Singer/actress Deanna Durbin, who was discovered in junior high at 13 and cast in the MGM 1936 short film Every Sunday with Judy Garland, passed away a few days ago at the age of 91. Her son Peter announced the news through her fan club yesterday. No details on the cause of her death were provided. Deanna, originally Edna Mae Durbin, was born December 4, 1921 in Winnipeg, Manitoba but grew up in California after her family moved there when she was just a year old. She was signed to a contract by Universal and starred as Penny Craig in the wildly successful film Three Smart Girls (1936). The film shot her to stardom and spawned two sequels in 1939 and 1943. She went on to make 21 films for Universal and is credited with saving the studio from going bankrupt. In 1938, at age 16, she won an Academy Juvenile Award, along with Mickey Rooney. She was so popular that there were Deanna Durbin dolls, dresses and novels and at one point she was the highest paid actress in Hollywood. The young performer was a role model for teenage girls everywhere and was often cast as the perfect daughter.
Unfortunately for Durbin, who never liked the spotlight, her onscreen reputation prevented her from being considered a “serious” actress and she became disillusioned with Hollywood. In 1950, she married her third husband, Charles David, moved to France, and retired from Hollywood for good. Durbin declined numerous requests to return to movies and instead lived a quiet life with her family for the rest of her days. She is survived by her daughter Jessica from her second marriage and her son Peter with Charles David. ~ Cassie Jasinski