HERS TO HOLD is a musical romance set against the backdrop of World War II, with Joseph Cotten as a pilot and Deanna Durbin as the girl who loves him.
Deanna reprises her role as Penny Craig from THREE SMART GIRLS (1936) and THREE SMART GIRLS GROW UP (1939). Penny and her parents (Charles Winninger and Nella Walker) have relocated from the East Coast to Pasadena, California, along with their faithful butler, Binns (Ludwig Stossel, replacing Ernest Cossart). Penny and Bill (Cotten) "meet cute" when they're giving blood for the war effort and Bill pretends to be a doctor in order to chat up the lovely Penny. Penny initially finds Bill annoying, but it's love at second kiss, and she's a goner.
Bill's a military pilot temporarily assigned to a Burbank airplane factory, and Penny becomes a Rosie the Riveter in order to be near him. Lunchtime at the factory finds Penny serenading her coworkers with songs like "Begin the Beguine" and "Say a Prayer for the Boys Over There." When Bill gets his orders to go overseas, he dumps Penny, but why?
Durbin and Cotten's banter is charming, particularly when Penny tells Bill that he's a dead duck now that he's met her. It's not one of Deanna's best movies, but her fans won't be disappointed by the chance to experience the grown-up Penny's love story. (Soundless clips from the earlier movies, as well as other Durbin titles, are used in a sequence where the family watches home movies.) Deanna once again demonstrates that she was a completely unique personality in cinema history, combining a calm, confident demeanor with a great comedic touch and a dazzling voice.
Joseph Cotten made this film in the midst of quite an amazing run of movies himself. HERS TO HOLD was released the same year Cotten starred in Hitchcock's SHADOW OF A DOUBT. Within a very short time frame Cotten's other films included CITIZEN KANE (1941), THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS (1942), GASLIGHT (1944), SINCE YOU WENT AWAY (1944), and the impressive list goes on and on. He's excellent as the swaggering pilot hiding a heart of mush.
The tale of a young girl falling for a pilot is a bit reminiscent of THE SKY'S THE LIMIT with Fred Astaire and Joan Leslie, released the same year; the endings are quite similar. The movie also made me think of the Pasadena-set WWII romance THE VERY THOUGHT OF YOU (1944), with Dennis Morgan and Eleanor Parker.
HERS TO HOLD was directed by Frank Ryan, who directed Durbin the following year in CAN'T HELP SINGING. The movie was shot in black and white and runs 94 minutes.
The supporting cast includes Gus Schilling, Samuel S. Hinds, Evelyn Ankers, Iris Adrian, and Nydia Westman. Many more familiar faces fill bit parts.
HERS TO HOLD is one of three Durbin movies not yet released in authorized editions in the United States; the others are SPRING PARADE (1940) and CHRISTMAS HOLIDAY (1944). However, HERS TO HOLD is available in the UK on a Region 2 DVD. I watched the Region 2 DVD thanks to my all-region player; the print is acceptable, although not as good as the VHS prints of Durbin films which Universal has released in the United States. (A few Durbin titles have also made it to DVD in the U.S.) A couple brief scenes are washed out, and there are two or three scenes with debris floating at the edge of the frame. Even so, the print's not all that bad, and it is certainly preferable to not being able to see the movie at all. The sound quality was fine.
Nostalgia Video has released an unauthorized DVD in the United States.
With HERS TO HOLD I've now seen an even dozen Deanna Durbin movies; in fact, it's a baker's dozen if the short EVERY SUNDAY (1936) is included. 13 down and 9 to go!
Previous reviews of 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), THE AMAZING MRS. HOLLIDAY (1943), THREE SMART GIRLS (1936), THREE SMART GIRLS GROW UP (1939), IT STARTED WITH EVE (1941), and CAN'T HELP SINGING (1944).