You are currently viewing 365 Days of Oscar: Irene Dunne’s Unfortunate Oscar First

365 Days of Oscar: Irene Dunne’s Unfortunate Oscar First

Irene Dunne was one of the biggest stars of Hollywood’s Golden Age. Born in 1898, she first worked on Broadway before migrating west to Hollywood as the silent film era ended. 1930s were especially kind to her: Her first film, in 1930, was an immediate hit. Her second film, 1931’s Cimarron, won the Best Picture Academy Award and she received the first of her five Best Actress nominations.

Wildly talented, with depth and range to spare, Dunne did it all – screwball comedy, melodrama, romance, Westerns, biopics – but she never outshone her contemporaries. Which could be that although she had five Best Actress nominations within twenty years, she never won.

Her second nomination came for 1936’s Theodora Goes Wild, followed immediately for 1937’s The Awful Truth, her first of three wonderful movies with Cary Grant, perhaps the greatest movie star of all time. (She received top billing.) The film itself won Leo McCarey his first best Director Oscar and was probably the closest Irene ever came to a win. She lost to Luise Rainier for the second consecutive year, making her the first Oscar nominee to lose twice to the same person.

Dunne would also be nominated for 1939’s Love Affair (losing to Gone With the Wind’s Vivien Leigh) and 1948’s I Remember Mama (losing to Johnny Belinda’s Jane Wyman), but she never got her big moment. Not even an honorary award. And that’s a real shame. She should be remembered as one of the all-time greats that she was.

This article is part of a special year-long series of anecdotes, reflections and thoughts about the Academy Awards.