Irene Rich

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Irene Rich
Irene Rich Ball.jpg
Rich in 1930
Irene Frances Luther

(1891-10-13)October 13, 1891
DiedApril 22, 1988(1988-04-22) (aged 96)
Years active19181949
Elvo Deffenbaugh
(m. 1909;div. 1911)

Charles Rich
(m. 1912;div. 1916)

David F. Blankenhorn
(m. 1927;div. 1931)

George Henry Clifford
(m. 1950;died 1959)
Children2, including Frances Rich

Irene Rich (born Irene Frances Luther; October 13, 1891 April 22, 1988) was an American actress who worked in both silent films and talkies, as well as radio.


Early life

Irene Rich Irenerich.jpg
Irene Rich

Rich was born in Buffalo, New York [1] to Mabel A. Luther (née Robinson) and William Martin Luther. She was raised in the Buffalo area and then Stites, Idaho, and Spokane, Washington with her older half-brother Edwin Darius Luther (18841961) and younger brother, Richard Robinson Luther.[ citation needed ]

At age 17, she wed Elvo Elcourt Deffenbaugh at All Saints' Cathedral in Spokane, Washington on February 17, 1909, [2] after her parents talked about sending her to boarding school. The couple had one child, born Irene Frances Luther Deffenbaugh, who later adopted her stepfather's surname and was a stage and film actress in the 1930s known as Frances Rich before becoming a noted sculptor. Elvo Deffenbaugh was a salesman who traveled a lot. The young family moved to the Bay Area of San Francisco, where the marriage ended after two years. [1]

Next, Irene married Charles Henry Rich, who was then a lieutenant in the United States Army (became a major during World War I and was later a lieutenant colonel), in Portland, Oregon on January 9, 1912. The two had met when he was stationed with the 25th Infantry at Fort George Wright in Spokane. [3] They had one daughter, Martha Jane Rich, who was born on December 13, 1916. [4] The marriage ended after four years. Luther went into real estate to provide for herself and her daughters. She then went to Hollywood in 1918 and found work as an extra. [1]


Rich with Will Rogers and Theodore Lodi in Down to Earth, 1932 Irene Rich Will Rogers Theodore Lodi Down to Earth.jpg
Rich with Will Rogers and Theodore Lodi in Down to Earth, 1932

Rich worked for Will Rogers, who used her in eight pictures, including Water Water Everywhere (1920), The Strange Boarder (1920), Jes' Call Me Jim (1920), Boys Will Be Boys (1921) and The Ropin' Fool (1921). She often portrayed society women, such as in the 1925 adaptation of Lady Windermere's Fan and also in Queen of the Yukon (1940). In two of her last films she played a frontier wife and mother. She was the mother of Gail Russell's character 'Penelope Worth', in John Wayne's Angel and the Badman as well as in John Ford's cavalry story Fort Apache in which she portrayed Mrs. O'Rourke, the wife of Sergeant O'Rourke (Ward Bond).[ citation needed ]

In the 1930s, Rich did much work in radio. From 1933 to 1944, she hosted a nationwide anthology program of serialized mini-dramas, Dear John (aka The Irene Rich Show). Her leading man was actor Gale Gordon, (who later played Lucille Ball's apoplectic boss "Mr. Mooney" on TV). In the early 1940s, Rich starred in Glorious One on NBC Blue. [5] Rich appeared in stage productions, including Seven Keys to Baldpate (1935) which starred George M. Cohan, the creator of the play, and later As the Girls Go in 1948.[ citation needed ]

Personal life

Rich married for the third time on April 6, 1927, in Del Monte, California, to real estate mogul David Ferguson Blankenhorn (1886-1969), at the home of William May Garland. Blankenhorn was well known in the Los Angeles real estate market, was a longtime resident of Pasadena and San Francisco, and handled the transaction of William Wrigley, Jr. purchasing Catalina Island in 1919. [6] Rich and Blankenhorn separated at least three times in the summer and fall of 1931, [7] they filed for divorce on October 30, 1931, [8] they were divorced that November.

