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Deanna Durbin


bansi4
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Just watched Deanna Durbin in the movie "Lady on a Train" (1945) and was quite impressed. Although it was a screwball mystery the settings with a Christmas theme was quite impressive. Miss Durbin looked beautiful and sang some good old standards very effectively including "Night and Day" and "Give Me A Little Kiss". Also splendid was her rendition of "Silent Night". She was surrounded by quite a few good supporting players Ralph Bellamy; Dan Duryea; Patricia Morison; David Bruce; George Coulouris; Edward Everett Horton; Allen Jenkins; Elizabeth Patterson; Samuel S. HInds and William Frawley.

I never thought that much of Miss Durbin however I was glad I watched the film and am looking forward to more of her work.

 

Mongo

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Mongo, I'm happy someone else saw this little movie! I caught this movie about a week ago, when Robert Osborne included it in a night of his picks. I didn't expect much, but I was delighted with the picaresque story, especially since it included wonderful actors such as Edward Everett Horton, Allen Jenkins, Dan Duryea & Ralph Bellamy, all of whom looked as though they were having fun.

 

As to the music, her singing was lovely. I've never heard nor seen "Silent Night" sung in such a strangely provocative fashion! Miss Durbin was very appealing overall--and I was especially amused by her delightful, odd little costumes. Did you notice the outrageous hats and outfits she wore in every scene?

 

I had the impression that this movie may have been intended as the first in a series featuring Durbin as a slightly addled-brained sleuth. Too bad that didn't work out, but I think I'd watch another Durbin movie if TCM showed one!

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I must admit I have never seen a Deanna Durbin pic, maybe it is time to change that. I guess I always resisted the spun-sugar image, but she did have a lovely singing voice. I will try to catch one, and get back to you guys with my impressions.

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Deanna Durbin is among my most cherished movie goddesses. To see the ultimate Deanna Durbin flick, you simply must try to catch her in the l941 Universal masterpiece, "Nice Girl?" with the equally gorgeous Robert Stack. And what an incredible small-time milieu that Universal created for its greatest star! Another Durbin knockout is "HIs Butler's Sister." I watch this one once a week. Durbin is fabulous in her "Russian Medley" sequence and oh, those gorgeous close-ups and 40s frocks by Vera West. Her frequent co-star was the strange looking Franchot Tone but in a strange way, he counterbalances her vervy, exuberant charisma. Hail, Hail, Deanna! We love you!

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Patypancake, you have great taste!! What ashame that Deanna retired to France at the top of her game...

 

I have always liked Deanna's movies and hope to get to see Nice Girl with Bob Stack...

 

I love reading everyone's messages. I learn so much I never knew and I thought I knew it all. NOT!!!

 

:-)

 

Mary

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Like Moirafinnie and Mrkgeegee, I haven't seen much of Deanna either. But I do remember the short that she made at MGM with Judy Garland in the late 30's. TCM shows it from time to time, and you can see it in "That's Entertainment 2." Deanna almost went under contract to MGM, but they decided to keep Judy instead. Its a shame though, since I think she and Judy would have been great together in musicals. And L.B. Mayer loved to make wholesome, family quality movies - the kind Deanna wound up doing at Universal. He probably kicked himself over not keeping her. And with all their money, I can't understand why they wouldn't have kept her - its no secret that she had talent, and a great screen presence.

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Deanna Durbin has been one of my favorites ever since I first saw one of her movies on AMC. Eighteen of her twenty-one movies have been released on home video. If you liked "Lady On a Train" I think you would enjoy "It Started With Eve", "First Love" and "One Hundred Men And A Girl" just as much. My favorite Durbin film is "Spring Parade" which has not officially been released by Universal Studios. However copies (made from a 16mm print I think) have been sold on e-bay. If TCM plans to show more Durbin movies in the future I hope they include "Spring Parade".

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Of the two, I think that Deanna lucked out the most when she signed up with Universal and MGM kept Judy Garland. With Garland, MGM always partnered her with a musical giant, like Astaire, kelly, etc. With Deanna, she was Universal's ONLY femme super star and she carried it off with exuberant charm and strength of character. While Garland conveyed a fragile, nervous quality, Deanna looked like a feisty, All-American heroine who would never breakdown. Very much like she was in real life. And although she was paired with usually Robert Stack or Franchot Tone, Universal made sure it was their phenomenal song bird who stayed in the spotlight. Universal surrounded her with the greatest of supporting cast members, stunning black and white photography (just look at her close-ups in "His Butler's Sister) and Vera Wang designed nearly all of Deanna's memorable 40s frocks. One curious factoid about the enchanting Deanna: after she left movies for good in the late 40s, she eventually became a grandmother and still lives in seclusion in France. In her last comments made back in the 60s or 70s, she claims she has never ever seen any of her old movies, even on French TV where they are perennial favorites. To anyone whose never seen a Deanna delight, you should definitely try l942's "His Butler's Sister" with a delightful supporting cast and thrilling musical numbers, especially Deanna's finale from "Turnadot" and before that, the "Russian Medley," that brings down the house.

