From “The Awful Truth” to “Cimarron”, there are so many popular Irene Dunne movies that are beloved to this day. Irene Dunne is probably best known for her comedic roles, especially her fabulous rom-com collaborations with Cary Grant. However, Dunne showed through her decades-long career just how versatile she could be. For the most part, Dunne was one of the biggest Old Hollywood stars from the 1930s to the 1940s. Her career dwindled in the 1950s and 1960s, but she still produced high-quality content.
To this day, Irene Dunne is still considered to be one of the best — and most iconic — Old Hollywood actresses. She isn’t as popular as, say, Katharine Hepburn or maybe even Myrna Loy, but that doesn’t mean that she still hasn’t created fantastic films that have stood the test of time.
The Most Popular Irene Dunne Movies
Below, we discuss Irene Dunne’s seven most popular movies. We’ve compiled this list to share her most popular movies in this day and age — films that are still popular and that have stood the test of time. So, while there are some Dunne movies that were popular when first released, some haven’t stood the test of time and aren’t as known now. A great example of this is her role in Theodora Goes Wild (1936), of which she was nominated for an Academy Award. While now considered an underrated gem for all Irene Dunne fans, it’s not considered to be one of her most popular movies today.
Irene Dunne was nominated for five Academy Awards during her career. Simply, she’s one of the best to come out of the Old Hollywood system. Below, you’ll find her most popular movies, all of which are delightful and interesting to watch. Happy reading!
The Awful Truth (1937)
- Starring: Irene Dunne, Cary Grant, and Ralph Bellamy
- Directed by: Leo McCarey (also directed Dunne in Love Affair)
By far the most popular Irene Dunne movie, The Awful Truth is delightful fun. The film follows a married couple who divorce early on in the movie after both assuming that they are cheating on each other. Throughout the movie, as they begin to have new relationships with others, they interfere with their new romances. It’s clear to the audience, and eventually to them, that they’re still in love with each other and truly belong together.
Irene Dunne and Cary Grant together are stunning. They’re comedy dynamite. It makes sense that The Awful Truth is Dunne’s most popular film. It’s just so fun to watch, even decades after it was created. The Awful Truth is the first Cary Grant and Irene Dunne collaboration; two other films will follow their fantastic first pairing. While the movie is still beloved to this day, it was also very popular when it was released and grossed more than $3 million (about $53 million today). The Film Daily named it one of the seven best films from 1937, and the movie was nominated for six Academy Awards. Dunne was nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role, though she lost out to Luise Rainer’s performance in The Good Earth.
My Favorite Wife (1940)
- Starring: Irene Dunne, Cary Grant, and Randolph Scott
- Directed by: Garson Kanin
The second of three movies Irene Dunne and Cary Grant did together, My Favorite Wife follows a shipwrecked woman (Dunne) who is found on an island seven years after everyone assumed she died. She returns home to her children and husband (Grant)… only to find that her husband declared her dead and got married to another woman earlier that day. Chaos ensues, it’s a lot of fun, and it’s still a lovely, watchable movie today.
While My Favorite Wife is a popular Irene Dunne movie now, it was also incredibly popular back when it was first released in 1940. It earned a profit of $505,000, making it RKO’s second-biggest hit in 1940 (Kitty Foyle took the top prize that year). The movie was also nominated for three Academy Awards, though Irene Dunne didn’t get an Oscar nom for this film. But she is still great in it!
Penny Serenade (1941)
- Starring: Irene Dunne and Cary Grant
- Directed by: George Stevens (also directed Dunne in I Remember Mama)
The last of the Irene Dunne-Cary Grant pairings, Penny Serenade gives the comedic duo a real dramatic movie to shine in. The film follows a couple whose big dreams give them both incredible sadness and incredible joy as a woman recalls her heartbreaking attempts to adopt a child. It’s a riveting film. There is a reason why it’s Irene Dunne’s third most popular film, after all. Irene Dunne and Cary Grant are magic together on film, so it’s completely understandable that her three most popular films today are the ones she costarred with him. While she also has magnificent work that she completed without Grant by her side, the ones she did with him are just something else.