She became involved in a deadly love triangle in 1949 when Agnes Elizabeth Garnier shot and killed wealthy businessman John Edwin Owen (18811949). Owen, formerly a businessman and politician from Michigan, was president of the National Apartment House Owner's Association, among other business interests, including cattle and horse ranching in Gunnison, Colorado and Riverside, California. The Riverside County Sheriff's Department investigator said that Garnier killed Owen (who was married, but estranged and separated from his wife) and blamed Rich for coming between them. Garnier, Owen's personal secretary, told the district attorney that the gun went off accidentally and she took the gun from an intoxicated Owen as he was going to bed. Rich said that she was not in love with Owen and that they were just friends. [9] Garnier plead not guilty. [10] The prosecutor decided not to try for first degree murder, [11] and she was found guilty of manslaughter, and received a sentence of "one-to-ten" years. [12] Garnier, after losing her appeal in January 1950, [13] was released from Tehachapi Prison after serving less than a year-and-a-half, in May 1951. [14] She died in San Diego in 1990 at the age of 93. [15]

Family and Death

Rich was married four times, the first time at age 17. She had two daughters, Frances and Jane. [1] On February 28, 1950, Rich married her last husband, George Henry Clifford (1881-1959), a public utilities executive, at the Sherry-Netherlands Hotel in New York City. He was president of Stone & Webster Service Corporation. [16] The couple bought an avocado ranch within Hope Ranch, near Santa Barbara, in 1956, [17] where they lived out the remainder of their lives.[ citation needed ]

On April 22, 1988, Irene Rich died at age 96 of heart failure in Hope Ranch, California. [1]

Rich has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, one for her contribution to the motion picture industry at 6225 Hollywood Boulevard and one for her contributions to the radio industry at 6150 Hollywood Boulevard.


1918 A Desert Wooing Bit Roleprint survives, Uncreidted
The Girl in His HouseBetty Burlinghamlost
A Law Unto HerselfStephanieprint survives
1919 Todd of the Times Janet Miltonlost
A Man in the OpenKatelost
Diane of the Green Van Keelalost
The Silver GirlJulia Raymondprint survives
Castles in the Air Mrs. Owen Pauncefortlost
The Lone Star Ranger Mrs. Laramielost
The Blue Bonnet Martha Drakelost
The SneakEnid Granleylost
Wolves of the Night Juanitalost
Her Purchase Price Mardalost
The Spite BrideEileen Mooreprint survives
1920 Water, Water, Everywhere Hope Beecherlost
The Street Called StraightDrusilla Fane lost
The Strange Boarder Jane Ingrahamlost
Jes' Call Me Jim Miss Butterworthprint survives
Stop Thief Madge Carrprint survives
Just Out of CollegeMiss Joneslost
Godless Men Black Pawl's Wifeprint survives
1921 Sunset Jones Marion Rand lost
One Man in a MillionMadame Maureveaulost
Boys Will Be Boys Lucylost
A Tale of Two Worlds Mrs. Carmichaelprint survives
A Voice in the Dark Blanche Waltonprint survives
Desperate Trails Mrs. Walkerlost
The Invisible Power Laura Chadwicklost
The Poverty of RichesMrs. Holtlost
1922The Call of HomeAlix Lansing lost
Strength of the PinesLindalost
The Trap The Teacherprint survives
One Clear Call Maggie Thorntonprint survives
A Fool There Was Mrs. Schuylerlost
The Yosemite Trail Eve Marshamlost
The Ropin' FoolThe GirlShort
Brawn of the North Marion Wellslost
While Justice Waits Nell Huntlost
The Marriage ChanceMary Douglaslost
Fruits of FaithLarry's WifeShort
1923Dangerous TrailsGrace Aldersonprint survives; Lobster Films
Brass Mrs. Grotenberg / aka Mrs. Gprint survives
Snowdrift Kittylost
Michael O'HalloranNellie Minturnlost
Yesterday's Wife Megan Dayelost
Rosita The Queenprint survives
Defying Destiny Beth Aldenprint survives (available for online viewing)
Lucretia Lombard Lucretia Morganprint survives
Boy of Mine Ruth Latimerlost
1924Pal o' MineJulia Montfortprint survives
Beau Brummel Frederica Charlotte, Duchess of Yorkprint survives
Cytherea Fanny Randonlost
Being Respectable Suzanne Schuylerlost
Captain January Isabelle Mortonprint survives
A Woman Who SinnedMrs. Ransdelllost
Behold This Woman Louise Maurel
What the Butler Saw Mrs. Barrington*this is a British by Gaumont
This Woman Carol Draytonprint survives; Lobster Films
A Lost Lady Marian Forresterlost
1925 My Wife and I Mrs. James Bordenlost
The Man Without a Conscience Shirley Gravesprint survives
Eve's Lover Eva Burnsidelost
The Wife Who Wasn't Wanted Mrs. John Manneringlost
Compromise Joan Trevorelost
Pleasure BuyersJoan Wiswellprint held; Museum of Modern Art, New York
Lady Windermere's Fan Mrs. Erlynneprint survives
1926 Silken Shackles Denise Lakelost
The Honeymoon Express Mary Lambertlost
My Official Wife Helene, Countess Orlofflost
1927 Don't Tell the Wife Mrs. Cartierlost
The Climbers Duchess of Arroganlost
Dearie Sylvia Darling / aka "Dearie"lost
The Desired Woman Diana Maxwelllost
The Silver Slave Bernice Randalllost
1928 Beware of Married Men Myra Martinprint survives, incomplete (1 reel only)
Across the Atlantic Minor Rolelost, Uncredited
Powder My Back Fritzi Foylost
Craig's Wife Mrs. Craiglost
The Perfect Crime Stellalost, first Irene Rich film to have dialogue, a part-talkie from FBO
Women They Talk About Irene Mervin Hugheslost
Ned McCobb's Daughter Carollost
1929 Daughters of Desire
The Exalted Flapper Queen Charlotte of Capralost
They Had to See Paris Idy Peters
Shanghai Rose Shanghai Rose*final pure silent film;including versions with Movietone or Vitaphone
1930 So This Is London Mrs. Hiram Draper
On Your Back Julianne
Check and Double Check Mrs. Blair
1931 Beau Ideal Lady Brandon
Father's Son Ruth Emory
Strangers May Kiss Celia
Five and Ten Jenny Rarick
The Mad Parade Mrs. Schuyler
Wicked Mrs. Luther
The Champ Linda Carleton
1932 Down to Earth Idy Peters
Her Mad Night Joan Manners
Manhattan Tower Ann Burns
1934 Spitfire Woman(scenes deleted)
1938Hollywood HandicapWoman at RacetrackShort, Uncredited
That Certain Age Dorothy Fullerton
1939The Right WayMrs. MartinShort
Everybody's Hobby Mrs. Myra Leslie
1940 The Mortal Storm Mrs. Emilia Roth
The Lady in Question Michele Morestan
The Queen of the YukonSadie Martin
Keeping Company Mrs. Thomas
1941 Three Sons o' Guns Mrs. Margaret Patterson
1942 This Time for Keeps Mrs. BryantAlternative title: Over the Waves
1947 Calendar Girl Lulu VardenAlternative title: Star Dust and Sweet Music
Angel and the Badman Mrs. Worth
New Orleans Mrs. Rutledge Smith
1948 Fort Apache Mary O'Rourke
Joan of Arc Catherine le Royer
1949The Chevrolet Tele-Theatre1 episode, (final appearance)