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It always bemuses me when a star doesn't care to watch the films that they starred in. You would think that Deanna Durbin, who has nothing to be ashamed of, would enjoy watching her old films surrounded by her grandchildren. What gives with this attitude anyway? OR are they handing us a line of poo-poo?

 

Mongo

 

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When Deanna retired in 1948 at the age of 27 she left her show business career behind. She reluctantly became a movie star. She really had wanted to become an opera singer. From what I've read she never really enjoyed making movies. I believe she felt the constant publicity and the Hollywood life style contributed to her two failed marriages. She was constantly being held up by the movie going public to be the perfect daughter/sister/girl friend even though the characters she played were nothing like her real self. Most people today don't realize how big a star she was. Next to Shirley Temple she was the most famous child star of the 30's. She was also a huge international star.Because her parents emigrated from England, throughout the British Empire she was probably one of the most loved American movie stars. During the 40's the biggest movie house chain in England played a different Durbin movie every day for a week. They have never done this for any other star. When she retired she moved to France and married for a third & final time. This marriage lasted almost 50 years and she shed her Deanna Durbin personna. She became Edna David (birth name is Edna Mae Durbin). She chose to live the rest of her life as a normal person. I don't know if she ever watches her old movies but I believe that she doesn't dwell on her movie career. She still has an active fan club based in England & she corresponds with her fans now & then. By the way she was constantly being asked to come out of retirement during the 50's. During one of the few interviews she has given in her retirement she confessed to having been tempted only once. Jay Lerner was writing a Broadway musical with her in mind for the lead. He played her some of the songs & tried to talk her into coming back. She said that she thought about it but decided she was too happy with her life in France. So he found some one else to star in "My Fair Lady'.

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WOW! To imagine Deanna in "My Fair Lady" - she would've been great, but at least Julie Andrews wound up with it, instead of someone who couldn't pull it off.

 

Paty - you convinced me. Perhaps it is better that Deanna went off to Universal to become a major star, because if she did stay at MGM, she would've always been a co-star instead of the lead. As great as Judy Garland was, I don't think she ever starred in any film she made. Even in "A Star is Born" (which I think is her best), she co-stars with James Mason. And in most of her other films, she was alongside Astaire, Kelly, or that pudgy little Energizer bunny named Mickey Rooney.

 

It's hard to find Deanna Durbin movies on video, I wish TCM could show Universal's films - that way they could have a long overdue Abbott and Costello festival as well.

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Here's something else about the fascinating Deanna. When she married Charles Henry David, part of her marriage contract included this very curious attachment: the new husband had to promise to treat his new bride "like a nobody." In other words, I think Deanna intensely detested the public side of stardom and just wanted to be treated like an average person. She certainly succeeded. She still lives in seclusion in the French village of Neaphle-le-Chateau. Even during her Hollywood heyday, the movie mags were full of how reclusive she was. She was almost never seen in public, especially at Hollywood parties. The magical beauty of her movies today are how simple and technically dazzling they all were--even in black and white. Unlike her cohort, Judy Garland, she played the same character in every movie: high-spirited, independent, and never despaired. In l952, Judy Garland was performing over in France. She managed to get the private phone number of Deanna and the two old Hollywood stars chatted for a long time. Deanna reportedly said: "Are you still having to do this?" Judy replied: "Of course. It's my career." Deanna's last words were: "Thank God I'm out of all that."

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Moviejoe, if you are looking to buy some of Deanna's movies on home video check out Critics Choice Video (www.ccvideo.com) & Movies Unlimited (www.moviesunlimited.com). Between them you should be able to get all 18 of her movies that have been released to video. A good first choice would be any of the titles that Paty or I mentioned in earlier posts. The other 3 Durbin movies , Spring Parade, Hers To Hold & Christmas Holiday (with Gene Kelly) have not been officially released on home video. They do show up on e-bay once in awhile. I believe these videos were made from 16mm prints.

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