James Dunn - Updated Jun 2024

Updated On June 3, 2024
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James Dunn

James Dunn is a legendary late American stage, film, and television actor, and vaudeville performer. James Dunn is known for the role of Johnny Nolan, the dreamy alcoholic father in the 1945 film, “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.”

Early Life

James Dunn was born in Manhattan, New York, the United States, on November 2, 1901. His full name is James Howard Dunn and held US citizenship. He died at the age of 65 years old and had a birth sign of Scorpio. In addition, he belonged to Irish ethnicity.

The names of his parents were Ralph H. Dunn and Jessie L. Archer. His father was a member of the New York Stock Exchange. Meanwhile, he was the only child of his parents. In addition, he was raised in New Rochelle, New York.


In terms of his academics, he attended a local community school in nearby his hometown. During his school days, he often skipped high school classes to hang around film studios in the upper Bronx.

James Dunn – Death

He died at the age of 65, on the 1st of September 1967, from complications following stomach surgery at Santa Monica Hospital. Around 200 people, including other actors, attended his memorial ceremony in Santa Monica.

Professional Career

Initially, James Dunn tried his hand at sales, selling lunch wagons and also becoming an automobile demonstrator. Moreover, he spent three years working at his father’s brokerage company. But his true passion was the theatre. He quit his father’s business in 1927 to join a small theatre group.

He earned a film contract with Fox later and travelled to Hollywood; the following year, his mother moved in with him. Moreover, he got the male role in Sweet Adeline, a 1929 Broadway musical, opposite Helen Morgan. In 1931, he made his screen debut in the film “Bad Girl.”

Continued his successful career

Fox immediately re-teamed Dunn and Eilers in Over the Hill (1931), followed by Dance Team (1932), Sailor’s Luck (1933), and Hold Me Tight (1933). He also starred in Sob Sister (1931), Society Girl (1932), and Hello, Sister! (1933). By the end of 1932, Dunn was regarded as “one of the top ten box office draws.” He was dubbed “America’s boy friend” by the end of 1933.

“Stand Up and Cheer!” stars Dunn and Shirley Temple as a father and daughter who perform a song-and-dance performance. Their spectacular performance inspired studio executives to cast them immediately in a sequel, “Baby Take a Bow,” a remake of the 1928 silent film ‘Square Crooks.’ Their third filmed collaboration was in “Bright Eyes.” Temple was cast in a brief role as Dunn’s neighbour in “Change of Heart” the same year.

Broke deal with Fox

Dunn performed in 30 films during his five-year deal with Fox. He broke his studio contract two years before it expired in 1935, at the height of his success. He was ready to begin filming a version of “The Song and Dance Man” when Fox announced its merger with Twentieth Century Pictures.

Caption: The poster of the 1945 film, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Source: Wikipedia)

After five years of not working for a major studio, he was chosen by director Elia Kazan for the role of Johnny Nolan, the dreamy alcoholic father in “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” (1945), for which he won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.

However, the Oscar did not help his film career, and while he continued to work in Broadway musicals, he became a character actor on television. From 1954 to 1956, he was a regular on the smash sitcom It’s a Great Life, and he appeared in hundreds of episodes of popular television shows from the 1950s to the mid-1960s.

James Dunn – Awards

Dunn won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his work in ‘A Tree Grows in Brooklyn’ in 1945. He has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame: 7010 Hollywood Boulevard for his services to television and 6555 Hollywood Boulevard for his contributions to feature movies.

Net Worth

As per online websites, Dunn’s net worth was estimated at around $2.3 million when he died. He has been able to make such an amount of money through his acting roles in movies and TV series.

Relationship Status

James Dunn has been married three times previously. First, he married Edna O’Lier, but their marriage ended in divorce. Later, in 1938, he married actress Frances Gifford, but their marriage did not last and ended in divorce in 1942.

James Dunn

Caption: James Dunn with his wife, Edna Rush (Source: WordPress)

Edna Rush was his third wife, and they married in 1945. She survived him when he died in 1967. There is no information available on the internet about his kids.

Body Measurements

Caption: James Dunn posing for a photo (Source: Pinterest)

The late actor stands 6 feet tall and has an average height. In addition, he has a pair of light brown eyes with light brown hair colour while his other body measurements such as his dress size, shoe size, and others are still unknown.

James Dunn – Social Media

The veteran actor is no longer alive in this world so, he is not active on social media like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.