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.

February 27, 2011

Deanna Durbin's Big Night at the 1938 Academy Awards

The 11th Annual Academy Awards took place in Los Angeles on Thursday February 23, 1939 in the dining room of the Biltmore Hotel, which is still there today but of course no longer hosts the ceremonies.

The dining room, The Biltmore Bowl, was one of the hottest dining rooms and nightclubs in LA at the time.

Below is a photo of what the Oscar ceremony looked like at the time (the photo is on a wall in the hotel today).

Deanna arrives at the hotel with her parents.

Deanna presenting her ticket to
enter the Academy dinner
at the Biltmore Bowl.
Two young motion picture stars who had made quite an impact with audiences and the Academy in 1938 - Mickey Rooney and Deanna Durbin - were to be honored with a special "miniature" Oscar for their "significant contribution in bringing to the screen the spirit and personification of youth" and for "setting a high standard of ability and achievement."

The big winners were Spencer Tracy for Best Actor, Bette Davis for Best Actress, and "You Can't Take It With You" for Best Picture. Frank Capra won Best Director.

Unfortunately, I cannot find any photos with the two honorary teen stars together - Mickey Rooney and Deanna Durbin.

The juvenile Oscar was a nice tradition.
Radio and film star Edgar Bergan (sans his ventriloquist dummy Charlie McCarthy) is at Deanna's table that night. He was to present her with the Oscar.

Bergen presents the miniature Oscar to Deanna. Look how small it is!

Special thanks and references:

February 21, 2011

For the Love of Mary (1948)

Originally posted on the blog Java's Journey

For the Love of Mary (1948) is a light RomCom which follows Mary Peppertree (Deanna Durbin), a White House switchboard operator who takes her job very seriously and is on familiar terms with people in all three branches of government, including the President of the United States (who personally wants to make sure that Mary gets married to someone... anyone, it seems, so he arranges her dates).

David Paxton (a very charming Don Taylor) interrupts the gaiety with his insistence on speaking with the President about the government's interference of business off the coast of Paxton's island. Mary, the effective gateway guard to the Executive branch, must encounter the tenacious Paxton throughout the course of the film.

What the movie lacks in . . . something, it makes up in showcasing just how far into outer space Deanna Durbin's star ascended. This movie was released in 1948.  At this point in history it is not common that a character in a movie gets familiar with the President of the United States.

The fact that the script allows Mary to be chummy over the phone with the revered leader of the free world suggests that Ms. Durbin was well-liked enough to get away with it. That's popular. Very popular. Mega-star popular.

In that sense, For the Love of Mary is almost a fitting last film for a leading lady whose characters have charmed guys from paupers to potentates. She's got the President (and the rest of the federal government) in her pocket as well.

After having played in one short film and twenty-one feature length movies in thirteen years (all starring vehicles), Ms. Durbin retired in her late 20s.

Since then, the star has famously refused all but one interview - a 1983 interview by David Shipman. I'm holding out hope that Ms. Durbin might be receptive to another interview, or even better, write her memoirs or autobiography.

Author Jeanine Basinger says this of Ms. Durbin's retirement:
There was an honest quality about her, and audiences felt it. Whatever motivated her to leave the business- the desire to be real and have a life that made sense- is the truth that audiences felt in her on-screen presence. Durbin connected right to audiences. She seemed to be one of them. The amazing thing about her was that it turned out to be true, She came down off the screen and proved it by rejoining them. Her defection wasn’t a ploy and was never rescinded. . . . Deanna Durbin, that most open and radiant of movie stars, remains more enigmatic than Garbo. She retired and led a normal life, the one thing that seems to have eluded almost every other movie star.

February 15, 2011

Deanna in color

I discovered some amazing colorizations by Megg on the Deviant Art website. Megg granted me permission to display some of her work on the blog. Doesn't Deanna look amazing in color?!

Deanna Durbin Colorized 2 by ~ajax1946 on deviantART

Be sure to use the links above to check out Megg's other work on Deviant Art and request prints of your favorites!

Posted with permission from the artist

February 6, 2011

Ronald Reagan was almost cast in a Deanna Durbin movie

As I was reading the book Reagan: A Life in Letters (Free Press, 2003), a compilation of hundreds of Ronald Reagan's letters sent throughout his lifetime, I was surprised to come across one letter related to Deanna.

Here is how the editors of book preface the letter (my notes in blue):

Joe Pasternak, a producer of 83 movies, wrote Reagan that Universal Pictures once vetoed his decision to cast Reagan in a Deanna Durbin movie. Durbin had starred in 23 movies (actually, 21) in the 1930s and 1940s. Pasternak jokingly added that if Reagan had been given the role, he would have become "a bigger star and our country might have lost a great president."

Unfortunately, it wasn't specified which movie Pasternak wanted him for. Reagan responded to the letter as follows:

Mr. Joe Pasternak
Beverly Hills, California
July 22, 1987

Dear Joe:

Thanks for your letter and for that job of no casting you did back there at Universal. I probably wouldn't have thanked you if I'd known at the time but now that I'm in an eight-year run of the play deal, things do look a little different. Of course I'll be at liberty in about a year and a half. Maybe I could play the life story of Mickey Rooney, or am I too tall?

Seriously, it was good to hear from you and I thank you for your generous words.

Best regards,

Ronald Reagan

February 3, 2011

Photos inspire Durbin movie scene

click to enlarge

In an article dubbed "Speaking of Pictures," from February 19, 1940, Life Magazine argues that movies should be more complex and realistic. The magazine showcases its preference with a number of movie stills which were directly influenced by life in general and Life Magazine photos in particular. The article displays the movie stills next to their candid inspiration.

One of the film frames is taken from the Deanna Durbin vehicle, It's A Date (1940). Durbin plays an aspiring actress practicing at summer stock. Above her photo is that of a real life acting class. The caption reads in part,
The opening page of a picture essay on summer theaters ... so impressed Universal's Producer Joe Pasternak that he duplicated it for Deanna Durbin's new movie...."

These photos are another taste of the ever-present Durbin brand - here she's used as one random example in a full article about how movies should be made. Deanna Durbin of the 1930s and 1940s was an extraordinarily popular and familiar figure in everyday life.