Former teen star Deanna Durbin passes away

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

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Comments & Discussion

  1. Sam • May 1, 2013 @ 1:37 PM

    Sad to hear.. and also sad to say, I’ve never heard of her.

  2. itgrl • May 1, 2013 @ 2:11 PM

    Sad news. She had a wonderful voice. My Mom was a big fan of hers.

  3. Katherine • May 2, 2013 @ 8:14 AM

    My mom grew up in Europe and was a fan. She said Deanna was a bigger star than Shirley Temple or Judy Garland when she was growing up.

  4. John A. Lutz • May 2, 2013 @ 10:23 AM

    With the death of Deanna Durbin, I feel as if I have lost a close friend, even though we never met. Deanna’s style of music was one of the most beautiful voices, ever to have been in song in the world. Today, I feel sure, Deanna has become a major singer in GOD’S Heavenly Choir of beautiful music…May she rest in peace.

  5. London Fan • September 11, 2014 @ 10:53 AM

    Glorious Deanna. I believe that Deanna had the largest Fan Club in the world in the late 1930’s.

    My Favourite films: “His Butler’s Sister” (1943) and her only colour film “Can’t Help Singing” (1944).

    My mother told me that she had a “Deanna Durbin Hat” (I imagine it was like the one with the feather in “100 Men And A Girl”).

    My Favourite Songs: “More And More” “Californiay” “Spring Will Be A Little Late This Year”

    My Favourite Scenes: The “Turandot” end scene from “His Butler’s Sister” (always makes me shed a tear), the outdoor “Any Moment Now” scene (especially when the bell rings) and the end sequence in “Can’t Help Singing”, where Deanna has her hair up (notice it gets a bit darker at the end of the film) also the open air Bath House scene from the same film.

    Many years ago, I wrote to Deanna twice in France at the address of the village mentioned on the LP Record Cover notes and she sent me a Xmas Card back!

    Thank you Deanna! 11th Sept 2014.

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