Thursday, July 24, 2008

Before "the Marias": Part II


"Winnipeg's Sweetheart", Edna Mae Durbin, was born December 4, 1921. Since 1950, the widowed (1999) Mrs. Charles David has lived in retirement in Paris. She raised her family and lived life on her own terms. She left Hollywood in 1949 after a 13 year career because: "I couldn't go on being Little Miss Fix-it breaking into song forever". For Deanna Durbin's fans, that is what she will always be - the teenager with the amazing voice and the young woman who grew into a talented comedic actress. Deanna never seemed to go through that awkward stage. Her talent and self-possession grew and was universally admired.

MGM was her first studio, however her contract lapsed and she was snapped by Universal. That studio was facing difficult economic times, but all that was about to change when Deanna Durbin appeared in "Three Smart Girls" (1936). The public was enthralled and this was reflected at the box office.

Over the course of her career, Deanna appeared in 14 movies, bringing classical music to the masses and presenting that rare ability among sopranos with the ability to take a standard and do it justice. Entertaining movies with wonderful co-stars like Adolph Menjou, Charles Laughton, Dan Duryea, Gene Kelly, Pat O'Brien, Robert Cummings, Franchot Tone - Leopold Stowkowski. I would like to recommend a few titles: One Hundred Men and a Girl, It Started With Eve, His Butler's Sister, Christmas Holiday, Lady on a Train, Up in Central Park.

Deanna was a favourite of Winston Churchill and Ann Franks. She inspired Dame Joan Sutherland and Lily Pons. Angela Lansbury has said she used to sing around the house trying to be Deanna Durbin. The Metropolitan Opera wanted her for their boards. Rodgers and Hammerstein wanted her for "Oklahoma!". Alan Jay Lerner personally played her the songs for "My Fair Lady" in an effort to dissuade her from retirement. Obviously, she is a lady who means what she says.

The release of Deanna's Universal pictures on DVD is creating new fans, as devoted as her followers in the 30s and 40s. Talent will tell.


  1. What a classy lady. I want to be her when I grow up. Maybe I just want to retire to Paris.
    Do you think L/L want her to be Mrs. Higgins?

  2. Thank-you for that information about Deanna Durbin who is my very favourite actress and singer!! Last year I started a tribute website about Deanna where her fans can just click on a subject link and learn all about her short but brilliant career!

    Alex (Administrator).

  3. miss mccrocodile, at age 34, I believe it is Eliza that they had in mind.

    texasoperastar, what a wonderful wealth of information in your marvelous site. It has been favourited and recommended.



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