Depression-era movie star Deanna Durbin dies at 91
Durbin retired in 1948 to lead very private life
One of the silver screen's leading lights during the Depression and World War II, actress and singer Deanna Durbin retired in 1948 to live with her third husband in France. A child star, Durbin said her biggest fans were "parents, many of whom could not cope with their own youngsters. They sort of adopted me as their 'perfect' daughter." Durbin has passed away at the age of 91.
Deanna Durbin was the second-highest paid woman in America in 1946, just $5,000 behind Bette Davis. Anne Frank kept Durbin's picture in the attic where she and her family hid from the Nazis; the photo still hangs today.
Born in Winnipeg, Manitoba in 1921, Durbin signed to MGM at 13. She made her first film alongside Judy Garland in the 1936 short "Every Sunday." MGM head Louis B. Mayer reportedly instructed his employees to "drop the fat one." Letting Durbin go, Mayer had meant Garland.
Signing to Universal and the subsequent success of her next films, including "Three Smart Girls" and its two sequels kept the studio afloat. A 1936 nationwide search for the actor who would give Durbin her first screen kiss, actor Robert Stack was chosen for "First Love."
Durbin was the second-highest paid woman in America in 1946, just $5,000 behind Bette Davis. Anne Frank kept Durbin's picture in the attic where she and her family hid from the Nazis; the photo still hangs today.
Durbin's career had its setbacks. When she auditioned for the lead role in Disney's "Snow White," Walt Disney reportedly considered the then 15-year-old as sounding mature for the part. She recorded dozens of songs, including recreations of her movie tunes that were released commercially, and standards including "Love's Old Sweet Song" and "God Bless America."
Typecast as a sweet young thing, Durbin had a hard time finding acceptance as she grew older and took on adult roles. Audiences and critics were aghast when she took the role of a prostitute in "Christmas Holiday" in 1944.
She divorced her husband of two years, director Vaughn Paul, in 1943. She was married twice more, to producer Felix Jackson and Charles David, the director of "Lady on a Train." Her union with David lasted from 1950 until 1999, when he died.
Durbin made her last film in 1948, "For the Love of Mary" and retired to a French farmhouse with David.
Shunning the spotlight, she gave very few interviews. In a rare conversation, she said "I hated being in a goldfish bowl."
"I was a typical 13-year-old American girl. The character I was forced into had little or nothing in common with myself -- or with other youth of my generation, for that matter. I could never believe that my contemporaries were my fans," a letter she sent reporters in 1958 read in part.
"I was never happy making pictures. I've gained weight. I do my own shopping, bring up my two children and sing an hour every day."
© 2013, Distributed by NEWS CONSORTIUM.
Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for December 2013
General Intention: Victimized Children. That children who are victims of abandonment or violence may find the love and protection they need.
Missionary Intention: Prepare the Savior's Coming. That Christians, enlightened by the Word incarnate, may prepare humanity for the Savior's coming.
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