenson and Bette Davis but head bro Jack Warner won it and aimed,  Tallulah Bankhead, Bette Davis, Irene Dunne, Merle Oberon,  Norma Shearer and Gloria Swanson at Mrs S., wed to John Loder, Paul Lukas or Richard Waring – after  James Stephenson died before the filming began.  (Waring instead became  Mrs S’ brother, Trippy Trellis). Davis rejected her Mrs role first time around. She “couldn’t play 50 at 32“– plus lines like “You’ve never loved anyone but yourself” were way too close to home. She then insisted on Claude Rains: her favourite “actor and colleague.”  as Mr. Plus Vincent Sherman as her director., and, inevitably, had an affair with him. Which usually guaranteed more and better close-ups… The 30-day shooting schedule took 110 days. Because, said the scenarist twins Julius J and Philip G Epstein, “Bette Davis is a slow director."
  27. Greer Garson, Madame Curie, 1943.   ‘Twas the biopic season… and as usual, MGM was thinking big.  Greta Garbo and Spencer Tracy, or Dunne  and Robert Donat, as the  radium and polonium researchers, Marie and Pierre Curie. Finally, MGM went with  Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon.  The Minivers discover radium…!   Totally daft. 
  28. Claudette Colbert, Since You Went Away, 1943.   For the wife missing hubby at WWII, producer David O Selznick dutifully looked at Dunne, Ann Harding, Rosalind Russell and successive First Ladies of the American Theatre, Katharine Cornell and Helen Hayes.  He wanted Colbert,  At 40, she didn’t want to be the US Mrs Miniver, a 40ish mother of two teen siblings (Selznick’s future second wife, Jennifer Jones, and Shirley Temple in a comeback at 15).  Ultimately Colbert ruled the “story of the Unconquerable Fortress: the American Home... ” Helped by four directors, DOS included!
  29. Ingrid Bergman, Gaslight, 1943.  Paramount thought Patrick Hamilton’s Broadway hit was perfect for Irene Dunne – as the frail wife being driven insane by her husband, Melvyn Douglas. (Shades of Suspicion!),  She did not agree.  At MGM,  Charles Boyer became the new husband of Hedy Lamarr as  the new wife. Except she quickly understood the role was beyond her limited capabilities. Enter: Bergman. And her first Oscar. Or wasn’t  it really for Casablanca, For Whom the Bell Tolls and Dr Jekylll and Mr Hyde?
  30. Joan Fontaine, Frenchman’s Creek, 1943.     English lady. French pirate. Love at eight bells. Also up for Dona St Columb (opposite Mexican star Arturo de Córdova) were Dunne, Vivien Leigh, Merle Oberon, Katina Paxinou and Rosalind Russell.

