James Howard Dunn was an American film actor.
Born in New York City of Irish descent, Dunn was the son of a Wall Street stockbroker who, according to Dunn, “either had a million or nothing.” Dunn started his entertainment career in vaudeville before progressing to films at Paramount’s Astoria studios in the late 1920s. He was signed by Fox in 1931, making 22 films and several more on loan-out. He made a strong first impression with his first role, in Bad Girl. He went on to make several formula films, including Society Girl with Peggy Shannon and Hello, Sister! with Boots Mallory and ZaSu Pitts. Dunn’s other early successes included four Shirley Temple films in 1934, Baby Take a Bow, Stand Up and Cheer!, Change of Heart and Bright Eyes.
The roles that followed did nothing to further his career, and during the late 1930s his prospects were further diminished by a battle with alcoholism. In 1945 his performance in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn earned him an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, playing an alcoholic ne’er-do-well Irish father. His success was short lived and by the beginning of the 1950s, he was unemployed, bankrupt, and once again depending on alcohol. After 1950, he appeared in only three feature films, but continued working in television until his death. He appeared in the sitcom It’s A Great Life from 1954 until 1956.
Dunn was married three times. His first, to Edna O’Lier, ended in divorced. He was married to the actress Frances Gifford from 1938 until 1942. He married his third wife, Edna Rush in 1945, who survived him at his death on September 3, 1967 at the age of 65 from complications following stomach surgery in Santa Monica, California.