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Indiana Historical Bureau

IHB > Historical Markers > Find a Marker > Irene Dunne Irene Dunne

Irene DunneIrene Dunne

Location: 105 E. Main Street, Madison (Jefferson County, Indiana)

Installed: 2006 Indiana Historical Bureau and Friends of Irene Dunne

ID# : 39.2006.1

Text

Side one:

Born in Louisville, Kentucky 1898; after father's death, moved with family to Madison. Graduated from Madison High School 1916. After voice training in Indianapolis and Chicago, began singing professionally. Won lead in road show of Florenz Ziegfeld's Show Boat 1929. Began Hollywood career 1930; in 42 films; nominated for five Academy Awards.

Side two:

Dunne maintained ties with Madison, which has honored her; she helped with restoration of Broadway Fountain 1976. She received Laetare Medal from University of Notre Dame 1949. President Dwight Eisenhower named her an alternate delegate to United Nations General Assembly 1957; was Kennedy Center Honors Awardee 1985. Died 1990 in Los Angeles.

Keywords

Arts and Culture, Women, Politics

Annotated Text

Born in Louisville, Kentucky 1898;(1) after father's death, moved with family to Madison.(2) Graduated from Madison High School 1916.(3) After voice training in Indianapolis and Chicago, (4) began singing professionally.(5) Won lead in road show of Florenz Ziegfeld's Show Boat 1929.(6) Began Hollywood career 1930; in 43 films; nominated for five Academy Awards.(7)

Dunne maintained ties with Madison, (8) which has honored her;(9) she helped with restoration of Broadway Fountain 1976.(10) She received Laetare Medal from University of Notre Dame 1949.(11) President Dwight Eisenhower named her an alternate delegate to United Nations General Assembly 1957;(12) was Kennedy Center Honors Awardee 1985.(13) Died 1990 in Los Angeles.(14)

Notes:

Special Note:  Irene Dunne’s family name was originally spelled “Dunn.”  By 1916, newspaper articles  selectively started incorporating an “e” to the end of her name (examples are listed at the end of this note).  For clarification, the Indiana Historical Bureau used her name’s spelling employed during her acting career (Dunne) throughout the annotated text; except when discussing Irene Dunne’s family life.  Name written without an “e”: “Social Notes,” Madison Courier, October 15, 1919; Bureau of the Census, Fourteenth Census (1920), Schedule 6, Population, Madison, Jefferson, Indiana, p. 134.  Name written with an “e”: "Miss Dunne Sings in Concert,” Madison Courier, July 25, 1919; "Commencement Exercises,” Madison Courier, May 18, 1916.

(1) Irene Dunn, Kentucky Birth Register, #3086, Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives.  The Kentucky birth register recorded Dunne’s birthdate as December 21, 1898.  This is most likely the correct birthdate.
U.S. Bureau of the Census, Twelfth Census (1900), Schedule 1, Population, Louisville, Jefferson, Kentucky, p. 165.  According to the census, Dunne was born in December 1898.
Irene Maria Dunn, Baptism Record, 262, Saint Martin of Tours Church, Louisville, Kentucky.  This baptism record recorded Dunne’s birthdate as December 20, 1898, and her baptism date as December 26, 1898.
“Irene Dunne Remembered for Her Charm,” Madison Courier, September 5, 1990; “Irene Dunne, Actress, Dies at 88; Starred in Comedies and Musicals,” New York Times, September 5, 1990; “Irene Dunne, a Versatile Actress of the 1930’s and 40’s, Dies at 91.” New York Times, September 6, 1990. During Dunne's life, her age and the year she was born remained a mystery. The two September 5, 1990 obituaries wrongly listed her age as 88, but the September 6, 1990 New York Times article correctly stated her age of 91.
Margie Schultz, Irene Dunne: A Bio-Bibliography (New York, 1991), 1.  In her biography/bibliography of Dunne, Margie Schultz stated that Dunne was born December 20, 1898, but she never gave a citation for the source.

(2) “Joseph J. Dunn is Dead,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, April 7, 1913; “Capt. J.J. Dunn,” Madison Daily Herald, April 7, 1913; Joseph J. Dunn, Death Certificate, filed April 7, 1913, Missouri State Board of Health; “Irene Dunne Remembered for Her Charm,” Madison Courier, September 5, 1990; Bureau of the Census, Fourteenth Census (1920), Schedule 6, Population, Madison, Jefferson, Indiana, p. 134; Bureau of the Census, Thirteenth Census (1910), Schedule 4, Population, Madison, Jefferson, Indiana, p. 141; Joseph J. Dunn and Adelade A. Henry, Jefferson County, Indiana Marriage License, April 30, 1896.  Dunne’s father, Joseph J. Dunn, married her mother, Adelade A. Henry, on April 30, 1896.  He inspected steamships on the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers.  Before his death on April 6, 1913, the family lived in Louisville, Kentucky and then in St. Louis, Missouri. After the death of Dunn’s father, her mother moved to Madison, Indiana with her daughter, Irene Dunn, and her son, Charles Dunn.  According to the 1920 census, they lived next door to Adelade Dunn’s father, Charles Henry, and mother, Rose Henry.
Bureau of the Census, Fourteenth Census (1920), Schedule 6, Population, Madison, Jefferson, Indiana, p. 134; Bureau of the Census, Thirteenth Census (1910), Schedule 4, Population, Madison, Jefferson, Indiana, p. 141. Numerous sources note that the Dunn family lived at 916 West Second Street in Madison, Indiana, while Margie Schultz claimed their house was located at 940 Middle Drive.  The 1920 census only noted the family lived at “916 Second St.”  Currently a 916 house number exists on both West and East Second Streets.  Other streets listed on page 134 of the 1920 census record include Main St. and Craigmont St.  Craigmont St. is one block west from the 916 W. Second St. address.  The Dunn family most likely lived at this address next to Charles and Rose Henry who lived at 918 Second St.

