Born Irene Francis Luther in Buffalo, New York into a well off family, but when the father suffered of "reversal of fortune," this sent the family off looking for opportunities; first to a mining town Idaho, then settling on Spokane, Washington. [It is often reported that the family went to California, they never lived there.] While living out west, she married a young traveling salesman in 1909, after reportedly hearing that her parents where talking about sending her to boarding school. The marriage produced one daughter named Frances, and the young family moved to the Bay Area around San Francisco; they were divorced after two years of marriage. She next married Charles Henry Rich, a lieutenant in the US Army; she had one daughter with him, Martha, and he adopted Frances, giving her and her daughter the last name--hence her stage name. This marriage lasted 4 years. Irene then entered studies for and went into real estate to support her two daughters; she eventually ended up in Hollywood in 1918. She was 27 years of age. Her first work, like so many untrained actors in the 1910's came as an extra. Her first appearance on the "Silver Screen," came as in that capacity in 1918 in A Desert Wooing. Her first credited role came that same year in The Girl In This House (yet another lost film). She eventually went to work (at least part time) for Will Rogers starting in 1920. This working relationship with Rogers lasted into the talkies. She was often cast in roles as a society type-- in regards to the Roger's pairing it was the perfect foil for some of Roger's "simple Oakie" type characters. In the 1930's she took to the radio and became a very popular character there; while continuing to act in what was by then full sound films. Clearly, she had significant voice talent. She also took to the stage a couple of times in the 1930's as well. Her last appearance film came in 1948: Joan Of Arc. Her last appearance in any acting role came in 1949 with her only television appearance The Chevrolet Tele-Theater.
|Rich in very late Vamp look in the 1920's|
Irene Rich died of heart failure in Hope Ranch, California on the 22nd of April 1988 though some sources cite that are ashes were interred in Calvary Cemetery, Los Angeles, the cemetery says that her ashes were scattered in an unmarked location within the property. Her daughter Frances Rich followed her mother into film acting briefly in the 1930's, before quitting to become a sculptor.