Irene Dunne Overload

I shouldn’t have done it but I watched 3 Irene Dunne films in 3 days.  I like them in the order I watched. First there was The Awful Truth (1937), a film I’ve already seen 5 times.  The Awful Truth is one of the greatest screwball comedies according to critics, cineastes and myself. Interesting that it gets more serious the more I see it. When I first watched it, I was rolling in laughter.  Cary Grant is so sarcastically funny and a great physical comedian.  Ralph Bellamy (interview) makes a loveable momma’s boy.  Then the underrated Irene Dunne is so sexy, witty and charming.  Cary Grant is the one who impressed me the most.  He has the funniest lines. Yet watch Grant closely. His delivery and eyes also evoke such maturity when he’s not playing around.  You really believe he does love Irene Dunne.

Theodora Goes Wild (1936) is the next film I saw.  This was made a year prior to The Awful Truth. Dunne isn’t as madcap but still demonstrates a  flair for light playful comedy.  The chemistry between her and Melvyn Douglas isn’t on par with Grant but it’s a lively film about a small-town pious woman who writes a scandalous novel under a pseudonym.  She eventually embraces her “wild” side in turn helping Douglas embrace his “wild” side. 

Together Again (1944) is the final film, an appropriate title with the reteaming of Dunne and Charles Boyer after their success with Love Affair and When Tomorrow Comes both made 5 years earlier. Boyer and Dunne were a very popular onscreen couple.  Dunne’s two most famous leading men were Cary Grant and Boyer.  Boyer and Dunne were good friends and both freelancers but Boyer limited collaborating on film projects with Dunne because they both had a strong female audience.  Boyer tried to have co-stars that would expose him to a wider audience.

Together Again, while entertaining enough, is the weakest Dunne film of the three.  Dunne and Boyer lack the magical chemistry from Love Affair.  The best character in the film was juvenile actress Mona Freeman who plays Dunne’s dramatic step-daughter.