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.

January 31, 2011

First Love (1939)

Originally posted on the blog Java's Journey

First Love (1939) stars Deanna Durbin in a modern adaptation of Cinderella.

Orphaned Connie (Durbin) graduates from an all-girls' school and goes to live with her Uncle (Eugene Pallette), his wacky wife (Leatrice Joy), his bossy daughter Barbara (Helen Parrish) and his lethargic son Walter (hilariously played by Lewis Howard). Connie finds love amid the madness.

The film also stars Kathleen Howard, who plays Connie's music teacher, Miss Wiggins. This character is a gruff sort of fairy godmother. Indeed, the film has several somewhat down-to-earth characters who keep this tale from becoming too treacly.
Miss Wiggins: "Crying your eyes out just because you don't have a home of your own to go to, or a mother and father to tell you how pretty and clever you are. Hmmph!"

Optimistic Connie greets the family in a simple traveling coat.
But Connie is surrounded by furs and elegance. This class difference is repeatedly played up.

Barbara, the socialite, uses Connie to trap an eligible guy named Ted Drake (Robert Stack's film debut) into marriage.
Barbara's activities

There are lots of mirrors in this movie. Not the least of which are the full length ones in Barbara's room, which we get to see since she's often primping for some event.

Why do the villainesses have great clothes and hairstyles?
Barbara's hair is cute.

In another mirror, the physical manifestation of Connie's conscience sticks its tongue out at her if she's having a pity party. It also provides Connie with a way to tell the audience what she's thinking when in private. This "magic" mirror also introduces the fantasy element that people expect of this classic story.

Connie does everyone's bidding....
Lazy Walter won't even hold his own cigarette. Hilarious.

... and is sort of caught in a web.
Connie finally fits in with everyone else in the house when the servants buy her an outfit for the ball.
I love Barbara's dress. The aunt is kind of kooky and so she gets the weird dress.

Connie has fallen for Ted, so Barbara makes sure her cousin doesn't go to the big ball to meet him. Our heroine shows up anyway while her friends on the police force detain the rest of the family.

Connie sings a song and Ted finds her irresistible.

They dance as Connie imagines the crowd doesn't exist. Nice bit of special effects.

Love that fake 1930s cityscape in the background.

Barbara discovers Connie has gone to the ball anyway and tells her cousin that Ted was just teasing.
Another mirror for Barbara

Believing Barbara, Connie goes back to the school as an instructor. She has also resigned herself to the life of "old maidenhood."
Miss Wiggins: "I'm a character - a crotchety, lovable old character. I hate being a character. Do you like cats?"

Miss Wiggins finds a way to tell Ted everything as Connie sings one last song then runs down the aisle into the arms of her love interest.

Just to put a button on the fairytale, the filmmakers end with this:

Deanna Durbin sings several songs, of course, including "Un Bel Di (One Fine Day)” from Puccini’s “Madame Butterfly” and Johann Strauss' “Spring in My Heart” (lyrics by Ralph Freed).
In a banner year for Hollywood creativity, with such classics as The Wizard of Oz, Gone With The Wind, etc., First Love was nominated for three Academy Awards: Best Art Direction; Best Cinematography, Black and White; and Best Music, Scoring.

This film is also noted for
Deanna Durbin's first screen kiss, which tends to be a big deal in a young actress's career (whether she wants it to be or not). I've often found the media and public interest in such things a little prurient and creepy. Still, I mention it here since the incident is reputed to have knocked the European Crisis off the front page; Deanna Durbin's star power was remarkable.

Parting Shots:
Lewis Howard's idle and acerbic Walter is a hoot. He's either leaning or lounging and only walks to get to the next resting spot. Fun stuff.

January 28, 2011

A Farce and a Drama: Thoughts on I’ll Be Yours (1947)

I’ll Be Yours (1947) is an uneven film which seeks to blend farce and high drama seamlessly but does not quite succeed, leaving the audience with the feeling of having seen two separate movies at once. (Tom has made his notes and outlined the plot here.)(Update: Mark has made some wonderfully perceptive points about this film in the comments.)


I’ll Be Yours is a Felix Jackson adaptation of The Good Fairy (1935) - the Preston Sturges adaptation of Ferenc Molnár’s play, A jó tündér. The play concerns a libertine woman who enjoys helping strangers. In both the original film and in Jackson’s adaptation, the protagonist is instead an innocent young woman who goes to the big city, helps others and potentially falls prey to lechers. But whereas the The Good Fairy makes its two leads guileless individuals who discover the complexities of life together, the Jackson script makes attorney George Prescott (Tom Drake)a grave character throughout and usherette Luisa (Deanna Durbin) a child-like figure who never grows up.

