She died on April 20, 2013 at the age of 91.
Born Edna Mae Durbin in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada in 1921, and raised in Southern California, Deanna Durbin is a singer and actress who appeared in a number of musical films in 1930s and 1940s. She sang standards as well as operatic arias.
Durbin made her first film appearance in 1936 with Judy Garland in Every Sunday, and subsequently signed a contract with Universal Studios who changed her name to "Deanna." Her success as the ideal teenage daughter in films such as Three Smart Girls in 1936 helped save the studio from bankruptcy. In 1938 Durbin was awarded the Academy Juvenile Award.
In late 1936, Cesar Sturani, who was the General Music Secretary of the Metropolitan Opera, offered Deanna Durbin an audition. Durbin turned down his request because she felt she needed more singing lessons. Andrés de Segurola, who was the vocal coach working with Universal Studios (and himself a former Metropolitan Opera singer), believed that Deanna Durbin had an excellent opportunity to become an opera star.
As she got older, Durbin grew dissatisfied with the girl-next-door roles assigned to her, and attempted to portray a more womanly and sophisticated style. The film Christmas Holiday in 1944 when she was 23, and the whodunit Lady on a Train the following year, were not as well received as her musical comedies and romances had been.
She made her only Technicolor film in 1944, Can't Help Singing, featuring some of the last melodies written by Jerome Kern plus lyrics by E. Y. Harburg. A musical comedy in a Western setting, this production was filmed mostly on location in southern Utah.
(Continued below video and CDs and DVDs...)
HIGHLY Recommended (Press album covers for direct links to Amazon):
Between December 15, 1936 and July 22, 1947, Deanna Durbin recorded 50 tunes for Decca Records. While often re-creating her movie songs for commercial release, Durbin also covered independent standards, like "Kiss Me Again," "My Hero," "Annie Laurie," "Poor Butterfly," "Love's Old Sweet Song" and "God Bless America."
Durbin withdrew from Hollywood and retired from acting and singing in 1949. She married film producer-director Charles Henri David in 1950, and the couple moved to a farmhouse in the outskirts of Paris. Since then she has withdrawn from public life.
Over the years, Durbin resisted numerous offers to perform again, including two choice proposals by MGM, asking her to take the female lead in the screen version of Cole Porter's Kiss Me Kate in 1953, and to costar with Mario Lanza in Sigmund Romberg's operetta, The Student Prince in 1954. As for stage shows, Durbin had been invited to play Kiss Me Kate 's Lilli Vanessi in London's 1951-52 West End production.
Reportedly, Alan Jay Lerner first had Deanna in mind to portray Eliza Doolittle in the 1956 Broadway cast of My Fair Lady. Suggestions that Durbin vocalize at the major Las Vegas casinos went unfulfilled.
Durbin-David has never identified herself with the public image that the media created around her. She speaks of the Deanna "persona" in the third person and considers the film character Deanna Durbin a by-product of her youth and not her true self. She granted only one interview in 1983, to film historian David Shipman, steadfastly asserting her right to privacy.
Her husband of over 48 years, Charles David, died in Paris on March 1, 1999.