• 13 October 1891
  •  Buffalo, New York, USA

Irene Rich


Born Irene Luther on October 13, 1891, silent-screen femme Irene Rich came from a once well-to-do family in Buffalo, New York. Her father had a reversal of fortune while she was quite young and the family subsequently had to move to California. Following her education, Irene pursued a career as a realtor. She had already married twice by the time she decided to become an actress and, by the "ripe old age" of 27, had begun working as a movie extra. Success came quickly for Irene and her first part of real substance was in The Girl in His House (1918). She continued on as a poised, resourceful co-star and became a particular favorite of Will Rogers, who used her in Water, Water, Everywhere (1920), The Strange Boarder (1920), Jes' Call Me Jim (1920), Boys Will Be Boys (1921) and The Ropin' Fool (1922). Her array of leading men ran the gamut -- from Harry Carey in Desperate Trails (1921) to Lon Chaney in The Trap (1922) to John Barrymore in Beau Brummel (1924) to movie mutt Strongheart the Dog in Brawn of the North (1922). Irene's true screen persona, however, arrived in the form of tearjerkers, nobly portraying the ever-suffering, well-coiffed "doormat" in her own plush, domestic dramas. Somewhat reminiscent in both looks, style and demeanor of Irene Dunne, she became a favorite in women's pictures throughout the 1920s, one of her best known roles being in Lady Windermere's Fan (1925). With age Irene moved into more motherly roles, and by the coming of sound she was playing Will Rogers' pushy wife in a few of his social comedies, including So This Is London (1930) and Down to Earth (1932). At around the same time Irene enjoyed a spectacular new career on radio. In 1933 she began her nationwide anthology program entitled "Dear John" (also called "The Irene Rich Show"), which lasted over a decade. Her leading man on that show for many of those years was Gale Gordon, who later played Lucille Ball's apoplectic boss and nemesis on 1960s TV. Irene also enjoyed some success on stage in such productions as "Seven Keys to Baldpate" (1935), which starred George M. Cohan. Eventually she left it all, marrying a fourth time to businessman George Henry Clifford in 1950, and settling in comfortable retirement. She died at age 96 quietly of heart failure and was survived by two daughters, one of whom, Frances Rich, was an actress briefly on the 1930s stage and screen before becoming a noted sculptor.


Movie Name Release Date
The Mortal Storm (1940) June 14, 1940