markus21

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  1. The corniest musical ever...?

    Hi Top-Billed: Although it has its' schmaltzy moments, and I can see why Bosley Crowther stated in his NEW YORK TIMES review that sometimes Hayward looks as if she's "miming for posterity," I enjoy WITH A SONG IN MY HEART and wouldn't consider it the corniest musical ever made. First of all, I don't consider it a "musical" in the strict sense of that term. It's a biography of a vocalist, but, other than the big production number of the title song and the performance of "The Right Kind," "Jane Froman" is pretty much the only vocalist/musical performer in the film. For a non-singer, especially considering the amount of singing she had to do, I thought Hayward did pretty well overall with the miming to Froman's vocals. As for the story, I think it has some moments of genuine grit. For instance, the film makes no bones about the fact that Froman's first marriage to the David Wayne character was one of convenience and gratitude on her part because he'd done so much for her professionally. She undoubtedly liked him and appreciated all the help he'd given her career, but the film doesn't hide the fact that she wasn't romantically attracted to him, nor that she loved him. As other commentators on the film have noted, it is perhaps the first film biography of a musical performer to do this. And though it doesn't show the two characters slinging insults at each other, the film also doesn't ignore the disintegration of the marriage. After the two of them argue over Froman's performance of "The Right Side," and how they might handle her increasing success over his, the narration makes clear that this was not the first argument they'd had and that both parties were responsible for their problems. ("Both Jane and I had said things that neither of us could ever forget.") And Froman's story was "true", and tragic, since she never recovered the full use of her legs. In fact, the film actually doesn't fully cover the extent of her injuries, which included an arm which still had shards of glass rising up through the skin years after the accident. Froman's pluck and determination to overcome these terrible injuries/setbacks made her a much beloved public figure at the time, and since she was already a very popular, well-known vocalist, with an undeniably unique voice and style, I don't think the public would have stood for a vocal double, however talented.
  2. EASTER PARADE (1948)

    What amazes me about Ann Miller's performance in EASTER PARADE (aside from her tremendous talent as a tap dancer...and being one of the few screen dancing ladies who did her own singing!) is that she performed all her musical numbers in a back brace. Prior to filming she had been thrown down a flight of stairs by her intoxicated husband, causing her to break her back and lose the child she was carrying. Her back muscles had not completely healed when the she was cast at the last minute to replace an injured Cyd Charisse in EP, so she wore the back brace throughout the film's production. I'm sure there were days when she must have been in agony, but you'd never know it from her performance. What a trouper! And it paid off, obviously, when MGM kept her under contract, though I sometimes wish they'd given her a musical "lead" rather than her zesty supporting roles. She also got some fine notices for EASTER PARADE, including this one from THE NEW YORK TIMES:
  3. The Star Machine

    Perhaps the difference was one of expectation and perception: I agree that OZ was marketed as a lavish film adaptation of a beloved classic. (The publicity for it played entirely on audience familiarity with the book/story rather than Judy's participation in the film and her "regular" billing with the rest of the cast and the film's special introduction pointing up its' "timeless" confirm that the studio was counting on the public's affection for the property more than its' burgeoning awareness of Judy.) Still, OZ had just as long a production history as BLUEBIRD, and while it received warm notices overall, the reviews were not generally raves/ecstatic. Interestingly, given the now iconic status accorded Judy's performance of "Over the Rainbow," both THE NEW YORK TIMES and TIME magazine, for example, both felt the film finally came to life in the OZ sequences while the earlier "Kansas" ones slowed it down. TIME didn't even bother to mention that Judy Garland was in the film and while NYT praised Judy's performance, it made a point of opining that hers was not the outstanding contribution to the film: Judy Garland's Dorothy is a fresh-faced miss with the wonderlit eyes of a believer in fairy tales, but OZ is at its' best when her three travelling companions, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion are on the move.. OZ also took years to earn back its' production costs and only became an acknowledged classic through its' annual showings on television. I haven't read reviews for THE BLUE BIRD (though I have no trouble imagining they were poor overall), but in addition to the points you've raised Arturo, I'd note that THE BLUE BIRD was not nearly as well known as a work of fantasy/children's literature as OZ (at least not in the U.S.) and its' plot was even more fey and fanciful than OZ's. Also, although it may have been marketed as a "Shirley Temple vehicle" in many important ways, it was an atypical one. Not only did it lack musical numbers, but Shirley's character was a baleful brat, resentful of the people around her and her family's impoverished situation, and her "conversion" into the typical Temple "good girl" didn't occur until well into the film. As you've noted previously, Shirley was also maturing physically at this time. Her slightly gawky appearance (only temporary), combined with the public's awareness and appreciation of Durbin's and Garland's spectacular adult vocal gifts compared to Shirley's typical "child's" voice, made her by now familiar bag of tricks seem ordinary by comparison, however artfully and confidently dployed.
  4. The Star Machine

