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Iris Meredith

Real name:
Iris Marie Shunn

1915 - 1980

(Courtesy of Randy Laing)

Above - Bill Elliott and Iris Meredith in the OVERLAND WITH KIT CARSON (Columbia, 1939) cliffhanger, Elliott's second serial for Columbia Pictures.

(Courtesy of Minard Coons)

Above and below - Iris Meredith with Charles Starrett in RIDERS OF THE BLACK RIVER (Columbia, 1939).

(Courtesy of Minard Coons)

Iris Meredith is one of my favorite heroines ... and is among the most beautiful leading ladies of the B western and cliffhanger.

Iris Marie Shunn was born in Sioux City, Woodbury County, Iowa on June 3, 1915 to Lola Marie Ross and William Gell Shunn. Soon after her birth, the family re-located - first to St. Paul, Minnesota and in the 1920s, they were in Los Angeles. Her mother passed away in 1927 and her father died in 1931. Teenager Iris became the bread winner and assumed parenting responsibilities of her younger brother and sister.

Her film career spanned from the early 1930s to the early 1940s. Initial film jobs were uncredited bit parts and purportedly, she's one of the Goldwyn Girls in the Eddie Cantor ROMAN SCANDALS (Goldwyn/United Artists, 1933). Among her first credited roles was heroine duty in Charles Starrett's THE COWBOY STAR (Columbia, 1936) and Bob Allen's RIO GRANDE RANGER (Columbia, 1936). Then she played leading lady in three with Johnny Mack Brown for producer A. W. Hackel at Republic Pictures and a Tex Ritter adventure at Grand National.

Iris is best remembered for her work at Columbia Pictures. She was the female lead in three serials: THE SPIDER'S WEB (Columbia, 1938) with Warren Hull; OVERLAND WITH KIT CARSON (Columbia, 1939) with Bill Elliott; and THE GREEN ARCHER (Columbia, 1940) with Victor Jory. And she appeared in over two dozen Columbia westerns - twenty with Charles Starrett, four with Bill Elliott, and one with Bob Allen. (Trivia - none of her twenty Charles Starretts were "Durango Kid" adventures.)

She free-lanced after her Columbia contract ended and her last films were a dismal Henry Armetta comedy and oaters with Buster Crabbe and the Texas Rangers. Those were released 1941 - 1943 by PRC (Producers Releasing Corporation).

Les Adams has Iris identified in about 50 films, of which 32 are westerns and 3 are serials.

Her first marriage to art director Jack Otterson (1905 - 1991) lasted about a year and the September 4, 1940 and September 10, 1941 issues of Variety had reports of their marriage and divorce. John Edward Otterson spent many years at Universal, and was art director on THE WOLFMAN (1941), THE GHOST OF FRANKENSTEIN (1942), THE MUMMY'S TOMB (1942), Johnny Mack Brown westerns, Basil Rathbone / Sherlock Holmes series, lots more.

Her second marriage to Abby Berlin (1907 - 1965) was successful. At Columbia Pictures, Berlin helmed many of the BLONDIE films of the 1940s, and later worked on television programs for Columbia's Screen Gems TV subsidiary. Daughter Deanna / Deanne was born September 13, 1943. With their expanded family, Iris exited the movie business. Hubby Abby Berlin passed away in 1965.

In later life, she fought a long battle with oral cancer which required many surgeries and disfigured her face. But the illness did not damper her grace, wit, and spirit.

Iris guested at the 1976 Western Film Festival in Nashville and attendees were delighted, supportive ... and gave her a standing ovation when she was presented with her Film Festival commemorative plaque.

She lost her battle with cancer and passed away on January 22, 1980 and is interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale, California.

The Family Search website, California Death Index, Social Security Death Index (SSDI), newspapers, and trade publications have more on Iris Meredith / Iris Marie Shunn and family:

In March, 2022, I checked and there were some family trees with Iris. Most had the basic census info as noted above. Was surprised that most did not have any Hollywood glamour images of her and no family photos. I did send messages to various family tree owners.

Find A Grave website has a photo of the marker for Iris Meredith Berlin (1915 - 1980) and husband Abby Berlin (1907 - 1965) at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale, California:

Iris' parents are also interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale, California:
     Lola Shunn (1888 - 1927):
     William G. Shunn (1894 - 1931):

Iris' first husband, John Edward 'Jack' Otterson (1905 - 1991), is interred at Riverside National Military Cemetery, Riverside, Riverside County, California:

  Although some of the data is incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has information on Iris, first husband Jack Otterson, and second husband Abby Berlin:
      Iris Meredith:
      Jack Otterson (1905 - 1991):
      Abby Berlin (1907 - 1965):

Film historian and author Ed Hulse has a wonderful interview with Iris during her attendance at the 1976 Western Film Festival in Nashville:

Daniel Neyer's "The Files of Jerry Blake" serial website has more on Iris Meredith in cliffhangers:

(Courtesy of Les Adams)

L-to-R are Charles Starrett, Iris Meredith, and Sons of the Pioneers member Bob Nolan in SPOILERS OF THE RANGE (Columbia, 1939).

(Courtesy of Les Adams)

L-to-R are Hank Bell (with his customary moustache), Charles Starrett, Kenneth MacDonald, Iris Meredith, and Ed Cobb in another scene from SPOILERS OF THE RANGE (Columbia, 1939).

(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above is the title lobby card for OUTPOST OF THE MOUNTIES (Columbia, 1939) which starred Charles Starrett and featured Iris Meredith and the Sons of the Pioneers. It was one of six films with an RCMP theme in which Starrett had the lead.

(Courtesy of Les Adams)

In the front row are Sons of the Pioneers member Bob Nolan (on the paint hoss), Iris Meredith, and Charles Starrett in a lobby card from BLAZING SIX SHOOTERS (Columbia, 1940). In the back row are several other SOP members - that's Lloyd Perryman (far left), Tim Spencer is behind Nolan, two unidentifieds are behind Iris and Starrett, and Hugh Farr is on the far right.

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