Saturday, December 04, 2010

A Birthday Tribute to Deanna Durbin

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 (1939), IT STARTED WITH EVE (1941), CAN'T HELP SINGING (1944), and LADY ON A TRAIN (1945) 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) (also here), 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).

2020 Update: Here are reviews of new Blu-ray releases of THREE SMART GIRLS GROW UP (1939), IT STARTED WITH EVE (1941), and ONE HUNDRED MEN AND A GIRL (1937).  And over at Classic Movie Hub I've written about Deanna's musical Western CAN'T HELP SINGING (1944) for my monthly Western RoundUp column.


Blogger QUB English Society said...

I really want to see 'Lady On A Train'-it's one of my 'One To Watch' movies this Christmas!

This post is great-I think I'll have to hunt down some Deanna Durbin movies now!

6:04 AM  
Blogger JavaBeanRush said...

Thanks for the mention, Laura.

Deanna Durbin is endlessly fascinating.

LADY ON A TRAIN is a fun mystery romp. I'm not uncertain that it's a bit of a spoof. I find her wardrobe very interesting [What wouldn't I give for that tweed number she wears in jail?]; though author Jeanine Basinger seems to think otherwise.

Speaking of Durbin and holiday movies, I finally watched CHRISTMAS HOLIDAY the other day. I was expecting a drama, but not such an intense one.

9:22 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

I hope you enjoy trying some of Deanna's films, Niamhy.

Java, I agree, I found her wardrobe in LADY ON A TRAIN fascinating!

I have a Region 2 DVD of CHRISTMAS HOLIDAY here in my stack of movies to watch. Sounds like it's going to be quite a different kind of movie.

Best wishes,

9:27 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

HAPPY 89TH BIRTHDAY TO THE WONDERFUL DEANNA DURBIN! In my opinion, she was the finest young soprano Hollywood ever produced, and, along with Judy Garland, the best young singing actress of the Studio Era.

Her spectacular instantaneous and enduring success as popular culture's first "Teen Idol," almost singlehandedly created a market in Hollywood for starring roles for adolescent actresses, a fact her grateful MGM "rival" Judy Garland never failed to acknowledge from her first interview in 1937 until the end of her life.

As rival studios (and Universal itself) scrambled to find their own talented "Young Girl With a Voice" to challenge Durbin's box office gold, other wort6hy contenders like Judy, Jane Powell, Kathryn Grayson, Ann Blyth and Gloria Jean, got their own chances at film stardom, and, of course, many rightly went on to notable careers of their own.

But Deanna Durbin's appeal, like her talent, was singular, even among this remarkable group of young performers. With the possible exception of Judy Garland, none of the others quite matched the sensation Deanna Durbin created with worldwide audiences and critics at the height of her fame, an appeal that (as blogs like yours indicate), continues to endure despite the realative lack of ready availability of her films for public viewing.

All best wishes Deanna. Thanks for all the wonderful movie and music memories you've given to me and millions of other admirers.

7:45 PM  
Blogger Tom said...

I'm with Mark; couldn't have said it better myself. A lovely tribute, Laura.

1:14 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks to you both, Mark and Tom! It's wonderful knowing how many people continue to admire Deanna Durbin.

Best wishes,

1:16 PM  

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