Monday, June 22, 2009

Tonight's Movie: Three Smart Girls Grow Up (1939)

THREE SMART GIRLS GROW UP finds charming Deanna Durbin reprising her role as Penny from THREE SMART GIRLS (1936). Penny, ever the "Little Miss Fix-It" -- as Durbin herself once referred to her typical role -- works her magic to ensure that her sisters' romances turn out happily.

Nan Gray returns as Penny's sister Joan, while the other "smart girl," Kay, is played by Helen Parrish this time around. Parrish, a frequent Durbin costar, replaces Barbara Read, who played the role in the first picture. Ray Milland, who was also in the first film, is sadly missing this time around, but the girls' boyfriends are satisfactorily played by a young-looking Robert Cummings and William Lundigan. Parrish sighs longingly over Lundigan, who's engaged to Gray, who's secretly yearning for Cummings...obviously Deanna needs to step in and set things right!

The plot, which finds Penny continually ignored or misunderstood by her parents (Nella Walker and Charles Winninger) and sisters, is not quite as much fun as some of Deanna's other films, but it moves along at a good pace and has many enjoyable moments...and when Deanna sings, it's simply magical. Many wonderful sopranos have starred in movie musicals, yet no one was ever quite like Deanna, one of the most unique stars in movie history.

Ernest Cossart is particularly good reprising his role as Binns, the butler who is also Penny's confidant. Classic film fans will enjoy the many familiar character faces in bit parts, including Charles Coleman, Mary Treen, Milton Kibbee, Grady Sutton, Thurston Hall, Mary Forbes, Doris Lloyd, Bess Flowers, and everyone's favorite movie minister, the Rev. Neal Dodd.

THREE SMART GIRLS GROW UP was directed by Henry Koster, who made half a dozen Durbin films. The movie was shot in black and white and runs 89 minutes.

THREE SMART GIRLS GROW UP is available on VHS in a very nice print.

Previous reviews of other Deanna Durbin movies: FIRST LOVE (1939), HIS BUTLER'S SISTER (1943), NICE GIRL? (1941), FOR THE LOVE OF MARY (1948), BECAUSE OF HIM (1946), MAD ABOUT MUSIC (1938), and THE AMAZING MRS. HOLLIDAY (1943).

Update: Here is a review of the final film in the SMART GIRLS series, HERS TO HOLD (1943).

Update: THREE SMART GIRLS GROW UP is now available on DVD.

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