Well, January is over, and with it, the first Screen Team Of The Month blogathon. Now that it’s February, we’re back to focusing on one Star for the month, and this month’s Star is actress and singer Deanna Durbin!
Table Of Contents
Quick Film Career Bio
Birth: December 4, 1921
Death: April 17, 2013
Edna Mae Durbin was born December 4, 1921 to James and Ada Durbin in Winnipeg, Manitoba. When her father, a machinist with the Canadian Pacific Railroad, had some health issues, they moved to Southern California. Edna sang a lot from a young age, and her parents (or her older sister, I’ve seen two different sources on the matter) recognized her talent enough that she was enrolled in voice lessons at the Ralph Thomas Academy, where she was a star pupil. In the mid-30s, MGM was looking for somebody to play a younger Ernestine Schumann-Heink in a biopic of the opera star. A talent scout heard Edna, and had her audition for some of the studio executives (including studio head Louis B. Mayer). She was given a contract for six months, but the plans for the biopic fell through. With her contract coming up for renewal, she was paired up with then-newcomer Judy Garland for the short Every Sunday, which was effectively a screen test to determine which girl’s contract would be renewed. Louis B. Mayer ultimately decided that both should have their contracts renewed, but Edna’s option had already expired.
Over at the financially struggling Universal Pictures, producer Joe Pasternak watched to see which girl would stay at MGM. He had hoped Garland would be the one who left, but, upon learning that it was Edna who was cut, he got her under contract at Universal, and put her in the film Three Smart Girls (now under the stage name “Deanna Durbin”). At the age of fourteen, she became a big star, with a succession of hit films, including One Hundred Men And A Girl, Mad About Music, That Certain Age, and the first sequel to Three Smart Girls. The success of these films essentially saved the studio itself from bankruptcy, and she received a Juvenile Academy Award alongside Mickey Rooney in 1939. She kept doing films for producer Joe Pasternak and director Henry Koster up through It Started With Eve, when the producer switched over to MGM.
By this time, she was now about twenty years old, and wanted to graduate to more mature roles, although the studio refused to let her do so. She was scheduled to be in a film called They Lived Alone, but she was unhappy with her role, and turned it down. This resulted in her being suspended for a few months, but during that time, she was able to negotiate with Universal to get her choice of directors, stories and music. They Lived Alone was turned into The Amazing Mrs. Halliday, and the planned third film in the Three Smart Girls series was changed to revolve solely around her character (and not the other sisters). She had some romantic comedies and a musical Western (Can’t Helping Singing, which turned out to be her only film in Technicolor) in the mix, but really tried to distinguish herself with the noirish Christmas Holiday and the mystery film Lady On A Train.
While she was happier with the change in roles, her audiences much preferred the musical comedy stuff she had done for most of her career. There were also changes with the studio management as Universal merged with several other companies to become Universal-International, which resulted in them pushing the musical comedy films for her. Even though she was still one of the highest paid actresses in Hollywood, she grew dissatisfied with the roles that she was given. That, in combination with her marriage to her second husband Felix Jackson falling apart (to the point of divorce), resulted in her leaving Hollywood after the film For The Love Of Mary. She married her third husband, Charles Henri David (who had directed her in Lady On A Train), and they moved to Paris, France. She received numerous offers to come back, both on stage and in the movies, but she was done with show business. She consented to one final interview in 1983 (a rarity for her by that point), and otherwise maintained her privacy until her death in 2013.
This is a list of all the films that I personally have reviewed from her filmography so far. Obviously, I will be adding to it throughout the month of February, and it is my plan to add to it as I review more and more of her films even beyond this month’s celebration.
One Hundred Men And A Girl (1937)
Three Smart Girls Grow Up (1939)
Entries For This Month
Thoughts From The Music(al) Man –
Since this blogathon lasts a month, I’ll keep the rules here in case anybody is still interested in joining in:
- At this point, I am not putting any restrictions on topics related to the various stars, whether it be any of their films, or biographies, lists of favorites, etc.
- These celebrations are intended as tributes to these stars, so I would ask that any participating posts be respectful of the stars themselves. Obviously, if you don’t care for that specific star, that would probably not be a good month to join in.
- I’m requesting that all posts would be new material, and not any previously published ones.
- As previously indicated, these celebrations of the stars and genres will last a whole month each, so you will have that whole month to work with. I myself will be publishing about four or five posts per month (depending on the number of Sundays and whether there are any recent disc releases that would fit the bill), so you can decide how many you want to do (within reason).
- If you are interested in joining, I would certainly suggest you either comment on this post, email me at email@example.com, or, for the Facebook savvy, contact me at my FB page. And feel free to use the banners I have put together (I’m still unsure of how much space I will have to work with over time on pictures, so for now I am doing one each).