Deanna Durbin – What a woman!!

Okay. Okay.

It’s time to get serious.

There have been a plethora of talented, beautiful  actresses out there. Alice Faye, Myrna Loy, Lana Turner, Carole Lombard, Grace Kelly, the list goes on, and on, and on and ON.

But, one of my dear favorites, and one who is not recognized NEARLY enough because of her early departure from the film business (more about that later) is the lovely Deanna Durbin.

Born Edna Mae Durbin on December 4, 1921 in Canada, she began singing at just a year old. Her voice developed beautifully and by the age of 14 she was offered to sing with the Metropolitan Opera.

When she began working with Universal Studios in 1936 (age 14) she was given the professional name Deanna.

Before Universal Studios, she had a signed co

ntract with MGM in 1935 to appear in the short series called Every Sunday, with another young actress–Judy Garland.

Her first large film was with Universal Studios in 1936, Three Smart Girls. It was a huge success, and her career shot off.

With her elegant voice, and charming personality, the public adored her. As she grew and matured, her beauty did too. The mark of her “coming of age” began with the movie “First Love” with Robert Stack (dreamboat, picture below), where she received her FIRST KISS. Not just stage, but her first real kiss. The movie was a smash, and she just kept moving up.

Robert Stack and Deanna

Some other of her great films (I guess they are just my favorite) are…..

1) It Started With Eve (1941): A young man asks a hat check girl to pose as his fiancée in order to make his dying father’s last moments happy. However, the old man’s health takes a turn for the better and now his son doesn’t know how to break the news that he’s engaged to someone else, especially since his father is so taken with the impostor.

This movie is legitimately one of

It Started With Eve

the funniest movies I ever seen.

It was the first Deanna movie I watched, and I just fell in love. Robert Cummings and Charles Laughton are perfect with Deanna. I highly recommend this movie. :)

Hers to Hold

2) Hers to Hold (1943): Summary

Joseph Cotton stars with her in this one, and I just love him. MAN. Girls (boys too!), you will love this movie. It’s available on youtube, to the best of my knowledge. It’s hard to beat the romantic Joseph Cotton. And I personally think Deanna is absolutely gorgeous in this movie.

3) Christmas Holiday (1944): Summary

Okay, first off, I can never resist Gene Kelly. Really. That’s not even a joke. And to put him with Deanna Durbin in the movie is probably the best thing they could do for me. This is one of Deanna’s few serious films, and I personally think she is fantastic. It really shows her talent. Not to mention the song “Always” makes me cry every time I hear it now. This film was actually her favorite of all of the ones she did. And I think you would see why. :) This is ALSO available on youtube.

Christmas Holiday

Deanna and Gene Kelly on set

4) Can’t Help Singing (1944): Summary

This was Deanna’s only technicolor movie! And it was highly praised! Loved her in it!

Can't Help Singing

5) For the Love of Mary (1948): GUESS WHAT?! DAVID HAS THIS MOVIE ON THIS WEBSITE! Right here. For you to watch. Do it. :)

This was Deanna’s last movie. And it’s honestly one of my favorites. The comedy, the romance, the crazy things Deanna got into! She is wonderful, and it has some great songs in it. She displays her skill beautifully. WATCH IT. You won’t be disappointed.

At last, to end this post, I must explain why Deanna left the film business. She worked on films from 1935-1948 for Universal Studios. They were extremely strict on not letting any other studio borrow her, mostly because of her fame and publicity and I think..greed. Haha. This, along with many other things, frustrated Deanna. And then in 1948 retired from the film business (there was a lot more to it then just retiring, but I’m not putting up the whole story now ;) ). She currently lives in Paris where she raised her two children (Jessica and Peter) with husband Charles David (died 1999). I do know, from research, that she wanted to lead a normal life, to raise her children and be a mother. From being in films from such a young age, she had had anything BUT a normal life. And this was her chance. Since 1949, she has completely withdrawn from any media or public life, just to be with her family. To me that is one of the most respectable decisions I’ve ever heard made in Hollywood. She will continue to be a role model for me. :)

rare photo of Deanna in 1981

Sorry that was a bit lengthy! With lots of photos!

