you, Irene Dunne
late film star
left and indelible mark
When I get into a conversation about classic movies among
strangers, someone usually jumps in to ask, Who is your favorite
movie star? I have to tell you that when I say Irene Dunne,
it never fails to get the response Irene Who?
The more I became a devoted fan of Irene Dunne, the more I wanted to
tell the world why I am grateful and loyal to her. Pleasantly,
when I was asked to write this column, I realized my prayers had been
answered, and the time had come for me to share a little bit of my story.
I have cultivated from Irene Dunne what it means to exceed
in whatever you choose to do, and to endure the consequences that may
go along with it. For me, with her star-studded glamour, she is all
that classic Hollywood signifies. I also acknowledge that she was not
just another pretty face manufactured out of Hollywood cinema, for I
have learned far more from Irene (Dunne) Griffin, than I ever imagined
To me, the conventional woman who was Irene (Dunne) Griffin was just
as glamorous, if not more, on the inside as the enchanting movie star
on the outside (with a wonderful flair of humor, I must add!). Mrs.
Griffin is my source of inspiration, because of all that she held steadfast
in her way of living. I continually admire her marriage to Dr. Francis
Griffin, her example of charity, and deep-rooted faith in God and prayer.
Irene Dunne captivated me while watching her 1944 film, The White
Cliffs of Dover. Subsequently, when I first started collecting
old movie magazines, I grabbed every one I could that had articles pertaining
to Irene Dunne. I became so fanatical wondering on what life was like
behind the Griffin door: Was it just as glamorous as in the movies?
Most people nowadays would say No.
As for me, I quickly became interested in who she really was, and her
family. I found that there was more to Irene Dunne than
the glittering actress. She was a person just like me! She liked chicken
a la king, lemon meringue pie, cookies and milk, shoes, playing golf,
perfumes, gardening, etc. These are little informative things from which
I read in that 1944 article.
I also treasure reading the article Pictures of Mother,
written in 1948 by then Mary Frances Griffin. (My collection of articles
spans from 1931 to 2006, which includes the March issue of the RoundAbout.)
After reading all that I have about her, it feels as though I have personally
known her, in a divine way. I can affirm that Im quite informed
about Irene Dunne the actress. Although, I do learn interesting details
all the time thanks to my Irene Dunne Society historian, Joe Schmidt.
Nowadays, my quest is continuing to learn more about Irene (Dunne) Griffin,
the human being, for those kinds of articles are few and far between,
because within those, she had revealed her faith. Somehow, that stood
out to me more than anything, and I became fascinated.
Then I set out thinking, I could never be like Irene Dunne, and
I could never become Catholic! In fact, the whole time God knew
I would admire her immeasurably, and knew that her source of fame would
be a way of getting me on the path He chose for me. By the first Mass
I attended to test the waters, I suddenly began to realize
who Irene Dunne Griffin was within. Then I started to become aware of
what God was trying to tell me!
Wouldnt you believe God used her as a divine instrument, with
the purpose of getting me where He wants me: Yes, in the Catholic Church!
One thing I am sure of, she is a saint she has to be, or
I wouldnt be doing the things I am today. I only hope there is
something more I can do to continue her legacy for future generations.
In addition, Id like to express my appreciation to the city of
Madison and the Irene Dunne committee for the upcoming ceremony on May
19 to dedicate an Indiana Historic Marker in her honor.
I often reflect on how her legacy touches other fans everywhere because
they speak of her modesty, dignity, charity and excellence in every
aspect of her life. As a result, each facet of her principle seems to
awaken that same kind of decency in each person in a unique
way that makes them feel significant. I often convey to myself how uplifting
it is, knowing that same legacy is still alive in those hearts of her
family and friends.
Lastly, I remember writing my first letter to Irenes adopted daughter,
Mary Francis Griffin Gage. I wrote so many thoughts and questions, but
I recall wanting to tell her that if I was ever allowed the chance to
meet her mother face to face and could only say one thing, Id
simply say: Thank you.
For all that being said, I wish to leave you with these words that go
through my mind quite often: Thank you, Irene Dunne. You are a
Amy Tarr resides in Greenwood, Ind., and
will display some of her vast Irene Dunne memorabilia at the Ohio Theatre
in Madison on May 19 as part of the 4 p.m. marker dedication ceremony.
Tarr wrote this column for the RoundAbout. Tarr also has arranged with
Father John Meyer for a 7 a.m. Mass Intention to be said May 19 at Prince
of Peace Catholic Church in downtown Madison in honor of the late film
star, who spent much of her youth in Madison. For more on the Irene
Dunne legacy, visit the archived articles page for March 2006 at our
Back to April 2006 Articles.