Chicago born Irene Dalton (1900-1934) followed her older sister Dorothy Dalton into pictures in 1920 following a few years as a stenographer. (Dorothy’s film career had begun in 1914. She was later married to Lew Cody and then Arthur Hammerstein). Irene’s career was limited to 19 comedy shorts for the Christie company between 1920 and 1923, with such costars as Neal Burns, Al St. John, and Lloyd Hamilton, as well as the features Children of Jazz and Bluebeard’s 8th Wife, both in 1923. (The latter film starred Gloria Swanson).
Today, Irene is better remembered for scandal than her movie career. In 1924, she was arrested, along with married bottle manufacturing heir Raymond Owens under the Mann Act (crossing state lines for “immoral purposes”.) The incident was used in a messy and public divorce trial by Owens’ wife. Irene then went on to marry Charles Meehan, a five time convicted bootlegger. In early 1927 the pair, along with comedy star Lloyd Hamilton were involved in a drunken melee in a speakeasy in which a young boxer named Eddie Diggins was killed. Shortly after this Dalton divorced Meehan and became Hamilton’s second wife. The marriage only lasted a few months (1927-28), due to Hamilton’s drunkenness, reported abusiveness, and his appropriation of some of Dalton’s property (jewels and a car). Hamilton’s career took a downturn at this stage. Irene returned to Chicago, where she died at the age of 33.
For more on early slapstick film comedy, please read Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube.
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