on 10 October 2004
Classically trained songbird Deanna Durbin was Judy Garland's foremost competitor, often more popular even, in those sumptuous days of Hollywood musicals of yore.
This DVD set of six titles on no more than two discs is indispensable to anyone with the faintest interest in classical Hollywood hokum. I wasn't prepared to fall in love with these films, watched them only out of a sense of duty to film history. Homework, as it were. But how much fun was had!
There are regular gems hidden here. 'Lady on a Train' is a masterpiece of an audacious mix between screwball and noir, in the tradition of 'The Cat and the Canary', but actually more secure in its nonchalant blending of one with the other. It is such uproarious fun and still elementally thrilling.
'First Love', an updating of the Cinderella legend with Durbin and glamorous puppy hunk Robert Stack, is charming and brings tears of bliss to your eyes, and its humour is drier than wood!
'It Started With Eve' is the story of a poor girl being presented to a dying tycoon (wonderful Charles Laughton) by his nephew who claims she is his fiancé. The tycoon survives, and the trap springs on the young couple. Extremely amusing, although very light-weight.
'Can't Help Singing' is a well-produced western musical in full Technicolor with lovely songs by Jerome Kern, although as a film it is entirely forgettable. 'Something in the Wind', about the lady discjockey who is being confused with her aunt who was the mistress of a wealthy man, is naughty and funny, but the oldest one of the set, 'Three Smart Girls', never made an impression on me.
DVD versions are nice to look at. Warmly recommended.
on 4 April 2005
Deanna Durbin simply burst on to the screen for the first time as Penny, the youngest of three sisters who attempt to break up their father's impending nuptuals so they can get him back together with their mother. This delightful romp made Deanna a star and saved Universal Studios from bankruptcy. The film itself moves at a breakneck pace, following Durbin's lead as she blows like a joyous and funny hurricane right into our hearts.
Nan Grey is Penny's sister, Joan, and Barbara Read is Kay. Charles Winninger is good as always as the parent who hasn't seen his children in ten years, and has forgotten what it means to be a father. But Penny's strong minded enthusiasm is infectious, and it isn't long before the shallow babe after his money doesn't seem near as important as his daughters.
There are some hilarious moments in this fast and furious comedy and Deanna gets to sing "Someone to Care For Me" and a couple of others, as one plot after another is hatched to get rid of the fiance. Mischa Auer is a hoot as the Count who can't stay sober paid to romance away the fiance. But it is a young Ray Milland as Lord Michael Stuart who gets the most laughs when a mix-up occurs and Kay thinks he is the one they've paid to lure "Precious" away. Stuart is the real deal and plays along with the charade so he can romance Penny's sister Kay.
An infectious joy runs all through this film and it is easy to see why this was such a hugh hit. It launched the career of one of the most fondly remembered stars of all time. This film begins with Penny, Joan, and Kay sailing in Switzerland and it will sail right into your heart when you see it for the first time. A fresh and timeless treasure.
on 2 April 2010
Trawling through the internet and the amazon catalogues for the screwball comedies, I struck upon the title Lady on a Train,a Deanna Durbin film. That was my first encounter with her. This collection is the best introduction to the talents of Ms.Durbin as a singer and actress. The romantic comedies she played in are superbly blended with music. Just like some of the finest Bollywood romantic musicals. What's more,she could do the comedies with equal ease.
This Sweetheart pack has following films:
THREE SMART GIRLS: The first film of Ms.Durbin when she was hardly 15 years old. The story line is very thin and predictable. Three sisters come to New York to prevent their father from marrying a gold digger. A romantic comedy. Ms Durbin is the real singing sensation of the film.
SOMETHING IN THE WIND: More of a screwball than romantic film. The element of screwball is based on the mistaken identity. In this case,an aunt and a niece (Ms.Durbin)having the same name. The aunt's deceased lover leaves her some money and his heirs try to prevent that. They mistake the niece for the aunt.So the comedy develops out of the mistaken identity,
FIRST LOVE: Modern Cinderella story. Everything is predictable,nevertheless, enjoyable.