Penny Serenade only got one Academy Award nomination, which went to Cary Grant for Best Actor in a Leading Role.
- Starring: Irene Dunne and Richard Dix
- Directed by: Wesley Ruggles (also directed Dunne in Invitation to Happiness)
One of Irene Dunne’s first leading roles in a film, Cimarron tells the story of a newspaper editor and his wife who settle in an Oklahoma boom town at the end of the nineteenth century. This is during the early days of the Oklahoma Territory, and the married couple fight to survive. It’s an incredibly interesting historical piece that is still riveting today, thanks to Dunne and Dix’s performance. Therefore, it’s also a popular Irene Dunne movie, still.
While Cimarron was actually quite successful when it was released in 1931 (especially for Depression-era audiences), the film ended up losing RKO about $565,000, thanks to its massive budget during filming. Cimarron was nominated for a whopping seven Academy Awards. Dunne received an Oscar nomination for Best Actress in a Leading Role, though she lost out to Marie Dressler for Min and Bill. However, Cimarron did win Best Picture this year!
I Remember Mama (1948)
- Starring: Irene Dunne, Barbara Bel Geddes, and Oskar Homolka
- Directed by: George Stevens
Another popular Irene Dunne movie (though not nearly as popular as the films listed above), I Remember Mama follows the lives of a Norwegian immigrant family in San Francisco at the turn of the century. When the film was released, Irene Dunne was specifically praised by many critics for her role in this family drama. And to this day, she still shines in the movie. I Remember Mama might not be nearly as popular as, say, The Awful Truth, but compared to all the other movies Dunne created, I Remember Mama is quite popular.
While the movie was favorably received by critics and audiences alike, it didn’t do well at the box office. It ended up losing around $1 million for RKO, mostly because of the high production costs. However, it was still named one of the ten best movies by The Film Daily and was nominated for five Academy Awards. Irene Dunne was nominated for an Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role, though she lost out to Jane Wyman in Johnny Belinda.
Life with Father (1947)
- Starring: Irene Dunne, William Powell, Elizabeth Taylor, and Zasu Pitts
- Directed by: Michael Curtiz
Life with Father is a comedy that follows a straitlaced father (Powell) who presides over his family at the turn of the century, even though his wife (Dunne) is the person who really runs the house. The film is still enjoyable to watch to this day, especially if you’re fans of Irene Dunne, William Powell, or both of them. Both former leading actors of the 1930s made this movie towards the end of their leading role careers. Dunne would only star as a leading actress in four other films after this one.
Life with Father was a popular Broadway play at the time. So, the stakes were high to produce a high-quality film. However, critics loved the movie and praised it when it was released. It earned about $6 million at the box office. Life with Father was also nominated for five Academy Awards, though Dunne didn’t receive a nomination this year.
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Love Affair (1939)
- Starring: Irene Dunne and Charles Boyer
- Directed by: Leo McCarey
The first pairing of Irene Dunne and Charles Boyer, Love Affair follows a couple who meet on an ocean liner, but whose romance is threatened by tragic misunderstandings. While Dunne was wonderful in her 1940s films, she was really wonderful in the 1930s. Love Affair shows this. While many prefer her comedic movies with Cary Grant, there’s an argument to be had for her romance movies with Charles Boyer. In fact, Love Affair used to be an incredibly popular movie. Until it was remade into An Affair to Remember with Cary Grant, that is. However, it’s still a popular Irene Dunne movie. Though it definitely isn’t as known as some of her other movies.
Love Affair was a surprise hit at the box office in 1939, especially after the production of the movie met with many delays, thanks to it being accused of promoting adultery. The film was received well by critics and the audience alike. Love Affair was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Actress in a Leading Role for Irene Dunne. However, Dunne lost out to Vivien Leigh in Gone with the Wind. 1939 was a very good year for film.