Happy Birthday, Ms. Durbin!
A singing sensation, Ms. Durbin grew even more famous as Universal Studios featured her in charming, family-friendly fare in the 1930s. As she grew up, the 1940s saw her break away just a bit from being Little Miss Fix It in her movies. Faced with 13 years of similar films, the star retired before her 28th birthday, married director Charles David and moved to France. Except for a few interviews early on in her retirement, a few missives to magazines to straighten out some misinformation and the 1983 interview with David Shipman, the star has not returned to public life. However, the Universal Studios glamor girl is still very gracious with her fans, sending them photos autographed "Deanna Durbin David."
To celebrate her eighty-ninth year, I would highly recommend viewing the comedy It Started With Eve (1941), featuring Ms. Durbin with Charles Laughton (Great chemistry with him.) and Robert Cummings (They are fun together.). This is the tale of a struggling young singer who, for a little cash, finds herself pretending to be engaged to a stranger (Cummings) to please his dying father (Laughton).
The leading lady was only 19 when making this film. What a mature teenager! In poise, looks, voice, everything. Because of that rather grown-up sound, Disney turned down the singing teen queen for the part of Snow White in the classic animated feature. Deanna Durbin was considered for Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz (1939), but, again, sounded and appeared quite mature. Much like the tape used to flatten Judy Garland's womanly curves in Oz, Universal's story lines would often continue to suppress Ms. Durbin's obvious adult development in a rash of girl-ish (but charming) roles.
If you're in the mood for holiday fare with Durbin, get your hands on a copy of Lady On a Train (1945), which is a comic, murder mystery film that is set during Christmas time (our leading lady even halts the film to sing "Silent Night"). Or for darker fare, Christmas Holiday (1946), which is also peripherally about the holidays, and finds our star in a rather cynical movie about a young woman's loyalty to her convicted murderer husband (played by Gene Kelly).
Deanna Durbin Around the Blogosphere
- Laura offers a nice birthday tribute to the star, giving her own film recommendations.
- Ivan Shreve highlights the star in his regular round up of birthday shout outs.
- John McElwee has delved in depth into many aspects of Ms. Durbin's career several times including here, here and here
- The Amazing Deanna Durbin blog has reviews of her films.
- Java's Journey has reviewed two of Ms. Durbin's films: First Love (1939) and For The Love of Mary (1948). We've also discussed Ms. Durbin's level of fame and her influence on a certain television star.