    Excellent Post, MissWonderly: I would just say that "star power" isn't "almost mysterious," It IS mysterious. If it could be bottled and effectively produced, the studios and other entertainment venues (not to mention the performers who seek stardom) would have done so long ago. Incidentally, in her book THE STAR MACHINE, Jeanine Basinger has some interesting thoughts on the lack of star quality of the early Marilyn Monroe: [Marilyn] Monroe had no impact on audiences in the movie houses I ushered in, not the way I had seen Debbie Reynolds come across in her "Abba Dabba Honeymoon" number in TWO WEEKS WITH LOVE (1950) or Montgomery Clift in his love scenes with Joanne Dru in RED RIVER (1948). No one went 'ooh' or applauded or left the theatre talking about her. I saw and heard a lot of audiences in the years 1948 to 1958 and Monroe didn't reach them the way she reached critics or the way she touched people after her death. Her still photograph had flesh image in the way her movie picture image did not. I think of her more of a phenomenon of photography than of film. When she delivers her famous line in ALL ABOUT EVE, about the producer she's being sent over to seduce and flatter - 'Why do they always look like unhappy rabbits?' - she herself looks exactly like one. Her movie image was strangely enlivened by her death, freshened by tragedy, made dimensional by offscreen facts. Mind you, I'm not saying I agree with Basinger's appraisal, but it's an interesting contradiction to many film fans who find Monroe, practically from the moment she first appeared onscreen, to be the ultimate movie star.
  5. The Star Machine

    Another Great Post, Arturo: I find it interesting that all of the reservations you've expressed re THE BLUEBIRD are just as applicable to THE WIZARD OF OZ, yet OZ was perceived as a "hit," perhaps not as big a hit as MGM hoped it would be, but a hit nonetheless, while THE BLUE BIRD was perceived as laying a big critical/box office egg and marked as the beginning of the end of Shirley's career as a box office phenomenon/superstar.
  6. The Star Machine