IT STARTED WITH EVE: Another screwball comedy. With Charles Laughton. A rich man(Laughton)is on the verge of dying,wants to meet his only son's fiancée, Naturally she is not available at the moment.The son asks the next girl he meets to come with him to pose as his fiancée. After meeting the girl the old man comes back to life and even likes her as his future daughter-in-law. So the classic comedy situation for the whole film is developed in the first 10 minutes of the film.
CAN'T HELP SINGING: Eminently forgettable film. Very weak story. The daughter of a rich senator runs away from home to be with her lover. The film is set against the background mass migration of immigrants to the American West and California.The thing that saves the film from oblivion is the singing of Ms.Durbin and the comic antics of Akim Tamiroff and his sidekick. The film is in colour.
LADY ON A TRAIN: An odd mixture of cine noir and screwball comedies.Ms.Durbin is the only witness to a murder which she happens to see while travelling in a train.There are plenty of twists and turns in the story and of course superb laughs.
This pack is richly illustrated with the photos from her films. All DVD transfers are of good quality. Exception: Three Smart Girls. A few scenes in the film are hazy.
If you like music and singing,these films are not going to disappoint you. And even if you do not like it, the powerful presence of Ms Durbin in the films will see you through the films with lot of entertainment.
Like many others, my view of Deanna Durbin was of a long-ago young star with a big voice, something like an early version of one of Lawrence Welk's interchangeable Barbi doll singers. After watching the six movies in the Deanna Durbin Sweetheart Pack - a title, incidentally, that does her reputation no good service, -- I've radically revised my estimation of her.
In fact, if she'd ever been wooed out of retirement in the Sixties to play the determined, funny, poignant and sad force of nature named Momma Rose in Gypsy, I think Durbin could easily have wrestled Merman to a draw and would have thoroughly erased any thought of Rosalind Russell. She's that good.
Durbin as Little Miss Fix-t? Durbin as the charming child next door? Durbin as the good-looking tomboy willing to step into a mud puddle? Durbin as the lovely young woman who can trill an aria? Yes to all of these, starting when she was 15 in her first movie and finishing when she was 27 in her last. Audiences loved her voice, her natural manner and her flair for comedy. But spend some time with her in these six movies and your estimation of her unique talent might undergo a transformation. While she was constrained by the formulas that sold tens of thousands of tickets for her movies, she still was the only young Hollywood star in the Thirties who was able to move into adulthood with her popularity, her star clout and her poise in tact. She had an unusually warm soprano and the technique and skill, even at 15, to sing just about anything. In these six movies she handles everything from Puccini's Un Bel Di to the down and dirty "Don'cha Daddy?' In between she vamps a Cole Porter song as easily as she skips through a Viennese waltz. What is surprising is that if all these songs were cut from these movies, all of the movies except Can't Help Singing would hold up as smart screwball comedies or effective light romances. Since these are her movies alone, the reason is her talent and personality (and some good directors, of course). Where these movies seem weak now, is with her leading men. Universal evidently didn't see the need to invest in effective male leads to play off her. Without exception, her love interests are handsome, interchangeable young men, all of them much more at home in B movies.
Deanna Durbin was a remarkably talented and poised woman who, given a chance, I think could play fast-paced screw-ball comedy just about as well as Carol Lombard. Heresy perhaps, but watch her in some of these movies. And if you watch carefully, you'll also see that glint of determination, that willingness to take on all comers, that in middle age would have made her a great Momma Rose.
Instead, of course, a year and a half after her last movie she married, packed her bags and went to live in France, just outside Paris. It was 1950. Her husband of 49 years has died, but she still lives on. From the minute she left Hollywood she never gave another interview, turned down all deals to make more movies and only once even permitted a photograph of herself to be released. She didn't become a recluse. She just wanted to reclaim her life.
The six movies take us from 1935 to 1947. All provide solid entertainment. First Love, a retelling of the Cinderella story and cursed with a quease-inducing title, is extremely good. Three Smart Girls, her first movie, is excellent comedy. It Started With Eve has her up against that skilled and funny ham, Charles Laughton. She handles him with ease. All six, fitted on two DVD discs, look very good.
