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Deanna Durbin Sweetheart Pack


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I've recently had a chance to see several of the movies in the Deanna Durbin Sweetheart Pack and found that I liked Durbin as a performer very much, particularly in It Started With Eve (1941) and Lady On a Train (1945). The other films in this dvd set are Three Smart Girls, First Love, Can't Help Singing, and Something in the Wind.

 

As someone who loves music and movies, but not necessarily together (it's those long, arid patches called the plot between numbers that get me down most of the time, though there are exceptions), I found Durbin and her films to be refreshingly different in quality.

 

It Started With Eve was a well-played farce, with Charles Laughton giving one of his best ensemble performances, along with Walter Catlett & Ruth Donnelly as attendant medical staff and Laughton's foils. The director Henry Koster and screenplay by Hanns Kr?ly, Norman Krasna and who really knows how many others, was what most comedies wish they could be. And holy cow, look at those production values!! Those interior sets at the Laughton mansion were amusingly outsized, like San Simeon on steroids.

 

Even Robert Cummings, who can be so annoyingly smarmy, was far better here than in other comedies I've seen him in. I wonder what vitamins Bob the health nut was ingesting in the early forties, giving him some plum roles in The Devil and Miss Jones, Saboteur, King's Row and this one--or was it just Lady Luck and a dearth of leading men in town due to that little dust up, WWII? Of course, maybe I'd like the guy better if I'd first seen him in these superior Hollywood products, rather than the prurient malarkey that he was in later.

 

Best of all, was Ms. Durbin. Aside from the fact that her voice was lovely, (in a preternatural way), her comic timing in the knockabout scenes, her quiet scenes with Laughton, and most interestingly, her blend of wholesomeness with sexiness and a soup?on of intelligence was unique. A most interesting performer and certainly this film is one of the best representatives of her work.

 

The other film, Lady on a Train, which I've written about at length before on the TCM message board, was delightful--though it should be noted, an overly sexy but beautiful rendition of "Silent Night" sung by Durbin was a bit odd, since it was to her unseen Dad on the phone. This gaffe was uh, "peculiar" and a tad disturbing. I'd never seen her in any movie until I caught this one on TCM a couple of years ago. She, along with Ralph Bellamy and Dan Duryea, were great in a noir send up full of fun.

 

I must say that I loathed Three Smart Girls (sue me), but First Love, and Can't Help Singing (1944) are next on my list. Something in the Wind (1947), is a title that must've given critics too easy a target back in the late '40s, but I'm intrigued by the presence of John Dall in the cast, especially after seeing the extraordinary Gun Crazy for the first time recently.

 

The only film that I think deserves transfer to dvd in the states, but has yet to receive it, is the dark Christmas Holiday (1944), which I saw because I'm a die-hard Robert Siodmak fan. This movie, which I don't believe has been seen on tv in some time, features a beautiful Frank Loesser song, "Spring Will Be a Little Late This Year", sung by Ms. Durbin. Actually, maybe this movie is still buried due to the ticked off hard core Deanna Durbin fans who have posted their disgruntled comments on IMDb. It would be better to approach it as a NON-musical and a film noir, despite the presence of Durbin and Gene Kelly.

 

Were any of Deanna Durbin's movies shown on tv in the '60s-'80s? I can't recall seeing her until the advent of TCM and other classic film venues. If not, why not?

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Hiya Moira and long time no see! I'm a rabid Deanna Durbin fan and I too love the Sweetheart Pak which I brought last year. To me, her two greatest hits--HIS BUTLER'S SISTER and NICE GIRL? are still awaiting DVD treatment but I hear there are plans afoot to issue another compilation--since Deanna did make quite a few movies.

 

In answer to your question, I cannot recall seeing a single Deanna Durbin movie during that time period. Universal may have thought there wasn't an audience out there for her. But there are numerous websites today devoted to her. I wrote her a letter last year, describing how passionately loved she is by her fans. She wrote me back a short but very witty note and said she's supremely happy living in retirement in a small village outside of Paris where she is known as Madame David.

 

You need to go to YouTube and type in Deanna Durbin and be amazed at the lovingly put together film clips of her---especially of her very best singing sequences from her films.

 

Enjoy!

The Princess

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Moira, I don't recall ever seeing a Durbin film on broadcast tv in the 70's or 80's. I do remember that the old AMC played THREE SMART GIRLS in the late 80's. I saw lots of Shirley Temple films, though. Lots of Fox and MGM films on broadcast tv when I was growing up.

 

Sandy K

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WOW you saw "Christmas Holiday"??

This is 1 Gene Kelly film I have been trying to see for years! I read somewhere that Gene plays a charming, psychotic, homosexual murderer? Is this true? I know that it was never placed on VHS & from my understanding there are no plans for a DVD release!

I have heard that although the film was a box office success for Durbin, she was criticised for having tarnished her trademark persona playing a dance-hall "hostess" (aka a prostitute).

I read in a book that it was considered one of the bleakest noirs of the 1940s!

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Hi princessananka,

It's a pleasure to talk to you again, too.