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10 Responses

  1. Jan says:

    Thanks Audrey for your nice tribute to the matchless Deanna Durbin.
    I feel privileged being able in the short time of live to enjoy what Deanna has given us with her beauty, singing voice, personality a.s.o…. Thanks Deanna too.

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  2. Grasshopper says:

    I’m a great fan of classic movies. There were a lot of amazing actors and actresses. My latest fancy is Ida Lupino. But when I start watching a DD film my heart stands still. She was the only one that could transform a bw film into a miracle! Even without singing. But when she sings – she’s the best singer ever. Don’t they try to fool you with Maria Callas and Joan Sutherland. They were not in the same class as DD. We were lucky to see an angel that visited us to see how the humans live.

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  3. Nice article and great photos of Deanna. Her birth name is actually spelt the English way Edna May Durbin – I have an autographed photo with that signature clearly showing the MAY spelling.

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  4. Lydia says:

    I really enjoyed reading this! :D I love Deanna Durbin! And I’m totally going to watch “Hers to Hold” and “For the Love of Mary” this week/month. :D

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  5. Ashla says:

    Awesome blog! I discovered Deanna Durbin last year and was amazed that I had never heard of her before — she was so famous in her time and is a virtual unknown now. My favorite Durbin films are (in no particular order): For the Love of Mary, Lady on a Train, in Started with Eve, and First Love. I also really enjoyed Because of Him — but more because of Charles Laughton, to be honest.

    So glad you posted this! I need to watch Christmas Holiday — if I have one criticism of Durbin it is that she was type cast too much (which she understandably hated), and CH as I understand it is her one radically different role. I will look it up and watch it sometime soon. :)

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    • Audrey says:

      I’m glad you liked it! I hope you like Christmas Holiday. It’s REALLY different from what she normally does. But I think you’ll enjoy it. :)
      And I just LOVE Charles Laughton. Seriously. The best old man.

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  6. LOVE Deanna Durbin! Wonderful voice, talent, personality – a genuine star. My own favorite is IT STARTED WITH EVE – her chemistry with Laughton is beautiful. Also like LADY ON A TRAIN, in which she’s very, very funny. What a warm, lovely performer she was. Thanks so much for your post and for sharing the photos!

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  7. Dan says:

    Great post Audrey! Thanks for sharing it! I learned a bunch!
    I must differ with you on two movies–Christmas Holiday and Cant Help Singing–maybe it’s just that my version (of CH) isn’t the best, but I prefer “Nice Girl?” 1941. I like Cant Help Singing least of all 22 of her films (I still like it, just not that well). My favorite that you haven’t mentioned is One Hundred Men and a Girl (closely followed by Mad About Music)–both of which are on this site as well!! :D Other than that I totally agree with you . :D She is a great person to have as a role model. (Jimmy Stewart is another, but that’s another topic!)
    Have a GREAT day!

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    • Audrey says:

      Thanks Dan! I agree about Can’t Help Singing for the most part. I put it on there because it was her only color film mostly. :) And I absolutely LOVE Mad about Music. It was really quite hard to narrow it down for me. I just put those ones I thought new comers might enjoy. :) I really enjoy her films with Franchot Tone as well. “Because of Him” and………hmmm…my mind just went blank….there’s another….OH. “His Butler’s Sister”, I love that one. And I really love “Something in the Wind”. I think that one is hilarious. But once again, it’s all a matter of opinion. :)
      And Jimmy Stewart=one of my favorites as well. :) I will do a post on him in the future sometime.


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      • Dan says:

        The other Franchet Tone one is Nice Girl? 1941. I LOVE the jilting scene!!! :D Lady On a Train is also a good one–it’s also on the site! :D Of her 22 films, one is 10 minutes long, one is all right (Can’t Help Singing), and 20 are good to great!!

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