Deanna Durbin, then 14 and just under contract to MGM, made a short feature in 1936 which paired her with Judy Garland, a year younger, in the first film for both of them. Louis B. Mayer then decided he didn't need two competing young singers, placed his bet on Garland and let Durbin go. Universal immediately signed Durbin, rushed her into Three Smart Girls and rewrote the screenplay to pump up her part. She's billed last, but with the typographic equivalent of neon lights around her name. Universal was convinced Durbin would be a smash, and they were right. Three Smart Girls is less a musical and more a screwball comedy, and Durbin, 15 when the movie was released, carries it with aplomb. She's Penny Craig, and she and her older sisters, Joan and Kay, are determined to save their father, who had divorced their mother, from the clutches of an elegant gold digger with a fierce mother. They talk their way from Switzerland, where they live, to New York City, where their father lives. They plan not just to break up their father's wedding but to reunite their father with their mother, who after ten years apart still loves the guy. Is there any doubt that Durbin will sing a song or two in her warm, luscious soprano? Nope. Is there any doubt the girls will succeed...with Kay and Joan finding love and matrimonial material along the way? Nope, again. Years later Durbin was quoted as saying that she couldn't keep playing little Miss Fixit forever. She was right, of course, but in Three Smart Girls, her first feature movie, she has little Miss Fixit down pat. Durbin is funny, determined, resourceful, energetic and, of all things, natural. Her personality is so genuine that it makes this comedy -- a mix of farce, confusion, good intentions and cheerful avarice -- downright endearing.
Durbin carries the movie with ease. It's a lot of fun watching her hold her own against the likes of Binnie Barnes as Donna Lyon, the woman with her hooks in Penny's rich father, played by Charles Winninger, who was no slouch at stealing scenes, either. Alice Brady, who played the dithering matron in My Man Godfrey, plays Donna Lyons' mother, who is even more of a gold digger than her daughter. The last of the accomplished farceurs is Ray Milland as Lord Michael Stuart, who through a contrived and amusing mixup is mistaken for Mischa Auer.
Three Smart Girls holds up well as a light-weight and amusing comedy of manners and mix-ups. So does Deanna Durbin as a brand-new star, who with her huge success saved Universal's bacon.
on 12 October 2009
Deanna Durbin is a spectacular singing sensation from the North of the border, from Winnipeg, Manitoba. She broke into Hollywood at a young age of 15, with a gift of lovely operatic voice that helped her early career in Hollywood. In 1938 she was honored with Mickey Rooney with Special Academy Award. The Academy cited the award "for bringing to the screen the spirit and personification of youth." Deanna had several issues with MGM/Universal studios and complained that her image was not properly rewarded with better roles as she matured from a little girl into adulthood. Professionally, at a certain level, Deanna was in competition with Judy Garland. In some of her later interviews she referred to Deanna Durbin in third person (that was her stage name). She retired from her movie career at a young age of 27 and lived in seclusion in Paris. She is immortalized in the Hollywood walk of fame and also at the Grumman Chinese theater (foot and hand prints) in Hollywood, California. Joe Pasternak who produced many of her early movies spoke very highly her talents. After Great Depression of 1929, Hollywood became unkind to Wall Street executives, and movie studios made several movies that poked at their shallow life styles. Some of Deanna's movies were made at this time (1930s) and shows like, First Love, and It started with eve fall in this category.