    Hi Arturo: I agree that Universal probably didn't borrow bigger box office names for Deanna's co-stars because they felt she could carry her films on her own. Another factor, at least in the latter part of her career may have been the enormous salary Universal-International was paying her. For several years during the 1940s, Deanna was either the highest, or one of the highest paid women in the country. In fact, I've read that when Deanna complained about the poor quality of her last films under Universal-International, the studio countered that Technicolor and more important co-stars couldn't be retained because her salary had been set against the studio's budget. As Deanna herself later said: "Whenever I complained (about her later films) I was given a raise in salary. I was the highest paid star with the poorest material. Today I consider my salary as damages for having to cope with such utter lack of quality." Still, I don't know of any other Universal star that the studio felt comfortable in promoting in a similar "solo star" manner. They seem to have tried once or twice with Gloria Jean, who was hired to appear in the sort of "child star" roles Deanna had made as Deanna moved into adult roles. I've read that Gloria's first film, THE UNDER PUP was a big hit, but the studio quickly began pairing her with other names (Bing Crosby, W.C. Fields) and only made one other "Gloria Jean" film (A LITTLE BIT OF HEAVEN) before assigning her to its' burgeoning "Youth Unit" (e.g, Donald O'Connor, Peggy Ryan, The Jiving Jacks and Jills, etc.) films. I also agree that Shirley also often didn't have comparably popular stars in several of her films, but several of her films were based on popular properties like POOR LITTLE RICH GIRL, CURLY TOP (DADDY LONG LEGS), REBECCA OF SUNNYBROOK FARM, THE LITTLE PRINCESS, HEIDI, THE BLUE BIRD, with instant "name recognition" for potential audiences, while the majority of Deanna's Universal vehicles were completely original productions (THREE SMART GIRLS, 100 MEN AND A GIRL, MAD ABOUT MUSIC, THREE SMART GIRLS GROW UP, FIRST LOVE, etc.) with no attraction for audiences other than that she was starring in them. Also, Temple's films had "stars in the making" like Gary Cooper, Carole Lombard and Alice Faye, who either were, or soon became top stars in their own right, and, again unlike Deanna's films, in Temple's musicals, she was not the only singer/musical presence in them as performers like Faye, Bill Robinson, Tony Martin, Jack Haley, Buddy Ebsen and others also got their musical moments to lend variety to the proceedings. I've never heard that THE LITTLE PRINCESS was a flop. THE BLUE BIRD, SUSANNAH OF THE MOUNTIES and YOUNG PEOPLE, yes, but not THE LITTLE PRINCESS. I haven't seen it for a while but it seemed like a pretty good Temple vehicle to me (if one could get past her "My Daddy has to go away..." speech, of course.) Thanks again for your thoughts. It's an intriguing topic.
  7. The Star Machine

    Well said, Arturo: Though she had a somewhat rocky beginning at the studio (a year of inactivity with several film projects proposed for her but none greenlighted and then a loan-out to Fox to play a barefoot hillbilly in PIGSKIN PARADE) I agree that MGM always had faith in Judy's potential stardom, and by the time of BABES IN ARMS at latest, realized she'd make a graceful transition from young teen actress to ingénue. Perhaps the reason, she was initially put in relatively inexpensive programmers (pre-OZ) is because OZ had been given the go-ahead and its' hugely expensive production costs made the studio wary about spending any more money on Judy at that time. I also agree that, after OZ's release, MGM sought to cement Judy's new star status by pairing her almost exclusively for a few years with the hugely popular Mickey Rooney in the ANDY HARDY and BABES films. While Judy was Mickey's co-star in these films, the plots centered much more on him than they did on her, and while Judy received warm notices overall, and a handful of sharp-eyed critics singled her out for more substantial praise, the majority of critics when the films were first released reserved the lion's share o praise for Mickey. Thus, Judy was able to increase her stardom onscreen gradually, to a degree that Deanna, over at Universal, was not. In Deanna's case, she was always THE star of her films. Although she appeared with many talented actors, with the possible exception of Charles Laughton, I don't think Deanna ever once appeared opposite a comparably popular co-star to help carry her films to success. Moreover, as reflected in the titles of several of them (e.g., THAT CERTAIN AGE, FIRST LOVE, IT'S A DATE, NICE GIRL?) the films were ABOUT Deanna's maturation onscreen. Fortunately, public interest in her was such that the films were big hits, but I think it's an indication of that interest that Deanna may have been the only child/teen star of her generation to mature onscreen in a completely lineal fashion.
  8. The Star Machine