(3)“Commencement Exercises,” Madison Courier, May 18, 1916.

(4)“Madison Young Ladies Are Graduates of the Indianapolis Conservatory of  Music,” Madison Courier, June 17, 1918.  Dunne attended the music conservatory in Indianapolis; graduating in 1918.
“Social Notes,” Madison Courier, October 15, 1919.  By 1919 Dunne attended classes at the Chicago Musical College.

(5)“Miss Dunne Sings in Concert,” Madison Courier, July 25, 1919; “Social Notes,” Madison Courier, October 15, 1919. Dunne performed with the Marlborough-Blenheim Orchestra in Atlantic City and at the Ziegfield Theatre in Chicago. 
Schultz, Irene Dunne, 30-39. From 1920 to 1928 Dunne performed in numerous plays.  She appeared in various cities, including New York, Chicago, Cleveland, Hartford, Connecticut, Atlanta, Washington, D. C., and St. Louis. Excerpts from reviews of her performances are available in Schultz’s book.

(6)“Irene Dunne, Ziegfeld Show Star, Looks Fondly Back to Madison Home,” Indianapolis Star, March 9, 1930.  In 1929, Dunne toured nationally as the female lead in the musical, Show Boat.

(7)Schultz, Irene Dunne, 49-135.  Dunne's first film, released in 1930, was Leathernecking.  In 1931, she starred in the film, Cimarron.  Her role earned her the first of five Oscar nominations for Best Actress. Her last film, released in 1952, was It Grows on Trees. She also performed for military servicemen during World War II with the USO.

(8)“Irene Dunne, Ziegfeld Show Star, Looks Fondly Back to Madison Home,” Indianapolis Star, March 9, 1930; “Irene Dunne Here,” Madison Courier, May 6, 1940; “Irene Dunne Is Honored by Local Chamber,” Madison Courier, May 3, 1954.

(9)“Irene Dunne Is Honored by Local Chamber,” Madison Courier, May 3, 1954.  While visiting Madison in 1954 the Madison Chamber of Commerce and Board of Directors elected Dunne as an honorary member.

(10)“Irene Dunne Gives Fountain Fund Boost,” Madison Courier, May 21, 1976. Dunne donated $1,000 to the project.
“Madison Scout Camp Gate Gift of Irene Dunne, Film Star,” [newspaper unknown], circa December 22, 1939.  In 1939, Dunne donated $500 toward the purchase of a new gate to Camp Louis Ernst, Hoosier Hills Council of Boy Scouts of America, near Dupont, Jefferson County.

(11)“Address By the Most Reverend J. Francis A. McIntire, Archbishop of Los Angeles, On the Occasion of the Presentation of the Laetare Medal to Irene Dunne Griffin By the University of Notre Dame on Wednesday, June 29, 1949, Notre Dame Drill Hall,” Folder “Dunne, Irene Griffin - Laetare Medalist, 1949,” UDIS 134/33, Notre Dame Archives, University of Notre Dame, South Bend.
“Address by Irene Dunne Griffin on the Occasion of the Presentation of the Laetare Medal to Mrs. Griffin by the University of Notre Dame on Wednesday, June 29, 1949, Notre Dame Drill Hall,” Folder “Dunne, Irene Griffin - Laetare Medalist, 1949,” UDIS 134/33, Notre Dame Archives, University of Notre Dame, South Bend.
“Irene Dunne Named Woman of the Year,” Indianapolis News, April 11, 1958.  In 1958, the Indianapolis alumnae of Theta Sigma Phi, a national journalism fraternity for women, named Dunne the Indiana Woman of the Year.
“St. Mary's College to Hear Irene Dunne,” Indianapolis Times, February 12, 1958; “St Mary's to Honor 17 From South Bend,” South Bend Tribune, May 30, 1958.  In 1958, Dunne accepted an honorary law degree from St. Mary's College in South Bend, and she delivered the commencement address.

(12)“Irene Dunne among 10 Proposed as U. S. Delegation to the U. N.,” New York Times, August 10, 1957; “The Boys at Al's Place Like Irene, Too,” Indianapolis Times, August 13, 1957; “Senate Group Votes to Back Macomber,” New York Times, August 15, 1957; “Senate Acts by Voice Vote on President's Nominees,” New York Times, August 23, 1957; “U.S. Delegation to U.N.: At U. N.,” New York Times, September 17, 1957; “U. N. Guard Fails to Recognize Irene Dunne of U. S.,” New York Times, September 18, 1957; “Hoosier Irene Dunne Charms UN in Debut,” Indianapolis News, October 4, 1957.  Dunne worked as a volunteer on President Eisenhower's political campaigns in 1952 and 1956. Eisenhower nominated her to be an alternate delegate to the 1957 session of the United Nations General Assembly. The U. S. Senate approved her nomination.

(13)“Past Honorees,” The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Web site, http://www.kennedy-center.org/programs/specialevents/honors/history/home.html, (accessed September 23, 2005).

(14)“Irene Dunne Remembered,” Madison Courier, September 5, 1990; “Irene Dunne, Actress, Dies at 88; Starred in Comedies and Musicals” New York Times, September 5, 1990; “Irene Dunne, a Versatile Actress of the 1930’s and 40’s, Dies at 91,” New York Times, September 6, 1990.  Dunne died at her home in Los Angeles on September 4, 1990.