For the Love of Mary (1948) - Deanna Durbin's Swan Song

Love Deanna Durbin. Never really got into that Judy Garland vs.Winnipeg's Sweetheart routine; I like them both. They are highly talented stars whose gifts are nicely preserved for posterity in some of their films.

For The Love Of Mary (1948), a Durbin vehicle that I've watched recently, is kind of forgettable, however.  Its star is charming, of course, but the movie succumbs to the Durbin Film Formula:
  • Deanna Durbin front and center
  • Leading man who is overshadowed by Ms. Durbin's awesomeness
  • Plucky leading lady who is "just an average girl"
  • Hordes of men admiring this "average" girl (who somehow gets everything she wants, wears clothes wonderfully and has a voice so beautifully trained you wonder why she doesn't go to Hollywood and appear in a musical or something.)
The formula has worked well in some of her other films, but feels leaden here. Of course, these are some of the reasons that their golden goose songstress had a few tiffs with Universal  Studios; it would seem that having constantly to retread this script and play the spunky kid type might have been reason enough for the very adult, self-possessed Ms. Durbin to retire. But who knows?

For the Love of Mary is a light RomCom which follows Mary Peppertree (Durbin), a White House switchboard operator who takes her job very seriously and is on familiar terms with people in all three branches of government, including the President of the United States (who personally wants to make sure that Mary gets married to someone... anyone, it seems, so he arranges her dates).

David Paxton (a very charming Don Taylor) interrupts the gaiety with his insistence on speaking with the President about the government's interference of business off the coast of Paxton's island. Mary, the effective gateway guard to the Executive branch, must encounter the tenacious Paxton throughout the course of the film.

What the movie lacks in . . . something, it makes up for in showcasing just how far into outer space Deanna Durbin's star ascended. This movie was released in 1948.  At this point in history it is not common that a character in a movie gets familiar with the President of the United States, even when he's not in the room (unless the character is an enemy of the state making those typical bad guy snarks, or s/he is the President's spouse).

The fact that the script allows Mary to be chummy over the phone with the revered leader of the free world - and this is a very prominent, recurring theme for the entire movie (one of the other characters even makes note of it) - suggests that Ms. Durbin was well-liked enough to get away with it. That's popular. Very popular. Mega-star popular.

In that sense, For the Love of Mary is almost a fitting last film for a leading lady whose characters have charmed guys from paupers to potentates. She's got the President (and the rest of the federal government) in her pocket as well.

After having played in 1 short film and 21 feature length movies in 13 years (all starring vehicles), Ms. Durbin retired in her late 20s.

Since then, the star has famously refused all but one interview - a 1983 interview by David Shipman. I'm holding out hope that Ms. Durbin might be receptive to another interview, or even better, write her memoirs or autobiography.

Author Jeanine Basinger says this of Ms. Durbin's retirement:

There was an honest quality about her, and audiences felt it. Whatever motivated her to leave the business- the desire to be real and have a life that made sense- is the truth that audiences felt in her on-screen presence. Durbin connected right to audiences. She seemed to be one of them. The amazing thing about her was that it turned out to be true, She came down off the screen and proved it by rejoining them. Her defection wasn’t a ploy and was never rescinded. . . . Deanna Durbin, that most open and radiant of movie stars, remains more enigmatic than Garbo. She retired and led a normal life, the one thing that seems to have eluded almost every other movie star.


  1. Deanna Durbin had a brief but brilliant film career. She was by far the best singing talent that Hollywood ever produced. Thankfully, Deanna's movies are available on DVD for a whole new generation to appreciate and her Internet fan club (Devotees) is increasing its membership.

  2. Welcome,

    I've stopped by the DDD forum before, I believe. is the address, yes?

    You might also like The Amazing Deanna Durbin Blog

    Thank you for dropping in.


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