Picture of the Week #6: Deanna Durbin

In the run-up to Christmas, the Picture of the Week  feature will be searching around for appropriate images. Since we’re not too close to Christmas just yet, I’ll allow myself a pretty tenuous link this time around and celebrate the 88th birthday of Deanna Durbin today, 4th December. It’s more than sixty years since she appeared onscreen, after retiring at 26 to live in Paris with her husband. After appearing alongside Judy Garland in the short Every Sunday (1936), she made her feature debut in Three Smart Girls later the same year; it would be followed by two sequels, and made her a world-famous star of musical comedies.

So what’s it got to with Christmas? Er … well, one of her later films was Robert Siodmak’s noir thriller, Christmas Holiday. The attempt to diversify her star persona was not paying off, though, and she grew increasingly dissatisfied with the limited roles offered to her. She has avoided public appearances and given only one interview (in 1983) since her retirement, but Spectacular Attractions wishes her well today, and will be re-watching this film in her honour:

And how’s this for a (non-Christmassy) poignant bit of trivia – Anne Frank pinned up a portrait of Durbin on the wall of the house in which her family hid from the Nazis … and it’s still there.

3 thoughts on “Picture of the Week #6: Deanna Durbin

    • Thanks for confirming that, CC – I’d heard that there were two pictures on the wall, but that only one of them remains. Good to know Deanna’s still hanging there: somehow I find it comforting to know, but actually a little upsetting, too, to think that Anne had those points of contact with the outside world, a regular teenager’s interest in movie stars etc.

  1. I have distant – but still quite fond – memories of Durbin’s musicals which I remember seeing at a fairly early age. This was back when the BBC used to show a raft of such back catalogue films, which today is sadly lacking (except in fits and starts). The photograph confirms (I think) another reason why I may have found the films interesting to watch – she was quite the beauty! I think it’s interesting to note that she was Universal’s equivalent to Judy Garland, but managed to survive the gamut of showbiz in order to live out her life in happy circumstances.
    Certainly there’s the (apocryphal?) story that she saved Universal from bankruptcy, it’s an awful shame that she couldn’t manage to save Frank from her fate. However, as you note – I’m sure having a photo of Durbin on the wall helped keep Frank’s spirits up in such difficult times.
    IMDB also shows her as performing a vocal in a short film by Oliver Harrison, called Love is All (1999), using an archive performance from a previous film. So though she retired many years ago her spirit not only lives on in her previous films, but she also had a brief ‘quasi-comeback’!

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