    Hi Speedracer5: Thanks for the compliment! I'm glad you enjoyed my comments, but I think I should clarify one or two of them. I agree that OZ was Judy's breakthrough role. As I said, it enabled her to make the transition from starlet to star. Among other indications of her new, more important status at MGM because of OZ: she won a special Oscar for her performance, had a hit recording with "Over the Rainbow" (which also won an Oscar) and, at the premiere of BABES IN ARMS later in 1939, she planted her hands and footprints in the forecourt of Gramann's Chinese Theatre. I think the studio also gave her her own trailer (either her first or more lavish than the one she'd had before) and she also got a raise in salary either just after OZ completed or early in 1940. I'm simply surprised (and puzzled) that in Judy's case, MGM didn't seem to capitalize on her success in OZ as quickly as it did with initial successes by other MGM contemporaries like Eleanor Powell and Greer Garson. It's true that Judy's partnership with Mickey Rooney was box office gold, but her few films without Mickey in the years immediately following OZ are either pretty modest by MGM's standards (LITTLE NELLIE KELLY) or lavish top-heavy multi-star vehicles (ZIEGFELD GIRL), in which Judy is only one of several "names." FOR ME AND MY GAL, Judy's first real "adult" role and the one in which she first received solo above-the-title billing, is interesting. It's a relatively modest film production-wise, but it contains many musical numbers and talents (e.g., Judy, Gene Kelly, George Murphy, Marta Eggerth, Lucille Norman, etc.). It may be modest, but MGM felt confident enough in Judy's star power by this time that it gave her an unknown, untried leading man in Gene Kelly, who makes his film debut here. (It's obviously also a compliment to Kelly that MGM felt he could carry his share of the script's demands well enough to be Judy's leading man!) Judy's next solo vehicle, 1943's PRESENTING LILY MARS, was the first MGM film produced by Joe Pasternak, who had been credited with making Deanna a star at Universal. It's budget and presentation were so modest that, according to Pasternak's memoir, Judy (because she "listened to the wrong people, who told her the film would be a disaster and would set back her burgeoning superstar status) went behind his back and complained about the film and Pasternak to L.B. Mayer, who called Pasternak into his office and demanded that an elaborate number be shot for the film's finale showing "Lily" as a Broadway star (and one the studio could heavily promote in its' advertising for potential audiences). This number was given over entirely to the burgeoning Freed Unit, and led to an inadvertent estrangement between Judy and Joe Pasternak that was only resolved when Judy was chosen to replace June Allyson in 1949's IN THE GOOD OLD SUMMERTIME six years later. I singled out MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS because it has none of the modest aims and budgetary restrictions of Judy's earlier post-OZ star vehicles. It's not only shot in gorgeous Technicolor with top production values behind the screen, and was given almost a year to shoot, but the studio built an entire street of houses for that film. Also, after the film's huge success, Judy not only never again had to play a "teenager" onscreen, but she never again set foot in front of an MGM camera without the studio's finest talents backing her up. As for Judy's early pre-OZ films, I agree that some of them aren't very good. Her role in THOROUGHBREDS DON'T CRY was clearly written at the last minute to capitalize on the hit she'd made with "Dear Mr. Gable" in BROADWAY MELODY OF 1938, and the film is really a vehicle for Mickey Rooney and Ronald Sinclair (who gets the majority of screen time in the "Coming Attractions" trailer for the movie). On the other hand EVERYBODY SING, though somewhat loud and shrill, overall, I think does give Judy a leading role (it's her character that saves her crazy family from financial disaster), in a very "Deanna Durbin-esque" type role as an independent, pro-active, "Little Miss Fixit." LISTEN, DARLING, though it has a modest budget, also gives Judy a pretty good role, I think, in a story that again is similar to the sort Deanna was making at Universal at that time. In both LISTEN, DARLING and Deanna's MAD ABOUT MUSIC, each girl brings romance to her widowed mother. A key difference for me is that in DARLING, the primary "Fixit" character is not Judy, but Freddie Bartholomew, who plays her pal. Freddie's the one who suggests they trick Judy's mom Mary Astor, into the family trailer and hit the road to find her a better husband than stuffy Gene Lockhart. While Freddie does the scheming/planning and the work of finding Astor a husband, Judy provides the "heart" of the film by tearfully revealing to Astor that she knows how unhappy Astor really is at the prospect of marrying Lockhart and, later, tearfully asking nice rich guy Alan Hale to adopt her and younger brother Scotty Beckett so that Astor can shack up with free spirit Walter Pidgeon. In this way, I think of LISTEN, DARLING as a precursor to the Mickey/Judy musicals, in which Mickey invariably provides the drive and energy in "putting on the show" and Judy provides the "heart," both by pouring out her frustrations in song that Mickey doesn't think of her romantically, and by more or less acting as his conscience when his head becomes too swelled with incipient success (e.g., when he wants to dump Virginia Weidler and orphans in BABES ON BROADWAY after it looks like he, Judy and the other kids will get their shot at Broadway stardom without the kids.) It IS interesting to me that Deanna was much more successful going solo in the "Little Miss Fixit" role than Judy was. Time and again, in Deanna's films, she's not only the only singer, but often the only musical presence period, in films that, while they give her several opportunities for song, are not true "musicals" of the type that Judy was making at MGM (and would ultimately make Judy a superstar.) In the non-musical sections of her films, Deanna embodies both of the qualities partitioned between Garland and Rooney at MGM. At Universal, Deanna is both the primary motivator/mover/shaker, she also provides the "heart" of her films by showing an adult character (such as screen Dad Charles Winninger in THREE SMART GIRLS and THREE SMART GIRLS GROW UP) the error of his ways. I think L.B. Mayer's attitude toward Judy was somewhat ambivalent. Yes, he referred to her as "My little hunchback." On the other hand, he dissuaded Judy's mom from getting Judy released from her MGM contract because Judy was unhappy about her inactivity during her first year at Metro. Mayer reportedly asked Ethel for more time to build Judy into a star, and, of course, he turned out to be right, though it took a little while to get there
  9. The Star Machine

