James Dunn


Actor
James Dunn

About

Birth Place
New York City, New York, USA
Born
November 02, 1901
Died
September 03, 1967
Cause of Death
Complications Following Stomach Surgery

Biography

An agreeable juvenile lead who managed to shift into a convincing career in character parts, James Dunn was born in Harlem and started his professional life selling lunch wagons to vendors in New Rochelle, New York. Overtaken by the acting bug, he began getting bit parts at Paramount's Astoria studios in the late 1920s. In 1930 he appeared in two Broadway shows, "The Nightstick" and Hele...

Photos & Videos

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn - Movie Poster
Living on Love - Lobby Cards
Living on Love - British Pressbook

Family & Companions

Edna O'Lier
Wife
Divorced.
Frances Gifford
Wife
Actor. Divorced.
Edna Rush
Wife
Singer. Survived him.

Biography

An agreeable juvenile lead who managed to shift into a convincing career in character parts, James Dunn was born in Harlem and started his professional life selling lunch wagons to vendors in New Rochelle, New York. Overtaken by the acting bug, he began getting bit parts at Paramount's Astoria studios in the late 1920s. In 1930 he appeared in two Broadway shows, "The Nightstick" and Helen Morgan's "Sweet Adeline." Signed by Fox in 1931, he made 22 films for them (and several loan-outs) in five years. His first, the melodrama "Bad Girl," shot him to overnight fame and assured the continuance of his Fox contract (if not superstardom). Most of his films there were pleasant, forgettable programmers, and his co-stars included everyone on the Fox lot: Sally Eilers (six films, including his first), Peggy Shannon and Spencer Tracy ("Society Girl," 1932), Ginger Rogers and Janet Gaynor ("Change of Heart," 1934), Alice Faye ("365 Nights in Hollywood," 1934, and "George White's 1935 Scandals"). He is best-remembered in his early days for four 1934 co-starring roles with a very young Shirley Temple, notably in "Baby Take a Bow" and the delightful "Stand Up and Cheer."

Dunn went freelance in 1936, and his career began a downslide. He did small films for medium-sized studios (Columbia, Universal, RKO) and even smaller films on Poverty Row (Monogram, Republic, Grand National). He returned to Broadway in 1940 with a role in "Panama Hattie," which at least kept his name before the public.

Elia Kazan came to Dunn's rescue with the period "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" (1945). His performance as the ne'er-do-well Irish father garnered him a Best Supporting Actor Oscar; but disappointingly, his film roles didn't much improve. He did several stage productions, including "Harvey" on Broadway in 1948. Dunn made another eight unremarkable films, ending with "The Oscar" (1966).

If his film and theater appearances didn't rekindle his fame, Dunn did get a lot of TV work in the 1950s. He appeared on nearly every "Golden Age" anthology, including "Studio One" (CBS), "Pulitzer Prize Playhouse" (ABC), "Curtain Call Theater" (NBC) and "First Person Singular" (Dumont). He also had recurring roles in the series "It's a Great Life" (NBC, 1954-56), "Mr. Broadway" (NBC, 1957), and "Ben Casey" (ABC, 1961-66).

Filmography

 

Cast (Feature Film)

Survival of the Dead (2009)
The Black and the Green (1983)
The Oscar (1966)
Network executive
Hemingway's Adventures of a Young Man (1962)
Telegrapher
The Bramble Bush (1960)
Stew Schaeffer
A Wonderful Life (1951)
Henry Wood
The Golden Gloves Story (1950)
Joe Riley
Texas, Brooklyn & Heaven (1948)
Mike
Killer McCoy (1947)
Brian McCoy
That Brennan Girl (1946)
Denny Reagan
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945)
Johnny Nolan
The Caribbean Mystery (1945)
Smith
Leave It to the Irish (1944)
Terry Moran
Government Girl (1944)
Sergeant Joe Bates
The Ghost and the Guest (1943)
Webster Frye
The Living Ghost (1942)
Nick Trayne
Son of the Navy (1940)
Malone
Hold That Woman! (1940)
Jimmy Parker
Mercy Plane (1939)
Speed Leslie
Pride of the Navy (1939)
Speed Brennan
Shadows over Shanghai (1938)
Johnny McGinty
We Have Our Moments (1937)
John Wade
Living on Love (1937)
Gary Martin
Venus Makes Trouble (1937)
[J. Busby] Buzz Martin
Two-Fisted Gentleman (1936)
Mickey Blake
Mysterious Crossing (1936)
Addison Francis Murphy
Hearts in Bondage (1936)
Lieutenant Kenneth Renolds
Come Closer, Folks (1936)
Jim Keene
Don't Get Personal (1936)
Bob [McDonald]
George White's 1935 Scandals (1935)
Eddie [Taylor]
The Payoff (1935)
Joe McCoy
The Daring Young Man (1935)
Don McLane
Welcome Home (1935)
Richard Foster
Bad Boy (1935)
Eddie Nolan
Bright Eyes (1934)
Loop [James] Merritt
Baby Take a Bow (1934)
Eddie Ellison
Have a Heart (1934)
Jimmie [Flaherty]
Hold That Girl (1934)
Barney Sullivan
365 Nights in Hollywood (1934)
Jimmie Dale
Change of Heart (1934)
Mack McGowan
Stand Up and Cheer! (1934)
Jimmy Dugan
Hold Me Tight (1933)
Chuck [Evans]
Arizona to Broadway (1933)
Smiley
Take a Chance (1933)
Duke Stanley
Hello, Sister! (1933)
Jimmy
The Girl in 419 (1933)
Dr. Daniel French
Sailor's Luck (1933)
Jimmy [Fenimore] Harrigan
Jimmy and Sally (1933)
Jimmy [O'Connor]
Handle with Care (1932)
Bill Gordon
Dance Team (1932)
Jimmy Mulligan
Society Girl (1932)
Johnny Malone
Over the Hill (1931)
Johnny Shelby
Sob Sister (1931)
Garry Webster
Bad Girl (1931)
The Boy [Eddie Collins]
Deliverance (1919)
Life saver

