Irene (1940 film)

Last updated
Original poster
Directed by Herbert Wilcox
Produced byHerbert Wilcox
Screenplay by Alice Duer Miller
Based on Irene
by Harry Tierney
James H. Montgomery
Joseph McCarthy
Starring Anna Neagle
Ray Milland
Roland Young
Alan Marshal
Music by Anthony Collins (underscore)
Harry Tierney (song score)
Cinematography Russell Metty
Edited by Elmo Williams
Distributed by RKO Radio Pictures
Release date
  • May 3, 1940 (1940-05-03)
Running time
101 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$578,000 [1]
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.



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 accidentally ruins the gown she was given to wear and substitutes a quaint blue dress belonging 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 and 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 sweetheart 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. [4] 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 the sequence set at Mrs. Vincent's society ball, featuring the musical number "Alice Blue Gown," which was filmed in Technicolor. The scene is replayed as an installment of Rex Gordon's Moviebone News, a spoof of the Movietone News shorts that were popular at the time. Also seen in the pseudo-news segment are the Dandridge Sisters. [4] Making cameo appearances in the film are Johnny Long and His Orchestra and The Rockettes. This version downplays the "Madame Lucy" character, with the other versions of Irene presenting "Lucy" as actually a very campy gay man.

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

YearAwardCategoryRecipient(s) and nominee(s)Result
1941 Academy Awards Best Music, Score Anthony Collins Nominated

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  1. 1 2 3 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. 1 2 3 "Irene (1940) - Overview -". Turner Classic Movies.