    As I think most board members know, I'm a big fan of both Deanna Durbin and Judy Garland, and I like Shirley Temple a lot, too. My own "take" on why Judy was able to bridge the gap between child star and adult star, while Shirley could not is twofold: 1. Judy was much older than Shirley when she (Judy) became a major star; and 2. Unlike Shirley, or even Deanna, who was Judy's contemporary, Judy was not, in my opinion, a "major star" as a child. Her true period of superstardom, when she was considered capable of carrying a major production to success on her own (or nearly her own) name, did not occur until after she had graduated to adult roles. Judy's earliest pre-OZ Metro roles in films like THOROUGHBREDS DON'T CRY, EVERYBODY SING, and LISTEN, DARLING, were good showcases for her in relatively modest "typical" light late 30s musicals that, for reasons I can't explain failed to generate for Judy, the instantaneous superstardom and "phenomenon" status that THREE SMART GIRLS and her subsequent Universal vehicles did for Deanna, or as films like BRIGHT EYES, THE LITTLE COLONEL and THE LITTLEST REBEL generated for Shirley a few years earlier. While OZ undoubtedly enabled Judy to make the transition from talented "starlet' to "star," at 17, she was still not a major star in her own right. OZ was a prohibitively expensive production (cost over $3,000,000) and though a big "hit" in that many people went to see it, it still LOST over $1,000,000 on its' first release. Perhaps this explains why, of the 7 films in which Judy appeared between OZ in 1939 and FOR ME AND MY GAL in 1942 (when she first obtained solo, above-the-title billing onscreen that marked the advent of an emerging superstar), only one film, 1940's LITTLE NELLIE KELLY can truly be considered a "Judy Garland vehicle." In all of the others, she provides major, but definite support in films that centered either on Mickey Rooney (the ANDY HARDY and BABES films) or Lana Turner (1941's ZIEGFELD GIRL). It wasn't until the relatively modestly produced FOR ME AND MY GAL, Judy's first truly "adult" role onscreen that Metro began to openly acknowledge her as an emerging superstar, and not until 1944's MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS, that the studio gave her a major "A" list production comparable to OZ or to the contemporaneous vehicles their new "lady star" Greer Garson was headlining. This stood in sharp contrast to Durbin's instantaneous rise at Universal. Durbin's first film, 1936's THREE SMART GIRLS, was initially greenlighted at the studio as the most cost-effective means of getting rid of a group of onscreen (e.g., Charles Winninger, Nella Walker, John King, etc) and behind-the-scenes (e.g., Joe Pasternak, script writer Adele Commandini and director Henry Koster, who Pasternak insisted on bringing with him and who worked on this film without a contract) talent it no longer was interested in retaining. Durbin's casting changed all of that, as studio executives recognized her genuine star potential enough to re-write the film to launch her as the major star it desperately needed. Deanna's first film was such a hit that at the premiere of her second one (1937's ONE HUNDRED MEN AND A GIRL), she was invited to plant her hand and footprints in the forecourt of Graman's Chinese Theatre (the ceremony took place at the premiere of her 3rd film) and within 2 years of her debut received a "Special Juvenile Oscar for career achievement. Launched with special onscreen billing as "Universal's New Discovery," and with advertising that took advantage of the sensation Deanna had created as a member of Eddie Cantor's TEXACO TOWN radio show since her debut in late September 1936: "FILM DEBUT OF DEANNA DURBIN! RADIO'S SENSATIONAL SONGBIRD!" Durbin became an instantaneous worldwide hit and a Hollywood phenomenon, one that continued to dazzle and delight audiences and critics as she gracefully matured onscreen from "child" to "ingénue" to "young woman/adult" star. Shirley, was, of course, an enormous hit as a child, but, unfortunately, the advent of the more naturalistic acting styes of Durbin and Garland, combined with what Ethan Mordden called "their spectacular adult ease" as vocalists, made Shirley's deeply ingrained "child star" mannerisms look ordinary and mannered by comparison, even though, after a very brief slightly "gawky" period, Shirley matured into a lovely young lady. Anyway, this is only my take, and I'd be interested in others' opinions on the issue. I do think when all is said and done, all three girls were wonderful talents, each in her own right and in her own way, and each deservedly became a major star. One corollary issue that might be interesting to consider is why Judy at MGM didn't become the instantaneous star that Deanna did at Universal. Whether by accident or design, most of Judy's pre-OZ vehicles were at least as "lavish" as Deanna's at Universal and contained even more "star power" (e.g, Mickey Rooney, Freddie Bartholomew), and they were profitable but, with the exception of LOVE FINDS ANDY HARDY, it seems to me none of them made the impression on audiences or critics that Deanna's films did during that period. Thanks for listening. Thoughts?
  10. THE CATTY THREAD

