SISSI (1955), as this Austrian-set confection was based on an original story by SISSI writer-director Ernst Marischka. The films definitely share a fairy tale appeal, as well as storylines involving the Austrian royal family. All that's missing from SPRING PARADE is Technicolor!
Deanna plays Ilonka Tolnay, a girl from rural Austria who is accidentally transported to Vienna. (Just go with it.) She ends up living with the family of a baker (S.Z. Sakall) and is befriended by Jenny (Anne Gwynne, grandmother of Chris Pine), who lends her an amazing wardrobe. Curiously, there's never any mention of family back home who might wonder about Deanna's absence!
Deanna meets a soldier-composer (Robert Cummings), and the plot gets crazier from there, involving a composition sent to the Emperor tucked inside some baked goods! It's silly -- and completely charming, especially as the Emperor is played by one of the most lovable character actors ever, Henry Stephenson.
The Gus Kahn-Robert Stolz score includes "It's Foolish But It's Fun" and the hummable "Waltzing in the Clouds." There's a moment halfway into the film, when Durbin and Cummings are waltzing to the latter song, which can only be described as pure movie joy, a feeling which is repeated in the film's closing moments. Those who love Deanna should enjoy this movie.
Durbin and Cummings appeared together the year before in THREE SMART GIRLS GROW UP (1939). The following year they were teamed in one of Durbin's very best films, IT STARTED WITH EVE (1941).
The deep supporting cast includes Allyn Joslyn, Franklin Pangborn, Reginald Denny, Peggy Moran, Walter Catlett, Edward Gargan, and Mischa Auer.
Be sure to visit the SPRING PARADE page at the Anne Gwynne website, which includes stills and screen captures.
SPRING PARADE runs 89 minutes and was directed by Henry Koster. It was nominated for four Academy Awards: Best Black and White Cinematography (Joseph A. Valentine), Best Song ("Waltzing in the Clouds"), Best Score (Charles Previn), and Best Sound Recording. (The winner of Best Song that year? "When You Wish Upon a Star.")
SPRING PARADE is extremely hard to find. It's not had a VHS release and is not even out in the Region 2 series in the UK from which I obtained HERS TO HOLD (1943) and CHRISTMAS HOLIDAY (1944). My great thanks to a longtime reader and friend, Mel, for helping me to see this film at last.
I have just three Durbin films left to see for the first time! The movies still ahead of me are CHRISTMAS HOLIDAY (1944), I'LL BE YOURS (1947), and UP IN CENTRAL PARK (1948).
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), THAT CERTAIN AGE (1938), ONE HUNDRED MEN AND A GIRL (1937), and SOMETHING IN THE WIND (1947).