She’s the one Hollywood let get away, a talented and charming actor equally at home doing light comedic roles in musical comedies who could’ve sung leading roles for the Metropolitan Opera.
In 1936, at age fourteen, Deanna Durbin starred with Judy Garland in her first-ever film, one in a series credited with saving Universal Studios from impending bankruptcy.
And then, twelve years later, she walked away from it all, fed up with the the system that locked actors in exclusive contracts with studios and barred from roles in films from other studios.
But during her all-too-brief career. She brought a crystal-pure soprano and immense charm to countless songs, songs we remember both because many were songs families used to sing together before television captured the American mind, and others are, well, simply brilliant renditions of operatic standards.
We begin with the trailer for that first film, The Smart Girls via ddurbfan. And while Durbin had originally slated to play a co-starring role, the reaction to the daily rushes screened during filming were so profound that the script was rewritten to give her a starring role:
And in this clip, in a promotional radio appearance well before the film was released, Durbin sings [at the age of thirteen] a song featured in the film, Luigi Arditi’s “Il Bacio” [The Kiss], via danny sharples:
In her second feature, the 1937 One Hundred Men and a Girl, Durbin stars as the daughter of an unemployed musician who had been devastated by a broken promised to sponsor an orchestra of 100 jobless musicians in the depths of the Great Depression. Told the sponsorship will happen only if a renowned conductor sign on to conduct, Durbin’s character, Patricia “Patsy” Cardwell sneaks in to a rehearsal by Leopold Stokowski [considered one of the greatest conductors of the last century] and bursts into song. The outcomne is as expected from a feel-good Hollywood 1930s musical.
From adam28xx’s channel, the confrontation and the song:
Mozart “Alleluia”: Deanna Durbin & Leopold Stokowski
Next up, a clip from Because of Him, a 1946 romance, featuring Durbin in one of the greatest performances of an old standard we’ve ever hear, via violinthief:
Deanna Durbin: “Danny Boy”
Another offering from violinthief, this time with a Scottish air, from the 1940 film, It’s a Date:
Deanna Durbin: “Loch Lomond”
Back to the operatic, this time with an English language rendition of “Un Bel Di, Venremo” from Giacomo Puccini’s Madama Butterfly from the 19397 film, First Love, via ddurbinfan:
Deanna Durbin sings “One Fine Day”
Next, another Puccini song, from the 1943 film His Butler’s Sister, via imusiciki:
Deanna Durbin: “Nessun Dorma” (None Shall Sleep) from Turandot by Puccini
Next , we switch course to some popular songs of the era, starting with a Cole Porter song from another 1943 wartime film, Hers to Hold, with Durbin playing a Rosie the Riveter character, working in a munitions factory and singing at the USO. From swan2612:
Deanna Durbin: “Begin the Beguine”
From ednamayfan, another Cole Porter song, this time from the 1934 Lady on a Train:
“Night and Day”
For a change of pace, one of her many recordings not from a film, in this case a Spanish language classic recorded in 1942, via ddurbinfan:
Deanna Durbin sings “Cielito Lindo”
Next up, some more of those songs families used to sing, starting with one featured in the 1939 film, First Love, via FirstAcquaint:
Deanna Durbin: “Home, Sweet Home”
This one is a song my father and I sang on many a long road trip in the Colorado Rockies and Wyoming’s Snowy Range, in a clip from the 1946 For the Love of Mary, via ddurbinfan:
Deanna Durbin: “I’ll Take You Home Again Kathleen”
And from the 1939 film Three Smart Girls Grow Up, another classic, via, once again, ddurbinfan:
Deanna Durbin sings “The Last Rose of Summer”
Finally, from the 1947 film I’ll be Yours, a song we’ve always loved and a perfect sign-off, via #DeannaDurbin:
Durbin left Hollywood in 1948 and never looked back. She died on 20 April 2013, age 91, in her home in Neauphle-le-Château, France.
We hope you’ve enjoyed these songs as much as we have. . .