1. Three Smart Girls
The Sisters - A family story (three stars)
This story is about three little sisters; Penny Craig (Deanna Durbin), Joan Craig (Nan Grey), and Kay Craig (Helen Parrish) fighting over the boys they love, and how it all comes together at the end. You may need a score card for this. When Penny finds that her sister Kay is interested in the fiancée of Joan, she asks her pianist friend Harry Loren (Robert Cummings) to romance Kay, but it backfires and he likes to romance Joan. Outraged Penny insults him and throws him out. Mrs. Craig (Nella Walker) misunderstands this episode and believes that her little girl Penny is jealous and has fallen in love with an older man. She hatches a plan to separate Penny from seeing Harry at the music school, and asks her stockbroker-husband Judson Craig (Charles Winniger) for help. Penny in the mean time expects Harry and Joan, and Kay and Richard to bond in love. When Penny and Kay fight over Richard, Judson is forced to remove himself from his business meetings for a day and get involved with his daughters affairs. Then he leads Joan and Harry, and then Kay and Richard to the altar, while Penny and the whole family beam with happiness. Deanna is superb as a little girl, and she was only 15 when she made this film
2. Something in the wind
The family greed (two stars)
Mary Collins (Deanna Durbin) works for a radio station owned by a wealthy family as singing disc jockey. Donald Reed (John Dall), the owner mistakenly thinks that Mary is the mistress of his recently deceased grandfather Henry Reed, and the snobbish Donald offers her a cash settlement if she refutes any claims against the family estate, obviously Mary becomes angry. Later Mary is abducted from the radio station into the Reed family home and persuade her not cause harm to the family name, and Mary agrees if they pay her a million dollar to support her and "her child" by Henry Reed. When Mary gets the check, her aunt Mary (Jean Adair) returns the check to Read family and tells her that it is against her family principles. Later and Donald reunite on a television show. This movie has some scandals and tricks which shows Deanna Durbin more as a cunning young lady than her other roles where she is very principled.
3. First Love
A Fine Romance (three stars)
Considerable publicity surrounded the release of this movie in which the young Robert Stack gave the 18 year old Deanna her first on-screen kiss. Constance Harding (Deanna Durbin) is treated unfairly by her adopted family of James Clinton (Eugene Pallette), especially her sister Barbara Clinton (Helen Parrish), and her mother Grace Clinton (Leatrice Joy). James is a busy Wall Street executive and does not notice the problems at home, but his servants at home are well aware of the problem and needless to say they are behind young Constance every step of the way. Barbara is in love with a young man from a wealthy family named Ted Drake (Robert Stack). Barbara tries very hard so that he loves her but circumstance lead him to Constance, with a lot of help from the staff at the household and of course due diligence of James Clinton. At the end young Ted sees the light and falls in love with charming singing sensation Constance. As you must have guessed that there are a lot of mishaps and screwball comedy before this ever happens.
4. It started with eve
Who is in love with whom? (Four stars)
This is a romantic comedy-drama in which the man thinks that he is in love with a woman and wants to be married to her, but the man's father wants his son marry another girl. Does this sound confusing? Perhaps not if you see the movie; it is hilarious, and Deana is absolutely wonderful in this screwball slapstick.
Billionaire Jonathan Reynolds (Charles Laughton) is terminally ill and would like to meet the fiancée of his only son Johnny Reynolds (Robert Cummings). When Johnny couldn't find his fiancée Gloria Pennington (Margaret Tallichet) at her hotel, desperately, he asks the hat-check girl Anne Terry (Deanna Durbin) to pretend to be Gloria. She reluctantly agrees, and meets his "dying" father, and finds herself the favorite fiancée of his son. As his father gets better he develops more interest to see his future daughter-in-law rather his son, and this makes her to stay at their house. As the movie progresses things get hilarious and confusion surrounds for Reynolds family. In the meantime, Gloria leaves Johnny and Johnny falls in love with Anne. The story runs though very funny and sometimes embarrassing situations for Johnny, Anne and Jonathan. I like the scenes when Johnny runs to the train station when Anne tries to go back to her home town in Ohio, and how Jonathan tries to smoke a cigar when he is strictly forbidden by his personal physician and his caretaker.
