Irene As Singer
Basically, Irene was a singer with a fundamental musical education which started in her childhood under the guidance of her mother Adelaide, herself a musician. Very early in her childhood Irene learned to play the piano, followed by singing lessons and ultimately by studies at the Chicago Musical College. Her initial wish to become an opera singer was denied her because she had too slight a voice. Nonetheless she called a beautiful, warm,well-conducted singing voice her own which paved the way to musical comedy and consequently brought Irene to Hollywood. Beyond the music films like "Sweet Adeline","Stingaree" "Show Boat", "High, Wide And Handsome" and "Joy Of Living", music was a steady, recurring element in Irene's films - she sang in 26 of her 41 films.
Below you'll find a compilation of songs to give you an impression of Irene as singer - certainly one side of her which I love!
All files are downloadable!
"Irene Dunne In Songs Of Jerome Kern"
A studio recording Irene made in 1941 accompanied by the Victor Young Orchestra. Among others this album features the title "Lovely To Look At" from the film "Roberta"-with the recording for the film Irene made number 20 of the popular sales charts in 1935.
That's the place for the occasions when Irene sang in radio or TV shows or when I'll happen to find one of the other recordings she did. My aim is still to collect "singing Miss Dunne" as complete as possible.
The Perry Como Show - 09.15.1956
The Great Lover - 1931
"The Great Lover" was Irene's first MGM production - on a loan-out from RKO - and the first time (after "Leathernecking") that she got the opportunity to sing on-screen again. Irene played young opera singer Diane Page and accordingly sang classical music which shows effectively her thoroughly educated voice. In later years Irene gladly remembered her film excursions into opera.
- "I Love Thee"
Jeg Elskar Dig
by Edvard Grieg opus 5 Nr.3
Irene performed this song a second time in "Unfinished Business"(1941)
- "Waltz Song"
from "Roméo and Juliette" by Charles Gounod
Libretto by Jules Barbier and Michel Carré
- "Là Ci Darem La Mano"
from "Don Giovanni" by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Libretto by Lorenzo da Ponte
Consolation Marriage - 1931
Back from her loan-out to MGM for "The Great Lover" in which Irene got the chance to sing quite a bit, Irene performed at least one song in "Consolation Marriage", a production of her home studio RKO.
A lovely composition by Max Steiner with lyrics by Myles Connolly that beautifully shows Irene's classical educated voice.
The Secret Of Madame Blanche - 1933
In the year 1933, on her second loan-out to MGM , Irene sang three numbers - from a grand finale with chorus to an ambiguous song called "Jimmy". Irene got the chance to show her voice and she took it! Here are those audiofiles:
Stingaree - 1934
1934 Irene got at last the chance to sing again in a production of her home studio RKO. She performs songs by Max Steiner and W. Franke Harling and a part of the "Jewel Song" form Charles Gounod's opera "Faust". The ballad "The Last Rose Of Summer" is basically a traditional Irish melody but was used by Friederich von Flotow in his opera "Martha".
Sweet Adeline - 1934
Here are the songs from the 1934 production of "Sweet Adeline", music by Jerome Kern and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein. This was the first time that Irene sung Jerome Kern in a film. The following musical films "Roberta", "Show Boat", "High, Wide And Handsome" and "The Joy Of Living" confirmed Irene's status as the Kern soprano of the screen.
Roberta - 1935
Irene sang four numbers in this production from the year 1935:
- "Russian Lullaby"
Music by Jerome Kern
lyrics by Otto A. Harbach, music by Jerome Kern
- "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes"
written by the same team as "Yesterdays"
- "Lovely To Look At"
lyrics by Dorothy Fields, music by Jerome Kern and Jimmy McHugh
With "Lovely To Look At" Irene made number 20 of the popular sales charts.
Show Boat - 1936
The audio files from the 1936 film version, featuring Irene with Allan Jones.
Music by Jerome Kern, Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein
Remark: "After The Ball" is a song written by Charles K.Harris and was the first "platinum" song in the 1890s - selling alone in 1892 about two million copies of sheet music. It's performed in Show Boat to present the typical music of that time.
Theodora Goes Wild - 1936
Irene in her first comedy but the recurring element is - singing! To show Theodora's Sunday School teacher/organist background, Irene gets to sing the hymn "Rock Of Ages"; and the second is our leads' "torch song" titled "Be Still My Heart" which pops up several times in the score and is in this scene sung by Theodora to stop Michael from whistling.
High, Wide And Handsome - 1937
This for the screen written musical offers again the unfailing combination of Jerome Kern's music, Oscar Hammerstein's lyrics and Irene's soprano. All songs are tightly interwoven in the plot, and the song "High, Wide And Handsome" marks the beginning of the film.
The Awful Truth - 1937
Here are two songs from this classical comedy
- "La Serenata"
- "Gone With The Wind" Music by Ben Oakland, Lyrics by Milton Drake
Joy Of Living - 1938
"Joy Of Living" marks Irene's last Kern on screen. She sang four songs:
- "What's Good About Goodnight?"
- "You Couldn't Be Cuter"
- "Just Let Me Look At You"
- "A Heavenly Party"
Music by Jerome Kern, Lyrics by Dorothy Fields
Love Affair - 1939
In this film from the legendary Hollywood year 1939 Irene sang two times.
At first the French song "Plaisir D'Amour" a composition from the year 1775 by Johan Martini with lyrics by Jean Pierre Clarin de Florian. Here is the English translation of the refrain, picturing how music was used in those old Hollywood films:
The pleasure of love lasts
only a moment
The pain of love
lasts a lifetime
The second song is "Sing My Heart" especially composed for this occasion by Harold Arlen with lyrics by Ted Koehler. As to be expected, a for her written song by Arlen fits Irene's voice beautifully which earns this one a top spot on my list of favorites. And once again the lyrics interpret and complement the on-screen situation:
Go on and sing, my heart,
You know it's spring, my heart,
So why not show it?
Pretend you're glad, my heart,
Although you're sad, my heart,
He mustn't know it.
Remember love is not an easy game,
No two hearts ever beat quite the same,
Go on and dance, my heart,
Our only chance, my heart,is to forget it;
Should you despair, my heart,
He'll know we care, my heart,
And we'll regret it.
If it's to be we soon shall see
And if it's not to be
No pow'r on earth can make it so.
Pretend it's spring, my heart,
Go on and sing, my heart,
For if you sing he'll never know.
When Tomorrow Comes - 1939
As so often in her films, Irene sang one song - "Serenade" ("Leise flehen meine Lieder") by Franz Schubert.
Unfinished Business - 1941
Irene played "Nancy" who starts out for the big city hoping for a singing career. Naturally everything turns out differently but Irene gets the chance to sing these two songs:
- "I Love Thee" (Jeg Elskar Dig)
Edvard Grieg opus 5 nr. 3
- "When You And I Were Young, Maggie"
lyrics George Johnson/ music J.C. Butterfield
There is a story to this song
A Guy Named Joe - 1943
Once again, Irene gets to perform one song in this production from 1943. Margie Schultz' Bio-Bibliography on Irene provides the following information on the music:" According to American Magazine, the script for 'A Guy Named Joe' called for Irene to sing "It's Three O'Clock in the Morning" a song she openly disliked. She suggested they revive an old song instead. When the music department gave her the choice between "My Wonderful One" and "I'll Get By," she selected the latter, which became a big hit after the movie."
Here's Irene's felicitous choice.