Cinematography (Feature Film)

Alcatraz Is Not An Island (2000)
Camera
Alcatraz Is Not An Island (2000)
Cinematographer

Sound (Feature Film)

Devil Tiger (1934)
Sound

Art Department (Feature Film)

Werewolves on Wheels (1971)
Props

Film Production - Main (Feature Film)

For Their Own Good (1992)
Production Assistant
The Ski Bum (1971)
Production Assistant

Misc. Crew (Feature Film)

Alcatraz Is Not An Island (2000)
Other

Cast (Special)

Moyers: God and Politics (1987)

Cinematography (Special)

The Tom Green Cancer Special (2000)
Camera Operator

Misc. Crew (Special)

Rich Dad, Poor Dad With Robert Kiyosaki (2001)
Jib Operator

Cast (Short)

Rhumba Rhythm at the Hollywood La Conga (1939)
Himself
Believe It or Not #15 (1931)
Believe It or Not #3 (1931)

Life Events

1930

Broadway acting debut

1931

Made film debut in Fox's "Bad Girl"

1940

Returned to Broadway in "Panama Hattie"

1951

Filed for bankruptcy

1966

Made last film, "The Oscar"

Photo Collections

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn - Movie Poster
Here is the American one-sheet movie poster for Fox' A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945), directed by Elia Kazan. One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.
Living on Love - Lobby Cards
Here are several Lobby Cards from Living on Love (1937). Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.
Living on Love - British Pressbook
Here is the campaign book (pressbook) for the British release of RKO's Living on Love (1937). Pressbooks were sent to exhibitors and theater owners to aid them in publicizing the film's run in their theater.
Living on Love - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
Here are a few photos taken behind-the-scenes during production of RKO's Living on Love (1937), directed by Lew Landers and starring James Dunn and Whitney Bourne.
Living on Love - Scene Stills
Here are a number of scene stills from RKO's Living on Love (1937), directed by Lew Landers and starring James Dunn and Whitney Bourne.

Videos

Movie Clip

That Brennan Girl (1946) - Cold As An Igloo Another anecdote from her hard-case San Fransisco upbringing, Mona Freeman as Ziggy (title character) gets sprung by her brassy mother (June Duprez) then at a party with Ed (Steve Pendleton), usurped by James Dunn (his first scene, as Denny), in Republic Pictures’ That Brennan Girl, 1946.
That Brennan Girl (1946) - Skies In Your Eyes Now a practicing San Francisco con-artist, working with her partner Denny (James Dunn), Ziggy (Mona Freeman, title character) gets sent to make a phone call and tumbles to a new mark, soldier Mart (William Marshall), in That Brennan Girl, 1946, based on work by journalist Adela Rogers St. Johns.
Living On Love (1937) - A Sausage Heiress Snoopy landlord Eli (Solly Ward) has taken a new tenant but doesn’t have a room, so he visits basement dweller Gary (James Dunn, his first scene), a commercial artist, who’s tangling with girlfriend Edith Crumwell (Joan Woodbury), of the Crumwell Sausage family, in RKO’s Living On Love, 1937.
Living On Love (1937) - Have You Murder In Your Heart? Mary Wilson (Whitney Bourne), in a cafe practicing her pitch for her new razor-sales job, wins the attention of dazzled Gary Martin (James Dunn), neither of them knowing they’re the feuding tenants sharing an apartment in opposite hours, in RKO’s Living On Love, 1937.
Tree Grows in Brooklyn, A (1945) - Anybody Seen Johnny Nolan's Wife? Johnny Nolan (James Dunn) works his irascible charm on his daughter Francie (Peggy Ann Garner), wife Katie (Dorothy McGuire) and the rest of the neighborhood in Elia Kazan's A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, 1945.
Bright Eyes (1934) - Have You Seen Shirley? We're just meeting jolly pilot Loop (James Dunn) when the conversation turns to his godchild, the star, Shirley Temple, age six, playing "Shirley" whom, we learn, is the daughter of his late fellow-aviator friend, opening the first picture written for Temple, from 20th Century-Fox, Bright Eyes, 1934.
Bright Eyes (1934) - On The Good Ship Lollipop This is six year-old Shirley Temple performing what remains her best-known song, for "Loop" (James Dunn) and friends, aviator colleagues of her late father, taxiing on board a DC-2, music by Richard Whiting, lyrics by Sidney Clare, in 20th Century-Fox's Bright Eyes, 1934.
Government Girl - Who's Getting Married? Clever "Smokey" (Olivia de Havilland) rescues the hotel lobby wedding of May (Anne Shirley) and Joe (James Dunn), with help from new-in-town Browne (Sonny Tufts), in a meet-cute from writer-director Dudley Nichols, in Government Girl, 1944.

Trailer

Family

William Tick
Step-Son
Son of widow, survived him.

Companions

Edna O'Lier
Wife
Divorced.
Frances Gifford
Wife
Actor. Divorced.
Edna Rush
Wife
Singer. Survived him.

Bibliography