Deanna Durbin, Canada’s own Shirley Temple, died yesterday at the age of 91.
A top child actress during the Depression, Durbin played the part of the perfect child, fixing the problems of the adults around her with charm and grace.
She hit Hollywood royalty with her first movie 1936’s Three Smart Girls, a musical comedy co-starring Nan Grey and Barbara Read. A box-office smash, it saved the faltering Universal Studios and turned her into one of Hollywood’s highest-paid actresses.
Then, in 1938, she was given a special Academy Award for her “significant contribution in bringing to the screen the spirit and personification of youth.”
Like many child actresses, problems arose when she started to move onto more adult roles. Her public wanted her to retain her youth and innocence, and reacted negatively to any attempts of Durbin’s to expand her range.
First married at 19, Durbin was told that she was not allowed to divorce because it would “ruin the image.” A second marriage would also end in divorce. Finally, at age 28, Durbin met director Charles David and married for the last time.
At this point, after starring in 21 feature films, Durbin retired.
She will be remembered by many as what she was officially dubbed: “Winnipeg’s Sweetheart.”