Personal life and early career
Burton was born as Iris Burstein in Manhattan, New York City in 1930, and made a career as a child dancer, later appearing in several Broadway musicals under the name Iris Burton. In the early 1950s, she moved to Hollywood, appearing as a dancer in several films such as Top Banana (1954) and The Ten Commandments (1956).
Burton was well known for discovering the Phoenix brothers (River Phoenix and Joaquin Phoenix, and their sisters Rain, Liberty and Summer) when their mother Arlyn (Heart) Phoenix came to her and demanded she meet her children as she pleaded they had special talent. Iris received an article of the children written about a competition they had won and was intrigued and arranged an appointment straight away. She worked with River throughout his short career. Her other discoveries included Kirsten Dunst and Henry Thomas, with her clients including Greg Sestero, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, Drew Barrymore, Tori Spelling, Fred Savage, Jerry O'Connell, Kirk Cameron, Candace Cameron, Cherie Johnson, Adam Rich, Cady McClain, and Josh Hartnett.