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 British Jill Esmond (Mrs Laurence Olivier at the time) and 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… when John Barrymore became available for a short (dry) spell.
  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.     Dunne, Katharine Hepburn and Ann Sheridan all refused Mildred - a prositute in W Somerset Maugham’s book. But not, of course, in RKO version - the A Star breakthrough of Davis, discovered by director John Cromwell in 1942’s Cabin in the Sky and The Rich Are Always With Us. “The first few days on the set were not too heartwarming,” Bette recalled in her autobiography. Leslie Howard “and his English colleagues, as a clique, were disturbed by the casting of an American... I really couldn’t blame them. There was lots of whispering in little Druid circles whenever I appeared. Mr Howard became a little less detached when he was informed that ‘the kid is walking away with the picture’.”
  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.   Myron Brinig’s novel  was bought by head brother Jack Warner for Kay Francis to play Louise... and nearly made with Dunne or Ginger Rogers. Finally, Davis became available… and saved the hilarious billing of: Errol Flynn in The Sisters!

  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 also refused... on hearing it had first been offered to Irene. Stanwyck was almost buried by the gigantic flop.
  13. Vivien Leigh, Gone With The Wind, 1938.
  14. Katharine Hepburn, Holiday, 1938. Months after being named among many box-office “poisonalities,” the awful truth was that Hepburn was Columbia czar Harry Cohn’s second choice! He had wanted to re-team Dunne and Cary Grant from the other Awful Truth, 1937. Kate’s pal, director George Cukor, fought with Cohn for Kate. The film flopped and Cohn never hired Hepburn again. The failure killed her hopes of playing Scarlett O’Hara and Irene found Cary again in My Favourite Wife, 1940.
  15. Barbara Stanwyck The Mad Miss Manton, 1938.       Katharine Hepburn also refused...on hearing it hadfirst been offered toIrene. Stanwyck wasalmost buried by the gigantic flop.
  16. Jean Arthur, Only Angels Have Wings, 1939. "I'm hard to get, Geoff. All you have to do is ask me."
  17. Rosalind Russell, His Girl Friday, 1939. After musing on Cary Grant, director Howard Hawks turned The Front Page reporter Hildy Johnson into a woman. Not difficult channging Hildebrand to Hildegarde. Dunne, still Columbia chief Harry Cohn’s first choice for anything, joined Jean Arthur, Claudette Colbert, Ginger Rogers in... completely missing the point. And Grant played Hildy’s editor Walter Burns.
  18. 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.
  19. 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…
  20. Ginger Rogers, Tales of Manhattan, 1941. …opposite Joel McCrea in the second - taken over by Rogers and Henry Fonda.

  21. 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.
  22. 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."
  23. 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.

  24. 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.

  25. Bette Davis, Watch on the Rhine, 1942.   Dunne, Edna Best, Rosemary DeCamp, Helen Hayes, Margaret Sullavan were seen for Sara before Davis insisted on the rôle. Despite being unhappy with Lucile Watson as her mother, Herman Schumlim as her ditector and having top billing for her support rôle, she soldiered on because the drama was as anti-Nazi as she was.
  26. 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.
  27. Bette Davis, Mr Skeffington, 1943. Dunne, Norma Shearer and Gloria Swanson were closer to Mrs S’s 50 years than Davis, Tallulah Bankhead, Hedy Lamarr or Merle Oberon. But then Bette Davis was Bette Davis! When head brother Jack Warner asked the Epstein twin scenarists why the film was behind schedule, they replied: “Bette Davis is a slow director.”
  28. 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. 
  29. 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!
  30. Ingrid Bergman, Gaslight, 1943. In MGM’s re-make of the 1939 UK thriller, the poor wife being driven insane by her husband (Charles Boyer) went from Dunne to Hedy Lamarr to June Duprez to Ingrid Bergman… picking up her first Oscar on March 15 1945.  Debuting as Boyer’s flirty maid: Angela Lansbury, “an English refugee girl of 17 [with] great promise as an actress,” reported Hedda Hopper. She wuz right! By chance, I am writing this a few days after Lansbury won her first Olivier Award in London as Best Supporting Actress of 2014… at age 89. (While Bergman was The Face on 68th Cannes festival poster).

  31. 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.
  32. 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.
  33. 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?
  34. 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.
  35. 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."
  36. 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
  37. 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
  38. Myrna Loy, Mr Blandings Builds His Dream House, 1947.  After the success of The Awful Truth, 1937, My Favourite Wife, 1940 and Penny Serenade, 1941, RKO wanted more of Dunne and Cary Grant  - for his 50th movie. However, she was into another RKO film, I Rememeber Mama (or refused second billing, for the first time, to Grant) and Mama Blandings became his partner from The Bachleor and The Bobby Soxer, 1947.
  39. 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.
  40. 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.

  41. 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.”
  42. Margaret Sullavan, No Sad Songs For Me, 1950. Columbia first planned it for Irene or Olivia De Havilland.
  43. 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?
  44. Nina Foch, The Ten Commandments, 1954.
  45. Elizabeth Taylor, Giant, 1955.
  46. 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!
  47. Peggy Wood, The Story of Ruth, 1959.   Director Henry Koster also met with Dunne and Helen Hayes about playing Ruth’s mother-in-law, Naomi.


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