    I read that a group of people were discussing an actress who was reportedly a nymphomaniac to which Judy Garland contributed: "When you can calm her down." I don't think the actress's name was confirmed, but it was rumored to be Vivien Leigh. Oscar Levant reportedly commented on Garland's singing style during her last sad years: "A vibrato in search of a voice." I remember reading in a book of movie quotes the title of a critic's review for the 1976 Barbra Streisand version of A STAR IS BORN: "A Bore Is Starred." Another review read: "A Star is Stillborn." Walter Matthau, who reportedly had a very stormy working relationship with Streisand during the production of HELLO DOLLY!: "I'm number 6 at the box office. Right below Barbra Streisand. Can you imagine being below Barbra Streisand? Someone get me a bag, I may throw up!" Ava Gardner on Frank Sinatra's 1960s marriage to Mia Farrow: "Ha! I always knew Frank would end up in bed with a boy!"
  11. Deanna Durbin - Femme Fatale

    Hi TopBilled: I agree. I have no problem with some people liking or disliking Deanna Durbin. As with any star, she has both her admirers and detractors. While I do think Durbin was very talented, and the most talented young soprano, as both singer and actress, in Hollywood history, I do not think she was a "limitless" talent. I honestly can't think of any actor or actress whose talent was limited in some way. No one could play everything successfully.. I enjoy Esther Williams and Sonja Henie movies but I wouldn't consider either to be a talented actress, either dramatically or comedically. I am simply looking for clarification as to the difference between "limited" and "dismissive" for those who find Durbin a "personality" star. For instance, do people who hold that opinion think it took genuine acting talent to embody that image onscreen or not? If they do think she had acting talent for the type of roles she played successfully, how so? and what were her limitations/defects as an actress in these types of roles and others?
  12. Deanna Durbin - Femme Fatale

    Hi James: Your comment raises the question: "What's the difference?" I may be wrong, and I probably am, since it's a long time since I've visited the board, never mind reviewing past comments on Deanna Durbin, including yours, but I don't recall you saying anything admiring about Durbin's abilities as an actress. So how is considering her "limited" ( a term that could reasonably be applied to just about any star in one form or another) not a synonym for dismissive? I do agree, as I've said before that one "limitation" on Durbin's ambitions toward becoming a successful dramatic actress, was her refusal to give her career priority over her desire for a personal life. Thanks, Markus
  13. Deanna Durbin - Femme Fatale

