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Irene (1940 film)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Original poster
Directed byHerbert Wilcox
Screenplay byAlice Duer Miller
Based onIrene
by Harry Tierney
James H. Montgomery
Joseph McCarthy
Produced byHerbert Wilcox
StarringAnna Neagle
Ray Milland
Roland Young
Alan Marshal
CinematographyRussell Metty
Edited byElmo Williams
Music byAnthony Collins (underscore)
Harry Tierney (song score)
Distributed byRKO Radio Pictures
Release date
  • May 3, 1940 (1940-05-03)
Running time
101 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$1,620,000[1]

Irene is a 1940 American musical film produced and directed by Herbert Wilcox.[2][3] The screenplay by Alice Duer Miller is based on the libretto of the 1919 stage musical Irene by James Montgomery, who had adapted it from his play Irene O'Dare. The score features songs with music by Harry Tierney and lyrics by Joseph McCarthy.

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Upholsterer's assistant Irene O'Dare meets wealthy Don Marshall while she is measuring chairs for Mrs. Herman Vincent at her Long Island estate. Charmed by the young girl, Don anonymously purchases Madame Lucy's, an exclusive Manhattan boutique, and instructs newly hired manager Mr. Smith to offer Irene a job as a model. She soon catches the eye of socialite Bob Vincent, whose mother is hosting a ball at the family mansion. In order to promote Madame Lucy's dress line, Mr. Smith arranges for his models to be invited to the soiree.

Irene lets her friend Jane dance around holding up the gown she was given to wear, the “Flaming Rosebud”. Jane collides with Granny and a potful of Irish stew, ruining the dress. She substitutes a blue satin costume that belonged to her mother, and it creates a sensation. Irene is mistaken for the niece of Ireland's Lady O'Dare and, in order to publicize his collection, Mr. Smith decides to exploit the error. He moves Irene into a Park Avenue apartment. Dressed in furs and draped with diamonds while escorted around town by Bob, Irene's appearance prompts gossip columnist Biffy Webster to suggest she is a kept woman. Outraged, Irene demands Madame Lucy protect her reputation by revealing the truth, only to discover Don is the owner of the shop.

Irene agrees to marry Bob, but on the night before the wedding, Bob confesses he still loves former fiancée Eleanor Worth, and Irene realizes she loves Don. The couple decides to make things right by reuniting with their rightful partners.



For nearly two decades following its original 1919 production at the Vanderbilt Theatre, Irene — with a total run of 675 performances — held the record for the longest-running show in Broadway theatre history. In addition to the 1926 silent film Irene, the musical also was adapted for a June 1936 Lux Radio Theatre production starring Jeanette MacDonald and Regis Toomey.[4]

The film was shot in black and white with the exception of a Technicolor sequence that begins at Mrs. Vincent's society ball when Bretherton's jaw drops as he looks up to see Irene coming downstairs. Don and Irene dance to an instrumental version of "Alice Blue Gown," and the sequence ends at the O'Dare's apartment, where Irene sings the song to her grandmother and friend. The return to black and white shows the Vincent mansion and the text: “Came the cold grey dawn.”

The song is replayed as an installment of Rex Gordon's Moviebone News, a spoof of the Movietone News shorts that were popular at the time. Irene's dress—and the song—have become world-famous, and performers from Peoria to Paris, from Hawaii to Harlem give their versions of the song. According to the theater program displayed on screen, the Moviebone News features “Martha Tilton, Hattie Noel, The Rocketts, the Dandridge Sisters and Chorus of Fifty.”

Johnny Long and His Orchestra make cameo appearances in the film.

This version downplays the "Madame Lucy" character. Other versions of Irene present "Lucy" as a very campy gay man.[citation needed]

Song list

  1. "Castle of Dreams"
  2. "You've Got Me Out on a Limb"
  3. "Alice Blue Gown"
  4. "Irene"
  5. "Worthy of You"
  6. "Something in the Air"
  7. "Sweet Vermosa Brown"


The film made a profit of $367,000.[1]

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Recipient(s) and nominee(s) Result
1941 Academy Awards Best Music, Score Anthony Collins Nominated


  1. ^ a b c Richard Jewel, 'RKO Film Grosses: 1931-1951', Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, Vol 14 No 1, 1994 p55
  2. ^ Variety film review; April 24, 1940, page 16.
  3. ^ Harrison's Reports film review; April 27, 1940, page 66.
  4. ^ "Irene". Retrieved 2022-12-05.

External links

This page was last edited on 20 December 2023, at 20:27
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