5. Can't help singing
Can't help falling in love (three stars)
This is her only film in Technicolor. Caroline Frost (Deanna Durbin), the only daughter of Senator Martin Frost (Ray Collins) is in love with a soldier named Lieutenant Robert Latham (David Bruce) which displeases her father. When he sends Robert away to California during the Gold rush era, Caroline runs away from home to meet him in Sonora, California. When her father reports Caroline missing and announces a $5,000 reward for the safe return of his daughter. On her way to California Caroline is conned by pranksters and thieves, and loses all her money. She goes in search of her money and finds that a gambler named Lawlor (Robert Page) has her money, she demands her money and he recognizes Caroline as the missing senator's daughter and threatens to turn her in for the reward, until she offers him $10,000 to take her to California. Caroline promises (lies to) him that he will be paid by her wealthy fiancée named Jake Carstairs. When they arrive in California, she meets Carstairs, and asks him to play along with the hoax, and pretend that he is her fiancé. Complications arise when Carstairs' wife arrives and accuses her husband of having an affair. In the confusion, Robert arrives, calling out for his fiancée. A fistfight between Robert and Lawlor ensues because Lawlor believes that Caroline has a third suitor. Finally the truth comes out, and Lawlor and Caroline resume their romance with a happy ending.
6. Lady on a train
Lady on a Train is a Thriller (Five stars)
This is a mystery movie in which Deanna assumes a sophisticated film persona. Nikki Collins (Deanna Durbin) witnesses a murder during her train trip New York City and sets to investigate that when the local police become uncooperative. After viewing a news report, she learns that Joseah Waring, a shipping magnate died accidentally while decorating a Christmas tree at his Long Island estate. When Nikki goes to investigate his death on his property, Arnold Waring (Dan Duryea), Joseah's nephew finds her and mistakes for Margo Martin, a nightclub singer and Joseah's fiancée. During her stay at the estate she finds several incriminating evidences such as the bloody slippers of Joseah, and a possible motive for murder since Joseah disinherits his family and leaves his fortune to Margo Martin.
Nikki goes to meet the real Margo Martin (Deanna Durbin), but Arnold Waring finds her in the night club and locks her up in a room, and a little later she is rescued by mystery writer Wayne Morgan (David Bruce), at the cost of his engagement to fiancée, Joyce Williams (Patricia Morison). Nikki suspects that Arnold is the murderer but she later finds out that Jonathan Waring (Ralph Bellamy), Arnold's older brother is the psychopathic killer. This realization occurs when she is alone with Jonathan in the same room in which Joseah was killed. Jonathan confides to Nikki that he will kill her, and frame his brother Arnold for her murder. Finally Jonathan is arrested by the local police, and Nikki and Wayne fall in love and tie the knot.
This DVD has six movies of one of the legends of Hollywood; I would say it is a steal if you look at the price of this DVD: Highly recommended
1. His Butler's Sister [DVD]
2. Deanna Durbin: the Ultimate Collection [19 Disc Box Set] [DVD]
3. I'll Be Yours [DVD]
4. Mad About Music [DVD] 
5. Christmas Holiday [DVD] 
on 11 February 2011
This is one of my favourite Deanna Durbin movies!. Theres plenty of beautiful singing and lots of funny moments, a 'must' for Deanna fans!
on 8 October 2013
This is the first film of Deanna. His time in the film is little because to the restrictions of Hollywood in artists of her age. However, since then is evident that she has something. The plot of the film is simple. But one does not see the movie for the plot but for Deanna. Of all her films, this copy of Universal is quite shabby but you can see very well. Truth to see Deanna is a delight, if only a few minutes, as in this film.
Esta es la primera película de Deanna. Su tiempo en el filme es poco debido a las restricciones de Hollywood para artistas de su edad. Sin embargo, desde entonces se nota ese algo en ella. La trama de la película es sencilla. Pero uno no ve la película por la trama sino por Deanna. De todas sus películas, esta copia de Universal está bastante deteriorada aunque se puede apreciar muy bien. La verdad que ver a Deanna es una delicia, aunque solo sea unos minutos, como en esta película.
on 28 January 2010
Excellent set of Deanna Durbin films, make sure your DVD player will play US region DVD's! Clever space saving packaging with double sided discs.
on 18 February 2013
This video was bought as a present for my father in law who thoroughly enjoyed it and took him down memory lane.