  31. Myrna Loy, The Thin Man Goes Home, 1944.   Due before camera in June 1942, everything was frozen when William Powell’s (constant) screen wife wed car rental heir John Hertz, Jr., and started working for the Red Cross war relief. By November, Dunne was announced as the new Nora Charles. Didn’t work - not a word from Loy! Nor from MGM, until declaring Loy was back in March 1944. Sadly, One Take Woody Van Dyke, who directed the first four chapters, died in ’43.   And the magic had gone…. Loy loathed the sixth and last film (her MGM finale), Song of the Thin Man - “a lacklustre finish to a great series.” In all, Loy and Powell - #1 rivals to Spencer Tracy-Katharine Hepburn as the greatest screen couple - made 14 films together.
  32. Claudette Colbert, Tomorrow Is Forever, 1945.   For the war widow whose husband comes back from the war, director Irving Pichel was caught between Colbert and Dunne. Colbert won - and lost. As this was, said New York Times critic Bosley Crowther, “a straight piece of Hollywood taffy, slightly saline and gooey clear through.” He was no kinder towards Orson Welles as the husband who wouldn’t stay dead: “a studied display of overacting calculated to disguise an empty script.” “I did it for the money,” admitted Orson. No, really?
  33. Claudette Colbert, The Secret Heart, 1945.   Destiny! When Dunne’s rôle of s suicide’s widow went to Colbert, she became such good friends with co-star June Allyson that she agreed to godmother June and Dick Powell’s daughter, Pamela.
  34. Ingrid Bergman, The Bells of St. Mary's, 1945.    Bergman never knew she was being considered. Would been perfect casting for Dunne, a devout Catholic. "Too much of lady," complained columnist Earl Wilson, "to be good copy."
  35. Bette Davis, Of Human Bondage, 1945.    Warner Bros obtained the re-make rights by  loaning RKO John Garfield for The Fallen Sparrow and Joan Leslie  for The Sky’s the Limit.  However, IDunne, Katharine Hepburn and Ann Sheridan all refused to walk the streets…. and Ida Lupino lost out to Bette Davis finally achieving stardom as the Cockney prostitute opposite, she said, a “very frosty” Leslie Howard.  Of course, he was. She was stealing the entire movie from under his carpet. V
  36. Ethel Barrymore, The Red Danube, 1947.      Change of age for the nun caught  up in the the Cold War At the start of the year, the selected stars were Dunne, Cyd Charisse, Spencer Tracy, Robert Taylor and Audrey Totter. By the time the title had changed five times (from Vespers in Vienna) and George Sidney started shooting the anti-Communist thriller, they became: Ethel Barrymore (as the Reverend Mother), Janet Leigh, Walter Pidgeon, Peter Lawford, Angela Lansbury
  37. Myrna Loy, Mr Blandings Builds His Dream House, 1947.   “I will not endanger the health of my children in a house with less than three bathrooms…”  After the success of The Awful Truth, 1937, My Favourite Wife, 1940 and Penny Serenade, 1941, RKO wanted more of Irene and Cary  - for his 50th movie. However, she was into another  RKO film, I Remember Mama  (or she had refused second billing, for the first time, to Grant) and Mama Blandings became his partner from The Bachleor and The Bobby Soxer, 1947.  (Grant did a short radio version with his wife, Betsy Drake, as Mrs B). There have been three re-treads. None worth mentioning.
  38. Betty Grable, The Lady in Ermine, 1947.  In the frame for the double role of Countess Angeliuna and the ghost of great-great-grandmother, Countess Francesca, were such LA royalty as Dunne, Jeanette MacDonald, Gene Tierney. Head Fox Darryl Zanuck imposed his studio’s current pin-up queen upon poor Ernst Lubitsch…The previous Mother Wore Tights was Betty’s favourite movie, this was her most hated. Well, of course, it was. Otto Preminger directed after the mid-shoot death of the great Lubitsch.
  39. Loretta Young, Come To The Stable, 1948. Head Fox Darryl F Zanuck was as blunt as usual. About Dunne, he memoed: “She wants to do it but I’m afraid she is not at all right for it.” And why ? “I keep seeing Loretta Young in this role [Sister Margaret] more than anyone else. As you know, she is a great Catholic, she was in a big hit picture last year and won the Academy Award.”
  40. Margaret Sullavan, No Sad Songs For Me, 1950. Columbia first planned it for Irene or Olivia De Havilland.

  41. Joan Bennett, We’re No Angels, 1954.     New wife for Leo G Carroll in the originally French comedy about three cons escaping Devil’s Island: Humphrey Bogart, Peter Ustinov and Aldo Ray. Most critics appeared astonished by Bogie’s comedic talent. Hadn’t they seen his other work?
  42. Nina Foch, The Ten Commandments, 1954.
  43. Elizabeth Taylor, Giant, 1955.
  44. Bette Davis, Storm Centre. 1955.  For the first Hollywood movie daring to denounce the McCarthy Witch-hunt Era, director Stanley Kramer had the bright idea of allowing Pickford the comeback she wanted. She was delighted with real-life story of a small Oklahoma town’s librarian, Ruth W Brown, being fired for refusing  to remove a book on Communism from her shelves.  Pickford quit, saying her first film sine 1933 should be in colour. And it was a colour that ruined her casting.  Calling it a pro-red script, Hollywood’s right-wingers, such as the dreaded gossip hen Hedda Hopper, pressured her into  leaving  the project.  Also getting the Hopper bullying – tantamount to approving censoring free speech and book-banning -  Irene Dunne, Barbara Stanwyck and Loretta Young fled.  Kramer quit and new team got Bette’s fearless OK.  “An exciting project… a subject I felt important to make a film about. The film was not a success… ‘and not in my opinion, because of the subject matter. I never felt it turned out to be a good picture.” Consequently, it was the only film directed by co-scenarist Daniel Taradash.,
  45. Isabel Jeans, Gigi, 1957. The most difficult role to cast was not Gigi, Gaston or Honore, but Aunt Alicia… Ina Claire refused to step out of retirement, Gladys Cooper passed and Dunne preferred her new role as a special US delegate. Fortunately, production designer Cecil Beaton knew all the old ladies - and suggested Jeans. The MGMusical won all nine of its Oscar nominations!
  46. Peggy Wood, The Story of Ruth, 1959. Adapted less from the prophet Samuel than the prophet Samuel Bronston. His Cecil B-ish production - buried  by Variety as a "moth-eaten, misleading mishmash of biblical hysterics" - proved to be the story of Elana Eden’s Ruth and her mother-in-law Naomi, portrayed by Peggy Wood, instead of Irene Dunne or Helen Hayes.


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