    Hi TopBilled: . I also expected this from you. I never expected to change your opinion, only to express my own, and the reasons for it. While I disagree with you, I appreciate that we've been able to keep our discussion on a civil level, which is not always the case on forums like these. As for the excerpts I've provided from film scholars, while I agree that they're "opinion" coming as they do from noted and respected cineastes, one can at least expect that they are informed opinions given from people who have taken the time to review Durbin's filmography in toto. I also provided them because comments such as yours that "you'll hear from hardcore Durbin fans" who disagree with you, strongly suggested to me that you, like other film fans who don't like Deanna or are dismissive of her abilities, believe that claims that she was a talented actress are entirely fabricated by her "hardcore fans," which is not the case. My apologies in advance if I am mistaken about this. Finally, I don't understand why you're confused by the original poster's comment. Perhaps I'm wrong, but I got the impression that he(?) was simply expressing his opinion (which I think he even acknowledged in his comment) that he believed Deanna would have been an effective femme fatale and he was sorry that she never got the chance at a real femme fatale role. I don't think he intended to imply that she couldn't be effective in other non-musical genres, and, even if he felt that way, he kept his opinions on her potential success in these genres to himself. Take Care, Markus
  14. Deanna Durbin - Femme Fatale

    Hi TopBilled: Perhaps we're getting confused over the subject of this thread. I don't think anyone, including me, would say that Deanna's filmography was comprised of dramatic roles comparable to those of "dramatic" actresses like Davis and Stanwyck, or even the post-MGM Garland. But the question posed by the original poster was not whether Deanna was a dramatic actress, but whether or not she could have been successful as a film noir femme fatale if she'd been given the chance. From this came comments from you and others that she lacked the talent to play a dramatic part, never bothered to fight for better material, was, a wonderful singer but a poor actress overall, etc., etc. As you know, even I expressed some reservations about whether audiences would accept her in such a role, but I do believe that CHRISTMAS HOLIDAY, in particular, showed that she had the talent to play such a part, so we simply disagree on the issue. As for your other comments, as far as I know, Deanna's alleged "affair" with Joseph Cotten has never been confirmed. Mind you, I'm not denying the very real possibility that she had one with him, but Hopper's comments aside, as usual built on pure speculation and inuendo, I've never seen any evidence confirming that she did. If it's inappropriate to cite Deanna's dramatic talents as "fact," it's just as inappropriate to cite any alleged extra-marital relationships in which she may have engaged as "fact" without additional evidence. Cotten denied it, Deanna never commented on it, and despite Orson Welles's claim that they did, he offers no details to confirm that they did. Pasternak undoubtedly had a gift for discerning how to sell young actresses to the public, but despite the bigger budgets, more varied talents and greater scope afforded him at MGM, none of his vehicles for the talented Jane Powell and lachrymose June Allyson were as admired or as beloved by the public as his series of Durbin vehicles were at Universal. Perhaps this helps to explain why Deanna seems to have been the only one of the several talented young singers with whom he worked who Pasternak continued to pursue regularly for film work up until his own retirement in 1966. But who knows whether Pasternak would have continued to be successful with Deanna, if he hadn't left Universal when he did? Reportedly, he badly wanted to work with her at MGM, but as you said, when he left Universal, Deanna was "growing up" and as he acknowledged, she had already begun to complain about being allowed to expand her film assignments to include more dramatic films. The questions may provide no answers but they're interesting. What I think is indisputable is, to quote Garland afficianado John Fricke: "Deanna Durbin was arguably the finest, most talented and successful young soprano Hollywood ever promoted."
  15. Deanna Durbin - Femme Fatale

