A Quartet of Screwball Comedy Classics on TCM

Tonight’s a big night for fans of classic romantic and screwball comedies: Beginning at 8 p.m. ET, TCM is airing four favorites in a row, so set those DVRs now (that’s assuming you’re not prepared to stay up until 4 a.m.):

8:00 p.m.
His Girl Friday (1940)
An unscrupulous editor plots to keep his star reporter-and ex-wife-from re-marrying.
Dir: Howard Hawks; Cast: Cary Grant, Rosalind Russell, Ralph Bellamy

10:00 p.m.
My Man Godfrey (1936)
A zany heiress tries to help a tramp by making him the family butler.
Dir: Gregory La Cava; Cast: William Powell, Carole Lombard, Alice Brady

12:00 a.m.
Theodora Goes Wild (1936)
A woman’s two lives as small-town innocent and author of torrid romances collide.
Dir: Richard Boleslawski; Cast: Irene Dunne, Melvyn Douglas, Thomas Mitchell

2:00 a.m.
The More the Merrier (1943)
The World War II housing shortage brings three people together for an unlikely romance.
Dir: George Stevens; Cast: Jean Arthur, Joel McCrea, Charles Coburn

Happy 118th Birthday, Irene Dunne!

The lovely Irene Dunne was born Irene Marie Dunn 118 years ago today in Louisville, Kentucky. Here are 10 ID Did-You-Knows:

  • Dunne’s father was a government steamboat inspector and her mother was a concert pianist and music teacher.
  • Her father died with Dunne was six and she moved with her mother and younger brother to her mother’s hometown, Madison, Indiana.
  • Dunne was raised Roman Catholic and remained devout for the rest of her life.
  • She attended Chicago Musical College on a scholarship and had designs on a career as an operatic soprano, but her audition for the Metropolitan Opera Company in NYC was not a success.
  • Having added an “e” to her last name, Dunne then set her sights on musical theatre. She toured in the popular play Irene in the early 1920s and made her Broadway debut in 1922 in The Clinging Vine by Zelda Sears.
  • She earned a role in Showboat after meeting Flo Ziegfeld in an elevator, and it was while touring in that show that she was discovered by Hollywood, signing a contract with RKO in 1929. Her first film role was in Leathernecking (1930), based on the musical Present Arms.
  • Dunne, who had married Francis Griffin, a New York dentist, in 1927, moved to Hollywood with her mother and brother, maintaining a long-distance relationship with Griffin for more than five years. He finally moved west in 1936.
  • Dunne was originally featured in dramas and musicals and is said to be have been hesitant to tackle comedies, but she hit the comic ground running in 1936 in Theodora Goes Wild. She would go on to excel in screwball and romantic comedies, including The Awful Truth (1937) and My Favorite Wife (1940).
  • Dunne’s last film was It Grows on Trees (1952), though she worked on radio and television after that. “I drifted into acting and drifted out,” she once said. “Acting is not everything. Living is.”
  • Dunne was nominated five times for the Best Actress Oscar—for Cimarron (1931), Theodora Goes Wild, The Awful Truth, Love Affair (1939) and I Remember Mama (1948)—but never took home the statuette.

Happy birthday, Irene Dunne, wherever you may be!

Irene Dunne

Irene Dunne: Wish You Were Here

Guideposts is a magazine that was founded in 1945 by Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, author of The Power of Positive Thinking. Over the years, the publication has run many stories by stars and performers from the Cladrite Era, and we thought we might share one of them with you every now and then…

Wish You Were Here by Irene Dunne (December 1951)

Irene DunneAt an evening party in my home several months ago, a fascinated group gathered around former Congresswoman Clare Booth Luce, who held her audience, not by brilliant discourse on politics or the theatre, but by her eloquent statements on her personal religious convictions.

An elderly gentleman smoked his cigar and listened quietly. When the party broke up, he turned to me and, shaking his head admiringly, he said, “You see, she’s just too smart not to be on the safe side!”

I was amused, but later on, as I went about ashtrays and putting out lights, I thought again about my guest’s remark. What he doubtless meant to say was, “She’s too smart not to be on God’s side.” How hard it is for most of us to talk about our religious feelings, I mused. But to tell others about them, to share your treasure, is so important, for surely the best way to keep your religion is to give it away freely.

Now I am no theologian, no scholar, not even a writer. I ask myself, “How can I find a simple, uncomplicated, sincere way of telling others about the richness, satisfaction, and joy that my religion brings to my life, so that they, too, may desire to open the door and let God in?”

Then it occurred to me it was something like seeing your friends for the first time since your return from a wonderful trip—let’s call this a heavenly trip. You had such a glorious time, you’ve already sent post cards, saying, “Wish you were here.” If you have the gift of words, your description of the place will make them want to go.

Even if you have not the gift, they will note that your trip has refreshed and restored you; your step is buoyant, your heart is light. The place where you have been, and still reside in secret, has done so much for you that all who come in contact with you will yearn to go there too. They want their cup filled to overflowing as is yours.
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