Ciara McKay

Thesis title: Faith and Feminism: Irene Dunne’s Stardom, 1930-52


Ciara is a final year PhD candidate working under the supervision of Dr. David Sorfa and Professor Jolyon Mitchell. Her doctoral thesis studies the life and work of the American actress Irene Dunne (1898-1990). 

She completed her undergraduate degree in music at the University of Edinburgh, during which she first became interested in the study of cinema from Hollywood's classical period. Subsequently, she completed a Masters in film studies at the University, centring her thesis on the stardom of the actress Ann Sheridan. She was a tutor on the 'Introduction to European Cinema' course for two years in the School of Literature, Languages, and Cultures at the University of Edinburgh. 


Bachelor of Music (Hons) - First Class - The University of Edinburgh

MSc Film Studies - Distinction - The University of Edinburgh

Research summary

Ciara's research focusses on the stardom of the actress Irene Dunne (1898-1990), with a particular interest in her independent persona, and political and religious beliefs. By using archival material alongside close analysis of Dunne's film performances, her thesis aims to shed light on the career of an under-appreciated star of classical Hollywood cinema. 

Current research interests

Feminism, Women's Histories, Classical Hollywood Cinema, Republicanism, Catholicism, Auteur Studies

Past research interests

Ann Sheridan's stardom, film promotion and narrative song

Papers delivered

‘...we’re just looking for a place to hide and watch it all go by.’: War, masculinity and fragility in John Huston’s Key Largo (1948), The Red Badge of Courage (1951), and The Misfits (1961),' Masculinity Crisis in the Americas, Queen’s University, Belfast, 1st-2nd November 2019.

“Perfect Ladies” are Seldom Interesting’: Reclaiming Irene Dunne’s Stardom from the Archives, 1930-35,' Stardom and the Archive: An International Symposium, The University of Exeter, 8th-9th February 2020.

'Othered Mothers: Irene Dunne and atypical motherhood in My Favourite Wife (1940) and Penny Serenade (1941),' Doing Women's Film and Television History conference, Maynooth University (virtual), 10th-11th July 2021. 

'The Glory of American Womanhood’: Irene Dunne and Marian Motherhood in 1940s Hollywood,' The 31st International Screen Studies Conference (virtual), 1st-3rd July 2022. 

'‘“Perfect ladies” are seldom interesting’: locating modernity in Irene Dunne’s early stardom', Historical Journal of Film, Radio, and Television (2022)


Undergraduate Teaching

Introduction to European Cinema - Course Tutor - 2019/20, 2020/21