Thanks for guiding me to Youtube, where I found a couple of clips from His Butler's Sister that featured Deanna Durbin singing Nessun Dorma (in English) and a medley of Russian Gypsy songs. After seeing these two sequences, I'd like to see the film, especially since it turns out to have been directed by one of my big faves, Frank Borzage. Here's a link to those videos:

http://tinyurl.com/yvxwul

 

Hi Sandy,

I know that you and I both cherish Shirley Temple's films! Some of those Fox rarities do show up in the early morning hours here in the east on AMC still, and occasionally on the FMC, which also tends to show earlier films in the morning. Thanks for confirming that I wasn't just crazy or working too much for the last two or three decades. Durbin really doesn't seem to have been around at all on the tube when I was growing up. She was just a name from long ago to me until I had a chance to see Lady on a Train (1945) on TCM.

 

Hi CelluloidKid,

There are copies of Christmas Holiday floating around (on vhs only as far as I know). The copy that I saw was borrowed from a friend, so I no longer have it, but I'm hoping that someday they'll be a Siodmak boxed set. (I can dream, can't I?). There is a Region 2 dvd copy listed on Amazon today for about 80 bucks, (but I'd keep looking for a vhs).

 

The darker elements of the story are definitely there, and Siodmak highlights these without crossing the production code line, though there is the suggestion of some very dark corners in this movie. If you've ever seen the more readily accessible on vhs movies of The Suspect(1944) or The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry (1945), they also explore similar themes in most interesting ways. Despite the fact that Gene Kelly supposedly wasn't happy with his performance here, he's quite effective as a conflicted, devious character.

 

Somerset Maugham's original novella, Christmas Holiday, which inspired this film, is quite a fast read, and, as usual with Maugham, there is more to his characters than is readily apparent when you first read it. This book is still in print.

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I bought this when it was first released because FIRST LOVE was a favorite Durbin film of mine.

 

I've watched them all, and she certainly is fun. LADY ON A TRAIN is funny and mysterious, and Deanna is certainly all grown up. It's a great introduction to her work that I think people curious about her should take a chance on. It's certainly not very expensive as DVD sets go.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Thanks, moira, for the heads up regarding Christmas Holiday. Gene Kelly is one of my favorites, and I found his performance in this film rather disconcerting when I first saw it. It's been years since then -- it will be interesting to see if my reaction to it now matches my initial one.

 

Di

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The same person who posted Christmas Holiday and Mad About Music to Youtube, has also posted Deanna's 1943 film, The Amazing Mrs. Holliday:

 

http://youtube.com/watch?v=7ZwZFmvXln0

 

This film, the first Durbin film produced after the departure of her producer-director team of Joe Pasternak and Henry Koster from Universal, and the first produced following the resolution of her suspension by the studio, was Deanna's most dramatic film to date.

 

Originally titled Forever Yours and assigned to the great French director Jean Renoir (who was placed under contract by Universal to develp a more mature screen image for Deanna), tells the story of a young missionary (Durbin) who shepards nine war orphans from her parents' missionary school in China to San Francisco. The ship carrying Durbin and the orphans is torpedoed by the Japanese and the ship's captain (Harry Davenport) and one of the orphans are believed to have been killed in the attack. Durbin, first mate Barry Fitzgerald and the remaining orphans continue to San Francisco, where Deanna is mistakenly believed by Davenport's wealthy family to be his young widow.

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The other film, Lady on a Train, which I've written about at length before on the TCM message board, was delightful--though it should be noted, an overly sexy but beautiful rendition of "Silent Night" sung by Durbin was a bit odd, since it was to her unseen Dad on the phone. This gaffe was uh, "peculiar" and a tad disturbing. I'd never seen her in any movie until I caught this one on TCM a couple of years ago. She, along with Ralph Bellamy and Dan Duryea, were great in a noir send up full of fun.

 

Hi Moirafinnie:

 

Deanna's unusually sexy rendition of "Silent Night" to her unseen "Daddy," was not a "gaffe," but an attempt by Universal to placate her strong desire for a more mature, overtly sexy image within the context of the wholesome image that had made her a star.

 

Thus, we have Deanna (looking gorgeous, BTW) and shot as lovingly and glamorously by Woody Bredell as Hayworth, Turner or Monroe ever were, but still being presented in the wholesome, "innocent" context of singing a classic Christmas carol to her unseen Dad.

 

Perhaps none of Deanna's other films so openly, if perhaps, unintentionally, acknowledges the offscreen struggle between star and studio over her onscreen image as Lady on a Train, as evidenced by the wide disparity of outfits and stylings she wears throughout the film. For example, she goes from overtly wholesome in one scene (that oversized raincoat with starched pigtails in the movie theatre) to overtly sexy in another (e.g., donning a very "Stanwyck-esque" DOUBLE INDEMNITY style platinum wig and slinky black gown (with bare midriff!) to croon Cole Porter's "Night and Day"), and though some of the outfits are reasonably flattering, several are fairly outlandish.

 

Still, I have to give Deanna and Universal credit. Whether one regards their efforts as successes, failures or a combination of both,they were far more adventurous and "cutting edge" in exploiting Deanna's talents and image than MGM was with the contemporaneous Judy Garland's at that studio.

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  • 6 months later...

*I have always wanted to see Deanna Durbin in "Christmas Holiday" (1944) !!*

 

*Per Wikipedia: Although the film was a box office success for Durbin, she was criticised for having tarnished her trademark persona playing a dance-hall "hostess" (aka a prostitute).*

 

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