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  1. 1 2 3 4 5 Flint, Peter B. (April 25, 1988), "Irene Rich, Silent-Screen Actress And Radio Personality, Dies at 96", The New York Times
  2. "Society", The Spokesman-Review, p. 2, February 21, 1909
  3. "Spokane Society Woman Becomes Bride Of Lieutenant From Fort", Spokane Daily Chronicle, p. 3, January 9, 1912
  4. California Birth Index - California Department of Health Services Office of Health Information and Research.
  5. "(photo caption)" (PDF). Radio and Television Mirror. 14 (6): 26. October 1940. Retrieved March 10, 2015.
  6. "Irene Rich Is Married", The Spokesman-Review, Associated Press, April 7, 1927
  7. Merrick, Mollie (October 30, 1931), "Stars And Talkies Of Hollywood", The Spokesman-Review, North American Newspaper Alliance, p. 5
  8. "Irene Rich Cruel, Charge", The Spokesman-Review, Associated Press, p. 1, October 30, 1931
  9. "Woman Held For Killing Wealthy Man", St. Petersburg Times, Associated Press, p. 1, April 24, 1949
  10. "Owen Case Witness Names Irene Rich", Los Angeles Times, p. 4, May 10, 1949
  11. Ryon, Art (June 17, 1949), "Garnier Case May Go to Jury Today", Los Angeles Times, p. 5
  12. Ryon, Art (June 18, 1949), "Mrs. Garnier Convicted of Manslaughter", Los Angeles Times, p. 1
  13. "Mrs. Garnier Must Go to Prison for Slaying", Los Angeles Times, p. 4, January 19, 1950
  14. "Mrs. Gamier Is Released From Prison", Los Angeles Times, p. A, May 9, 1951
  15. California Death Index. - California Department of Health Services Office of Health Information and Research.
  16. "Irene Rich To Marry Again", The Hartford Courant, p. 2, February 28, 1950
  17. "Drama", Los Angeles Times, p. 26, March 5, 1956