    Hi TopBilled: Up to a point I agree with you. I think it's clear that Deanna never had the ruthless career obsessiveness of a Lucille Ball, Bette Davis, or even a Carole Lombard, and in his essay on Deanna in his book THE GREAT MOVIE STARS: THE GOLDEN YEARS, film historian David Shipman, who had a longstanding acquaintance with her and conducted the one official interview she granted following her retirement, stated that after Universal refused to consider a similarly heavy dramatic part for Deanna in the wake of the public outcry over CHRISTMAS HOLIDAY, she "lost all interest in films." On the other hand, Deanna's comedic talents were sometimes compared to the superb adult comediennes of her day, as in Screenland's review of her 1938 film MAD ABOUT MUSIC: Little Miss Durbin is almost too good to be true. Now she has added an expertly sparkling comic talent to her other gifts and some of her scenes are as rib-tickling in their sure sense of comedy as any ever played by Irene Dunne or Carole Lombard." Certainly Durbin's mastery of delivering her trademark rapid fire dialogue with naturalness and spontaneity were qualities similar to Lombard's comedic persona. My "take" on Durbin's talents is well expressed by film historian Charles Affron's summation of her abilities in the INTERNATIONAL DICTIONARY OF FILM AND FILMMAKERS: Durbin's sweet voice and sound musical instincts take on particular value when she is compared to her 1940s counterparts, the "legit" sopranos Jane Powell and Kathryn Grayson. Like Garland, Durbin was also a very talented actress with an individual, recognizable style. That style, related to her musical discipline, is perceived in her fluent, rapid-fire, but utterly clear delivery of dialogue, in a diction with irresistible impetus and energy, in irony that never smacks of brattishness but rather, of real intelligence, and in a warmth of personality that echoes her singing/speaking voice. One of her first "grown-up" roles, in IT STARTED WTIH EVE, pits her against the formidable Charles Laughton, and the modulations of their relationship is one of the joys of this romantic comedy. Her dramatic roles in CHRISTMAS HOLIDAY and LADY ON A TRAIN suggest that at a different studio--and perhaps with a different level of ambition on her part--Durbin's career would not have been truncated so abruptly. Her pluckiness remains a significant image of America in the late 1930s In any case, by your criteria, I think any highly popular musical actress of the 1930s and 1940s Studio Era was a "niche" actress. Jeanette MacDonald was, by all critical accounts, a superlative drawing room comedy comedienne, but whether at Paramount or MGM, she never strayed from her supremely ladylike persona, and despite her general mastery of both comedy and drama, the same was true of Irene Dunne. Judy Garland was a supremely talented performer, but while at MGM, even in the non-musical THE CLOCK, she never strayed from the wistful demure, good-hearted lovelorn character on which her stardom at Metro was built. In fact, efforts by MGM to cast Judy in pro-acrtive energetic "Durbinesque" type roles in her earliest films like THOROUGHBREDS DON'T CRY and EVERYBODY SING, were met with lukewarm response from the public. Audiences liked Judy, and the films were profitable, but despite some fine opportunities to display her comedic and musical talents, they weren't captivated by her as they mmediately and, for several years, were with Durbin. One aspect of Durbin's career that distinguishes her from the actresses you've cited was the intense and universal public fascination and affection she inspired in audiences. As her producer Joe Pasternak observed, and as hundreds of commentaries and analyses of Deanna's career attest: "She is one of those personalities which the world will insist on regarding as its' personal property." Not even Lombard, and certainly not Ball or Canova, inspired anywhere near the proprietary interest in the filmgoing public that singular young musical talents like Durbin and Garland did. It can be argued that in addition to ambition the Balls, Lombards, and Stanwycks had the opportunity for versatility since the public was largely indifferent to how they were presented onscreen. Moviegoers would just as equally welcome a Ball performance as ruthlessly selfish **** (THE BIG STREET) as thendey would her turn as a zany young madcap (THE AFFAIRS OF ANNABELLE), but none of Ball's screenwork, however varied and impressive, enabled her to graduate to superstar status, and certainly her Hollywood success never remotely approached the intense affection worldwide audiences had for Durbin at the peak of her popularity, and so, unlike Durbin or Garland, Ball and Lombard were pretty much free to do as they pleased, cinematically speaking.

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