The above quote is often attributed to Irene Dunne. While she certainly helped popularize it by saying it on a radio show, in 1945, she didn’t invent the saying. The best we can accurately state is that it is a modern proverb of unknown origin, made famous by Irene Dunne. There is proof, recorded, that she did say it (Town Meeting Of The Air, May 1945), but the evidence found of the basics of the quote date back to at least 1926 (Source: QuoteInvestigator.com). Any researcher, reporter, or biographer worth his or her salt would have to agree on that, and would not report it as a Mrs. Griffin original.
There is a problem, on our hands, my dear readers. It seems that an unrecorded quote and an unprovable incident have been attributed to Irene Dunne. Now, allow me to state a few simple guidelines I have for this Jeanette MacDonald & Nelson Eddy debacle.
Guideline #1: Absolutely do not make any attempt to prove Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy had an affair, using Kathyn Grayson as a source or defense.
Guideline #2: Do not attempt to rationalize the idea of multiple hidden MacDonald pregnancies by appropriating the story of Loretta Young and Judy Lewis. That was their story, an isolated one, and you will not use their names for your personal grasp at fame.
Guideline #3: Any use of Irene Dunne for the purpose of defending the supposed affair will be met with, as one fan stated, Irene’s fans going from “Pollyanna to Turbo Bitch.” In other words, Don’t f**k with Mrs. Griffin.
Alas, here we are, today, because Guideline #3 was not adhered to. The following is the “off the record” quote, as attributed to Irene Dunne in the celebrity quotes section of Sharon Rich’s Sweethearts: “Yes dear, it’s true, but I don’t think the public needs to know.”
There is just so much wrong with that. I’ve come to the conclusion that, since a new Jeanette was invented for the purpose of this “biography,” then no one bothered to look up the history and legacy of the folks who knew Jeanette, either.
Irene, famously, didn’t even like talking about herself. She was, however, quick to correct anyone who asked her a direct question about something untrue. When asked by a reporter about her lawyer father having been terribly disappointed in her becoming an actress, because he had dreams of her becoming a lawyer, herself, she casually answered that, “in the first place, he [her father] wasn’t a lawyer, and in the second place, both her parents had encouraged her to become an opera singer. And were there any more questions?” (The Star Machine, Jeanine Basinger, p344) Irene had no qualms shutting people down, with grace and dignity.
Then there, too, had been questions regarding Irene’s own marriage, which she never publicly addressed. She had married New York dentist Dr. Francis Griffin, in 1927 (or possibly 1928, as is also reported). Initially, she kept the marriage to herself. It wasn’t, according to her, that she wanted to keep a secret- rather, she didn’t want to embarrass him, a doctor in a very conservative profession. For some time, during her early years in Hollywood, Dr. Griffin lived in New York City, maintaining his dental practice, while Mrs. Griffin lived in Southern California. The only time the news hounds ever tried to make “good copy” out of her life was regarding this. After making a mad dash from one coast to the other, upon hearing Dr. Griffin had been rushed to the hospital, the papers decided that she had actually gone to seek a divorce. Mrs. Griffin, being the delightful lady she was, read each item to her husband, in recovery, laughing and entertaining him the whole time (Modern Screen, August 1935). In the end, after years of their marriage being the subject of gossip, it was Dr. Griffin who would issue a statement, not Irene.
So, I must ask, why would anyone dare to attribute a comment about a friend’s relationship, to Irene, when she wouldn’t even give merit enough to speculations on her own to comment on the negative? Well, the answer to that is quite simple. It’s the need for absolute reliability, which comes along with her name. As I’ve discussed before regarding other stars, her family has no recourse, now, for any supposed quote, such as this one, that did not come from her. I’ve even said, myself, “Prove Irene Dunne said it happened, and I’ll believe you.” Still, “off the record” and with absolutely no hard evidence, all this is is a clear cut smear campaign designed to use Irene’s flawless legacy for the support of an obvious falsehood.
Also attributed to Irene is the arrangement of an apartment for Jeanette and Nelson to have intimate visits in, in the mid-1950’s, in NYC. Like… this is my heavy sigh area… do you even understand the degree to which that is altogether absurd? It really ranges around Zombie Kipling. This is, of course, much worse for Irene’s reputation than the quote! It is definite hypocrisy, and Irene Dunne is being accused of it. That is inexcusable, and honestly, I don’t care who is with me, I demand an apology for it. There is ABSOLUTELY ZERO evidence of this, and it never should have been printed. Further than any other Lady of Hollywood, tampering with Irene Dunne’s legacy should be outright criminal. Why am I talking about it, then? It is, to be quite frank with you, because I need more of Irene Dunne’s fans to know that Sharon Rich is deliberately throwing Irene Dunne under a bus, for her own financial gain, no matter how big or small. That is what we are dealing with, here. A self professed biographer, with no evidence, is tearing at the one lady who all of Hollywood and nearly every fan of old Hollywood holds with the highest regard. Irene Dunne gave us every reason to respect her, lived a full and honest life, and one person, with her group of almost cult-like groupies, is aiming to tarnish that.
To go back to the beginning- while it’s not a quote we can say she invented, it is one that Irene Dunne certainly said and lived by.
If we don’t stand for something, we’ll fall for anything.