Happy Birthday, Deanna Durbin

Film star Deanna Durbin was born Edna Mae Durbin  in Winnipeg, Manitoba on December 4, 1921.

Happy Birthday, Ms. Durbin!
A Brief Bio
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


  1. HAPPY 89TH BIRTHDAY TO THE BRILLIANT DEANNA DURBIN! In my opinion, she was the finest young soprano Hollywood ever produced, and, along with Judy Garland, the best young singing actress of the Studio Era.

    Deanna's decision to attempt more mature and sophisticated roles (a desire shared by practically every other "girl next door" actress up to the present day) was a pretty daring one, considering how intensely the public loved her wholesome "Little Miss Fixit" image.

    While the worldwide sensation anticpation of her "first onscreen kiss' imspired is well known among Durbin fans, people forget that earlier that year there was almost as big a furor over Universal's advertisements of THREE SMART GIRLS GROW UP as "Deanna's First Glamorous Role." Even THE NEW YORK TIMES took Universal to task denouncing Universal in a special editorial for even suggesting such heresy. lol!

  2. So it started as early as Three Smart Girls Grow up (1939)? Wow. Of course, she was 17/18 by then, so yes, she was bursting to go the sensual route.

    Going through the Amazing Deanna Durbin Blog archives, I noticed this poster for Spring Parade (1940) and nearly had a heart attack!

    The movie takes place in some fictional version of old Europe in the late 19th century, where everyone is covered from neck to toe.

    DD's character doesn't have a dress nearly so daring as that very modern, low cut number on the poster; She plays a country bumpkin with several layers of petticoats!

    And then the poster promises "more happiness than you've ever had." and that guy on the lower left corner looking as though he's waiting for that promise to be fulfilled. Blech!

    Yes, I see your point. She was growing up and the publicity department was trying to help her. But honestly. The lech factor is way up on that poster.

  3. Hi Java:

    Yes, it started pretty early. Here's a copy of the 1939 column I mentioned. Mr. Nugent used some of it in his review of THREE SMART GIRLS GROW UP, but, as you can see, Deanna had a tough road ahead of her in trying to take on a more "mature" image:


    With Special Reference to the Appeal of Deanna Durbin

    By Frank S. Nugent

    Spring seems to be a little late this year, so until it arrives we'll have to get along with Deanna Durbin, the closest thing to this side of the equinox. A couple of books could be written on Miss Durbin's
    singular appeal, but none of them would contain the horrible epithet Universal's advertising staff fastened on the miss last week.

    "Glamorous" was the word they dared employ and we haven't said a civil word to Universal since. It doesn't matter how the dictionary defines
    it--some literal poppycock about "a charm or enchantment working on the vision and causing things to seem different from what they are."
    We know what Hollywood means by glamour and we won't have our Deanna playing in the same category as Hedy, Marlene, Greta, Joan,
    Carole, Loretta, Merle and Tyronne.

    Glamour indeed! As if it had not been her very freedom from glamour, Hollywood style, that has endeared her to her millions. Glamour! as if
    that were a quality more precious than the freshness, the gay vitality, the artful artlessness and youthful radiance she has brought
    to the screen!

    Glamour! as if that were what we wanted of the perfect kid sister (not that there really ever was one). Glamour forsooth! and was it glamour that made Judge Hardy and his brood, or glamour we found in the late Marie Dressler and Will Rogers, or glamour in Mr. Deeds or Zola or Pasteur, or glamour for that matter (though we hate to mention it) which keeps little Mistress Temple as the nation's four time box office champion? What is this thing, glamour, anyway, that it has grown so great?

    Deanna, to put an end to the libel, is not the least bit glamorous in her latest delight "Three Smart Girls Grow Up," and she has not grown
    up so much herself. She leaves that, and the romantic troubles, to the older sisters, contenting herself with being the matrimonial broker of the family. Usually we dread these Little-Miss-Fixit roles. The brats are all so superior about it all and so right--like George Arlis as Disraeli or somebody. But Deanna manages to make even a
    half-grown meddler attractive. She is guility of the most awful ---blunders; she quite forgets her manners; she sulks and has tantrumswhen her plans go agley; and eventually she has to call on father.

    And that, of course, is the way it should be, and would be unless the Miss Fix It had been Shirley Temple. No, Deanna is all right, up to par or better, and when Universal next says 'G.....r' it had better smile.


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"Java's Journey: A really fun, informative well-written blog that explores all of the things - and I mean all - I love about classic films."-- Flick Chick of A Person In The Dark Email: java-rush@hotmail.com


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