Deanna Durbin Dead at 91


It is likely that many of our readers will not know who Deanna Durbin was.  She disappeared from public view about 64 years ago.

The Depression era child star never reached the fame of contemporaries Shirley Temple and Judy Garland, but she starred in 21 films, and in 1947 was the highest paid actress in Hollywood.  The next year she retired to a French farmhouse.

Her first role was in “Three Smart Girls”, which was the predecessor to “The Parent Trap”.  As she aged, her roles were primarily as a spunky, “wiser than her age” young woman, who fixed everyone’s problems.  Her sweet face and melodic voice, made her a fan’s favorite.  She is often credited with saving Universal Studios from bankruptcy.

When Ms. Durbin attempted to move into more adult roles, she met audience resistance.  Her sweet, wholesome persona did not transfer to roles such as a prostitute in love with a killer in “Christmas Holiday” (1944), or as a young ingénue involved in a murder plot in “Lady on a Train” (1945).

Her ‘almost perfect’ image was also damaged by her personal life.  When she was divorced from her first husband she commented that her audience would not accept it.  She said she never liked continuously being in the public eye.  “I hated being in a goldfish bowl,” she said.

Edna Mae Durbin was born on Dec. 4, 1921, in Winnipeg, Manitoba.  She grew up in southern California, where she took singing lessons.  She was discovered by a Universal casting director when she was 13 years old.

According to her fan club, she died ‘a few days ago’.  She is survived by two children, one each from her second and third marriages.

I’m sure FMC and AMC will air some or all of her films.  Only by watching them will you understand why her fans loved her fiercely?  She was “everyone’s favorite teenager”.

James Turnage

Columnist-The Guardian Express

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