Deanna Durbin

Deanna Durbin

Ms Durbin with what may be a Photophone Type PB-46.

Edna Mae Durbin (December 4, 1921 – April 17, 2013), known professionally as Deanna Durbin, was a Canadian-born actress and singer, who moved to the USA with her family in infancy. She appeared in musical films in the 1930s and 1940s. With the technical skill and vocal range of a legitimate lyric soprano, she performed styles from popular stan­dards to operatic arias.

Every Sunday

Deanna was a contemporary of  Judy  Garland.
Unlike Judy, Deanna knew when to walk away.

Durbin was a child actress who made her first film appearance with Judy Garland in Every Sunday (1936), and subsequently signed a con­tract with Universal Studios. She achieved suc­cess as the ideal teenaged daughter in films such as Three Smart Girls (1936), One Hundred Men and a Girl (1937), and It Started with Eve (1941). Her work was credited with saving the studio from bankruptcy, and led to Durbin being awarded the Academy Juvenile Award in 1938.

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Can’t Help Singing (1944).

As she matured, Durbin grew dissatisfied with the girl-next-door roles assigned to her and at­tempted to move into sophisticated non-musical roles with film noir Christmas Holiday (1944) and the who­dunit Lady on a Train (1945). These films, pro­duced by frequent collaborator and second husband Felix Jackson, were not as successful; she continued in musical roles until her retire­ment. Upon her retirement and di­vorce from Jackson in 1949, Dur­bin married producer-director Charles Henri David and moved to a farmhouse near Paris. She withdrew from public life, granting only one interview on her career in 1983.

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Deanna with an RCA MI-6203 or a 6204 Varacoustic mic.

Her final four films—I’ll Be Yours and Some­thing in the Wind (1947), Up in Central Park and For the Love of Mary (1948)—all re­verted to her previous musical-comedy struc­ture. On August 22, 1948, Universal-Interna­tional an­nounced a lawsuit which sought to col­lect wages the studio had paid Durbin in ad­vance. She settled the complaint by agreeing to star in three more pictures, including one in Paris; it did not happen before Durbin’s contract expired.

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Deanna in 1981.

On April 30, 2013, a newsletter published by the Deanna Durbin Society reported that Durbin had died “in the past few days,” quoting her son, Peter H. David, who thanked her admirers for respecting her privacy. No other details were given. According to the Social Security Death Index (under the name Edna M. David), she died on April 17, 2013 in the 19th arrondisse­ment of Paris.

Deanna Durbin sings Danny Boy for Charles
Laughton in “Because of Him” (1946).



With Robert Cummings in Spring Parade (1940).


With Shirley Temple.


On the air with an RCA Type 50A Inductor Microphone.

Every Sunday (sometimes incorrectly listed as Every Sunday Afternoon or Opera vs. Jazz) is a 1936 American musical short film about two young girls and their efforts to save a public concert series, which was being threatened by poor attendance.

title card

Directed by Felix E. Feist, the film served as a screen test for, and is the first significant screen appearance of, two adolescent actresses who soon became stars, Judy Garland and Deanna Durbin. Although only lightly reviewed at the time of its release, the film has garnered a generally positive reputation among Garland biographers.

Small-town friends Edna (Deanna Durbin) and Judy (Judy Garland) are upset. Edna’s grand­father and his orchestra, who play free Sunday concerts at a local park, have been fired by the town council because the concerts are poorly attended. The girls hit upon the idea of singing at the concerts and set about promoting the next one. The following Sunday Edna and Judy join Granddad on the bandstand. Edna’s operatic style and Judy’s swing bring crowds running from all over the park. The event is a huge success and Granddad’s concerts are saved.

Deanna Durbin and Judy Garland were both under contract to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, but the studio had not put them to work in films. With their contracts coming up for renewal, feelings among studio executives were that the studio didn’t need two girl singers. Every Sunday would serve as an extended screen test to decide which girl’s contract would be renewed.

Durbin recorded the aria “Il Bacio” for the film. Composers Con Conrad and Herb Magidson wrote a specialty number for Garland, “The Americana.”

Following the screening of the short for MGM executives, opinion was divided on whether Garland or Durbin should be retained. Finally, Louis B. Mayer, upon his return from a European trip, decreed that both girls should be kept. However, Durbin’s contract option had expired by then. She was signed by Universal Studios, where her first picture, Three Smart Girls (1936), was so successful that it saved Universal from bankruptcy.

As a short film that served as a programmer, Every Sunday received scant critical attention upon its release. Durbin’s hometown newspaper, the Winnipeg Free Press, did praise the film, lamenting that it was “all too short” and citing Garland as a “girl singer of distinction.”