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Fast-Talking Dames$
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Maria DiBattista

Print publication date: 2001

Print ISBN-13: 9780300088151

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: October 2013

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300088151.001.0001

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The Lady-Dame

The Lady-Dame

Irene Dunne and the Awful Truth

(p.202) 6 The Lady-Dame
Fast-Talking Dames

Maria DiBattista

Yale University Press

This chapter takes a closer look at Irene Dunne, the fast-talking dame most in peril of lapsing into a soft-spoken lady. It studies her characters in movies such as My Favorite Wife, Back Street, Ann Vickers, and Show Boat, wherein she often played women who could be all-in-all to their chosen mates. This is seen only to be possible because she was her own good company, sufficient, if need to, unto herself, creating an emotional paradox that is shown most directly in My Favorite Wife. In that same film, she consolidates all the possible relations a man might have to a woman—“No man could ask for a better companion, a truer friend, or a more charming playmate.” If a moral were to be attached to a reissue of her films, it might read something like: She loves best and longest who can live, if need be, a life apart. Thus, this chapter explores the characters of Irene Dunne in an attempt to gleam the social implications and influences that her roles would have on the American womanhood.

Keywords:   Irene Dunne, My Favorite Wife, Back Street, Ann Vickers, Show Boat, fast-talking dame, soft-spoken lady, American womanhood

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