Because the two leads are locked into their respective modes, never changing, I’ll Be Yours feels a bit uneven as it tries to balance the improbable comic scenes involving carefree Luisa, and the scenes of hard-bitten, suspicious Prescott as he broods over society’s moral decay. These are people from two different genres who seem to live in parallel stories by happenstance. You wonder what attracts them to each other.

The schizoid tones in this film might be a reflection of the changing mood in movies after World War Two. The can-do spirit during the war years (typified by Durbin‘s brand) gave way to the slog of picking up the pieces of a broken, fatigued and increasingly cynical world... at least in the movies. Drake plays an attorney with high moral character and dramatic constancy - his expression askance at any offer; his brow furrowed during any inquisition; his voice raised in righteous indignation as he discovers his new employer's shady deals. The performance is something right out of Judgment at Nuremberg!

Luisa, however, is more concerned with shaving Prescott’s beard.

There is a dichotomy in the music as well. Musical director Heinz Roemheld brings together a score that seems left over from his work in silent films. Relentless music underlines the comic action, winking at the audience throughout the dialogue as if it were a Bugs Bunny short, a noisy score that is noticeably absent during the dramatic scenes involving Drake. The abrupt shift in tone unintentionally helps further drive a wedge between the two stories, making the perfunctory love scenes nearly implausible.


The busy, young Deanna Durbin, had a bit of time after the January release of her previous film Because of Him (1946) to give birth to her first child, Jessica Louise Jackson, on February 7, 1946 and recuperate for her next venture. I’ll Be Yours was filmed in mid-August to mid-October 1946 and released on February 2, 1947. This is her first post-pregnancy film and yet, that legendary Durbin youthfulness makes her appear about ten years younger than her twenty-five years.

By this time, Universal Studios’ "Little Miss Fix It" was having marital problems and had seperated from Felix Jackson the month before the release of I‘ll Be Yours. In addition to having written the screenplay for the film, Jackson was also the producer. Durbin blamed the constant close proximity to her husband, the resultant lack of conversation at home and Jackson’s ambivalence towards remaining married to anyone as the reason for their parting ways. The couple would divorce two years later. Much to her chagrin, the elixir of youth coursing through the star’s veins helped to proliferate the ingénue roles which were constantly thrown in Ms. Durbin‘s direction, despite her clearly adult personal life.

Tom Drake, born Alfred Sinclair Alderdice, was a theater-trained actor whose career in feature films would hit a dry patch not too long after I‘ll Be Yours. His best known movie, Meet Me In St. Louis (1944), was behind him, as was his first and only marriage. In a year he would star as the youthful version of composer Richard Rodgers in Words and Music (1948), but his acclaimed performance was overshadowed by Mickey Rooney’s dark and dramatic portrayal of lyricist Lorenz Hart. Within two years Drake would be out of his contract with MGM studios and would concentrate on theater and television.

Similar to the plight of his I’ll Be Yours co-star, Drake’s youthful appearance often slated him for insubstantial but charming film roles as the boy next door, which was a source of frustration for the Broadway performer. Drake’s cerebral presence, turned-down mouth and furrowed brow was far better suited to, for instance, his portrayal of crafty Leonard Vole in television’s Lux Video Theater production of Witness For The Prosecution (1953).

  • I’ll Be Yours is not all gloom and missteps. The songstress gives a stirring rendition of “Granada” - words and music by Augustin Lara; sings a lovely ballad “It’s Dreamtime” and funny little ra-ra song “Cobbleskill School Song” - lyrics by Jack Brook music by Walter Schumann; and a beautiful waltz “Love’s Own Sweet Song” - lyrics by Catherine Chisho, Cushing and E.P. Heath , music by Emmerich Kalman.
  • Deanna Durbin appeared with Frederic March in the Screen Guild Theater production of The Good Fairy in the radio broadcast from July 31, 1944. (Source: archive.org)

Deanna Durbin and Frederic March in "The Good Fairy"
Listen to the radio program now: (Flash player required)
(Duration: approximately 30 minutes)

Download the MP3 file to your iPod or media player (right-click to Save)