The incomparable Deanna Durbin was born 89 years ago today, December 4, 1921.
Over the years there were several other wonderful sopranos who starred in movie musicals, but there was something completely unique about Deanna Durbin's screen presence. Her more mature characters radiate an unusual kind of calm, forthright honesty and serenity, and at the same time she was a wonderful comedienne. Deanna also had a knack for taking characters who might otherwise be perceived as willful or bratty and making the audience love them, simply on the strength of being...Deanna.
I've now seen over two-thirds of Durbin's 21 feature films, and my favorite is probably HIS BUTLER'S SISTER (1943), which closes with a stunning rendition of "Nessun Dorma," currently available to see on YouTube.
FIRST LOVE, IT STARTED WITH EVE, CAN'T HELP SINGING, and LADY ON A TRAIN are other favorites.
I highly recommend LADY ON A TRAIN as an "outside the box" Christmas movie; while it's not precisely a Christmas film, Deanna's on the train to visit her aunt for the holidays, and she takes time out to sing "Silent Night" midway through the movie.
Java's Journey recently reprinted Durbin's last known interview, given to David Shipman in 1983.
Links for all Deanna Durbin films previously reviewed here at Laura's Miscellaneous Musings: 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), CAN'T HELP SINGING (1944), HERS TO HOLD (1943), IT'S A DATE (1940), LADY ON A TRAIN (1945), and THAT CERTAIN AGE (1938).
Previously: Happy Birthday to Deanna Durbin (2009).
Update: A tribute at Java's Journey.
December 4, 2011 Update: Since this was posted last year, I reviewed ONE HUNDRED MEN AND A GIRL (1936) and SOMETHING IN THE WIND (1947). Happy 90th birthday, Deanna!
December 4, 2012 Update: Here's this year's review of SPRING PARADE (1940).
April 30, 2013: Deanna Durbin, 1921-2013.
August 2016 Update: Here is a review of the new Warner Archive DVD release of IT'S A DATE (1940).