Great On Screen Couples: Irene Dunne and Cary Grant
You know Cary Grant is my favorite actor of all time and he has paired with some of the most legendary actresses of all time. And they all usually have great chemistry with the debonair chap. But for me, his best on screen partner has to be Irene Dunne. They made three films together, 2 screwball comedies and 1 drama. The first film they made together was 1937's wonderfully wicked comedy, The Awful Truth which cast the twosome as a married couple going through a divorce. This is one of the earliest of the screwball comedies and while it may be rough around the edges in some scenes, it's one of the funniest films I have ever seen. And Grant and Dunne are perfect together in their first outing. Their constant plans to sabotage each other's chances at remarriage will have you gasping and laughing the whole time. And check out Irene's wonderfully screwy performance. I believe the great Katherine Hepburn must have saw this film and had to base her performance in Bringing Up Baby on Irene's terrific role of Lucy Warriner. Or is it just me?
Cary and Irene worked so well in The Awful Truth, they had to be paired up for another wonderful screwball comedy in 1940's My Favorite Wife, which I enjoyed even more than I did The Awful Truth. Once again the two play a married couple, with a slight difference. After being lost at sea for 7 years and declared dead Ellen Arden (Irene) returns home to find her husband Nick (Cary) remarried to Bianca (the wonderfully underrated Gail Patrick). So Nick has a huge problem to deal with. Who to choose: Ellen or Bianca? Once again Irene Dunne steals the show but her chemistry with Cary is also once again perfect. Their comic timing by now is a match made in heaven.
For their third and final film together, Irene and Cary made the tearjerker/comedy Penny Serenade (1941) which gave the twosome an opportunity to flex their dramatic muscles as a couple who faces one crisis after another once they get married after a short courtship. There is some humor in this film to keep things from getting too dark and depressing and Cary gets to give one of his best screen performances ever. His scene with the judge arguing to keep his adopted daughter in his care is heartbreaking and touching. Serenade was the last film Irene and Cary would do together and they go out with another great film. I know Cary had several other wonderful screen pairings beside Irene like with Myrna Loy, Grace Kelly, and Deborah Kerr. But for me, it's his pairings with Irene that were the best of his team ups. And I would say the same for Irene as she never had a better partner than Cary Grant.