Deanna Durbin-A Canadian Born, 1940’s Movie Star

It was with sad news today that I read that Deanna Durbin has passed away at age 91.

Now some of you might be asking…..Who is Deanna Durbin?

This is Deanna Durbin-Movie star and later years wife and mother.

Deanna 1

Deanna was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada  (Yay Canada!) December 4, 1921 and her real name is actually “Edna Mae Durbin”. At the age of one she moved with her family to Hollywood where as she got a bit older it became very obvious that she had a talent for singing. Many lessons later she was discovered by an MGM casting director looking for someone to portray the opera star Ernestine Schumann-Heink as a child. At the age of 13 she signed with MGM and was placed in a one reel short called “Every Sunday” with a newly signed singer as well, Judy Garland. Deanna sang classical music while Judy sang Swing.

Here is the collaboration from the short.

This short from what I have read was actually an extended screen test for the two girls as MGM was unsure if they wanted two females singers on their roaster. They both passed with flying colours but by the time that this decision was made to keep Deanna her contract option had elapsed. MGM lost her to Universal Studios who placed her in her first feature-length movie in 1936 “Three Smart Girls“.  The huge success of this movie apparently saved Universal from Bankruptcy and ushered in an eight-year era of successful Deanna Musicals.

Many of her movies had the same kind of theme “Depression fairy tales in which Ms. Durbin won over or defeated silly rich people with the help of butlers, cooks and chauffeurs, who often risked their jobs to aid her”. Her characters also tended to find a way to help the struggling grown-ups in her life.

By 1946, Deanna had starred in 17 movies and her salary of $323,477 from Universal made her the second-highest-paid woman in America, just $5,000 behind Bette Davis. Wow!

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Deanna 2

Durbin eventually tried to assume a more sophisticated movie persona in such vehicles as the World War II story of refugee children from China, The Amazing Mrs. Holliday (1943), directed in part by Jean Renoir, the film noir Christmas Holiday (1944), directed by Robert Siodmak, and the whodunit Lady on a Train (1945), but her substantial fan base preferred her in light musical confections (Wikipedia).

By 1948, Deanna would eventually retire (after a total of 21 movies) and marry her third husband Charles David (At age 19 she married to her first husband and it lasted two years, she then married her second husband in 1945 and divorced followed in 1949, they had one daughter together).  Deanna then retired to a French Farmhouse where she lived a life out of the spotlight till her death a few days ago.

Why such an early retirement?

Durbin made it known that she did not like the Hollywood studio system. She emphasized that she never identified herself with the public image that the media created around her. She spoke of the Deanna “persona” in the third person, and considered the film character Deanna Durbin a by-product of her youth and not her true self  (Private letter to the film historian and critic William K. Everson in the late 1970s).

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So this was Deanna Durbin, a very talented actress who decided that a “normal life” was her real destiny. As a fan of her movies I have to say that I sure am glad that she did grace us with her presence on the screen and left us with a large library of 21 movies and even a record with Decca Records for us to enjoy for many more years.

Here are some more pictures of the beautiful and talented Deanna Durbin.

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Look at those shoes! EEK!!!

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Deanna on her First Wedding at the age of 19. The dress is gorgeous!

Deanna wedding

Now go out and enjoy a Deanna Durbin movie tonight 🙂

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