This blog was started in 2010 as a tribute to Deanna and her films. On this site you will find reviews, photos, articles, video clips, old time radio programs, news and more.


Deanna Durbin had lead roles in 21 films from 1936-1948


Before they were stars, they appeared in one short subject together.


Deanna is often credited with helping to save Universal from bankrupcy.


She was given an Honorary Academy Award in 1938.

July 30, 2011

It Started With Eve (1941)

Arguably Deanna Durbin’s best movie is It Started With Eve (1941). In addition to near perfect casting, the script brings the romantic comedy genre up a notch or two.

Unable to find his fiancée in time, business tycoon Johnny Reynolds (Robert Cummings) pays struggling singer Ann Terry (Durbin) to pretend to be his fiancée for a few moments to please his fatally ill father, Reynolds Sr. (Charles Laughton).  The deceit goes awry when Reynolds the elder regains his health the next morning and expects the two to marry soon. Johnny’s actual, gold-digging fiancée Gloria Pennington (Margaret Tallichet) is not happy with this arrangement.

It’s difficult to explain how this standard plot is better than that of many other romantic comedies. Perhaps it is the genuine warmth communicated between Reynolds and the woman he believes is his potential daughter-in-law. When Johnny thinks of a scheme to undo the lies he’s perpetuated - stating that he and his fiancée quarreled and parted ways - Reynolds the elder looks absolutely crushed, as if she had broken up with him personally.

Perhaps the movie is a success because the older person is not scripted as a buffoon or idiot - a  common occurrence among romcoms where juveniles arrange everything themselves. He is not just an obstacle to the young man’s plans but one who catches on to the scheme and begins manipulating the situation to bring about what is ultimately best for everyone.

The film stands squarely above the rest due to Laughton’s well-established reputation as a dramatic actor.  The script helps him out as well. In addition to the early deathbed scene that instantly brings the audience on Laughton’s side emotionally,  Ms. Durbin’s romantic lead, Cummings, is not allowed to show very much affection for Ann until Gloria is out of the picture. This leaves Durbin’s character to play out the deeper, heartfelt moments with Reynolds Sr..Laughton is Ms. Durbin’s equal in screen presence, a rarity among her leading men.

However, Cummings is not an also-ran here. He’s asked to do the heavy lifting  in the comedy department and he does it well. From pretending he’s in love with a girl that he’d rather strangle [“If you hear something snap, don‘t turn around it‘ll be your neck”] to the awkwardly sensual game of tag that Ann and Johnny play, Cummings will have you in stitches throughout the film.
The movie’s supporting players carry their own weight as well, of course  - the running gag of Walter Catlett as the attending physician who himself is comically ill with mysterious symptoms; Clara Blandick as the fastidious nurse who will not leave Reynolds Sr. in peace; Leon Belasco’s hilarious solemnity as the couturier who lays out Gloria‘s prematurely-bought mourning clothes.

It Started With Eve is a charming and sophisticated comedy that will please a wide range of audience members.

Further Resources

  • Charles Laughton and Susanna Foster in It Started With Eve from 

The Lux Radio Theater November 20, 1944.
Listen to the radio program now: (Flash player required)
(Duration: approximately 50 minutes)

July 10, 2011

The Amazing Mrs Holliday (1943)

Deanna plays a schoolteacher in China who must flee with a group of orphans after the Japanese attack her village.

In a more dramatic role that usual, Deanna Durbin is wonderful in her role as Ruth, a young missionary who rescues a group of orphans from war-torn China during the Second Sino-Japanese War.

The film begins with Ruth - an orphan herself - and the children arriving in San Francisco on a lifeboat after their ship was torpedoed by the Japanese, killing the elderly captain - Commodore Tom Holliday. A sailor aboard the ship (Barry Fitzgerald) is the only other survivor of the attack, and he accompanies Deanna and the children to shore. He also leads them to help at the Holliday Mansion - and provides some comic relief along the way.

Ruth poses as Holliday's widow and attempts to shelter the children in the mansion, but has to fool all of the residents including the butler (Arthur Treacher) and the Commodore's grandson (Edmund O'Brien). Barry Fitzgerald is funny as he conjures up an impromptu tale about their marriage.

The film was nominated for an Oscar for
Best Music Score. 
As you can imagine, there are some adorable sequences featuring the children. Deanna also sings a few lullabies to them. During a fundraising event, Deanna sings "Vissi d'arte" from Puccini's Tosca.

For awhile it almost felt like an autobiographical film, though this film is not based on any one missionary in particular. Though there are some humorous moments of mistaken-identity typical of a Deanna film, there are some sad flashback scenes that are reminders of the harsh realities of war, and I was reminded of the work and devotion of overseas missionaries like the one Deanna plays in the film. By the end of the film, though, I was reminded that this is a Hollywood story.

More photos from the movie can be found here at Deanna Durbin Devotees.

Read more about the child actors in the film in another review of this film from Laura at Laura's Miscellaneous Musings.