Deanna Durbin

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Deanna Durbin
Deanna Durbin - Yank Magazine.jpg
Deanna Durbin on the cover of
Yank Magazine, January 1945.
Birth name Edna Mae Durbin
Born Dec 4, 1921
Winnipeg, Manitoba
Years active 1935–1950
Spouse(s) Vaughn Paul (1941–1943) (divorced)
Felix Jackson (1945–1949) (divorced, 1 daughter)
Charles David (1950–1999) (his death, 1 son)

Deanna Durbin (born December 4, 1921) is a Canadian singer and actress from Hollywood, Los Angeles, California films of the 1930s and 1940s.

Early life

Born Edna Mae Durbin at Grace Hospital in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, she changed her given name to Deanna at the commencement of her career. Her parents, James and Ada Durbin, were immigrants from Lancashire, England, and she had an older sister named Edith.


Durbin signed a contract with MGM in 1935 and made her first film appearance in a short subject Every Sunday with another contractee, Judy Garland.

Durbin was released from her contract shortly thereafter as studio executive Louis B. Mayer felt her breasts were smaller than Judy Garland's. Also she had a unibrow which Mayder thought was unattractive. Hollywood legend has recorded that he instructed his staff to "drop the fat one" and that they dismissed Durbin, misunderstanding that Mayer had in fact intended to terminate the contract of Garland.

Durbin was quickly signed to a contract with Universal Studios and made her first feature-length film Three Smart Girls in 1936. The huge success of her films was reported to have saved the studio from bankruptcy. In 1938 she received a special Academy Juvenile Award, along with Mickey Rooney. Such was Durbin's international fame and popularity that diarist Anne Frank pasted her picture to her bedroom wall in the Achterhuis where the Frank family hid during World War II. The picture can still be seen there today, and was pointed out by Frank's friend Hannah Pick-Goslar in the documentary film Anne Frank Remembered.


Durbin is perhaps best known for her singing voice—a voice described variously as light but full, sweet, unaffected and artless. With the technical skill and vocal range of a legitimate lyric soprano, she performed everything from popular standards to operatic arias.

She married an actor, Vaughn Paul, in 1941 and they were divorced in 1943. Her second marriage, to producer Felix Jackson in 1945, produced a daughter, Jessica Louise Jackson, and ended in divorce in 1949.

Actress Hedda Hopper alleged that Durbin had an affair with Joseph Cotten. However, the slur was completely untrue as Cotten testified in his autobiography. What brought about the rumor of an affair was that both Cotten and Durbin stayed overnight at the studio without the other one knowing it, only to realize it when they met the next morning at the commissary. Cotten was so enraged by Hopper's conduct that he kicked her chair out from underneath her just as she was about to sit down at a Hollywood function. This generated a spontaneous round of applause from spectators.

By the mid 1940s Durbin had tried to assume a more sophisticated film persona in such films as the film noir Christmas Holiday (1944) and the whodunnit Lady on a Train (1945), but the public preferred her earlier movie styles.

She retired from public life in 1950, after her marriage to Charles David, who had directed her in Lady On A Train. The couple moved to Paris, France, with Durbin vowing that she would never return to show business, and raised Durbin's second child, Peter David. Since then she has resisted numerous offers to perform, including several by Mario Lanza, and has granted only one brief interview in 1983, to film historian David Shipman, steadfastly asserting her right to privacy.

Her husband, director Charles David, died in Paris on March 1, 1999.

  • Deanna was once one of the most popular actresses in Hollywood. By age 14 she was the most highly paid female star in the world. She had a wonderful singing voice. When she was at the top of her career as Hollywood's leading actress and singer, she turned her back on that world for a life of seclusion.


  • 1935 Every Sunday as Edna short subject
  • 1936 Three Smart Girls as Penelope 'Penny' Craig
  • 1937 One Hundred Men and a Girl as Patricia Cardwell
  • 1938 Mad About Music as Gloria Harkinson
  • 1938 That Certain Age as Alice Fullerton
  • 1939 Three Smart Girls Grow Up as Penny Craig
  • 1939 For Auld Lang Syne: No. 4 short subject
  • 1939 First Love (Obzina film) as Constance (Connie) Harding
  • 1940 It's a Date as Pamela Drake
  • 1940 Spring Parade as Ilonka Tolnay
  • 1941 Nice Girl? as Jane 'Pinky' Dana
  • 1941 It Started with Eve as Anne Terry
  • 1943 The Amazing Mrs. Holliday as Ruth Kirke Holliday
  • 1943 Show Business at War short subject
  • 1943 Hers to Hold as Penny Craig
  • 1943 His Butler's Sister as Ann Carter
  • 1944 Road to Victory as Herself short subject
  • 1944 Christmas Holiday as Jackie Lamont/Abigail Martin
  • 1944 Can't Help Singing as Caroline Frost
  • 1945 Lady on a Train as Nikki Collins/Margo Martin
  • 1946 Because of Him as Kim Walker
  • 1947 I'll Be Yours as Louise Ginglebusher
  • 1947 Something in the Wind as Mary Collins

1948 Up in Central Park as Rosie Moore

  • 1948 For the Love of Mary as Mary Peppertree
  • 1949 Gems of Song as Vocalist short subject
  • 1999 Love is All as Snowqueen singing voice


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