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Deanna Durbin; Operatic Soprano of the Movies

Updated on January 29, 2013

Deanna Durbin

Deanna Durbin was born in 1921, and made numerous popular movies from the mid 1930's to the late 40's. After Deanna Durbin retired from movies, Jane Powell became the new Deanna Durbin of the movies. She was a young and talented singer who looked natural in her girl next door parts, but somehow the same level of magic was never duplicated as with the young Deanna.

Even today Durbin is gaining a pop culture following with the release of her DVD collection. A truly remarkable and gifted woman with a charm and manner all her own.

One of Deanna's Earliest Publicity Photos

Early Deanna
Early Deanna

A More Mature & Sophisticated Deanna Durbin

Grown up and glamorous Image
Grown up and glamorous Image

Deanna's Career

In 1937 Deanna Durbin began her movie career. She was a unique talent, with a perfect voice and musical ability.

Deanna Durbin was born Edna Mae Durbin in 1921 in Canada, though She was raised in California.

She made her first film appearance in 1936 with Judy Garland in Every Sunday, and was signed with Universal Studios quickly after. Miss Durbin was highly successful as the sweet, innocent teenage daughter with a golden voice in numerous films of the 1930's, and won a Juvenile Academy Award in 1938.

Louis B. Mayer wanted her signed to MGM desperately, but was outsmarted by Universal, who came in with the contract before L.B. Mayor did.

In the late 1930's, after a series of highly successful movies, a brilliant publicity stunt was launched to find a boy to give Deanna her first screen kiss. Thousands of young boys auditioned to play Durbin's prince charming in a film that would be a modern day Cinderella story titled, "First Love." Young and handsome Robert Stack was the winner, who played the part masterfully. There isn't a girl in the world who can watch Stack, with is beautiful voice, and charming manners, and not find herself thinking that he is the guy she should have met as a teenager.

It is believed that Deanna did not enjoy making movies as she matured, and felt silly playing the roles she was given. Indeed she was growing up and could not possibly continue playing these girly characters. The studio gave Deanna a more glamorous look and a more seductive persona, but Deanna was now not only growing up, but growing outward. Although she was never fat by today's standards, she was not particularly lean and trim either.

Durbin often appeared to be almost chubby in her young adulthood and the studio began to put the pressure on to lose some weight, telling Deanna that her costumes were getting tight. Durbin is reported to have snapped back, "you can always let my dresses out at the sides."

Durbin finally left Hollywood and retired from singing and acting in the late 1940's. She married a producer-director and moved to Paris. She then completely withdrew from public life all together. Deanna Durbin is as mysterious as Greta Garbo. She has never been coaxed out of retirement, and sightings are extremely rare. She is still alive at 90 years young.


Deanna sang many classics, arias, and popular songs, and is responsible more than any other opera singer for the inspiration of new singers.

Her voice is that of a lyric soprano, with great range and clarity.

After Deanna Durbin retired, MGM decided it was their chance to find an answer to Durbin and went searching for a new young soprano. They discovered Jane Powell, who has said that she had always wanted to meet Deanna, and still would like to.

To this day Deanna's films and DVD's are as popular as ever, and she continues to inspire with her music, and wholesome movies.

Jane Powell; The New Deanna Durbin

Deanna Durbin in 1981


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    • Skarlet profile image

      Skarlet 5 years ago from California

      Thank you so much for your comment Jan.

      Deanna is still going strong.

    • profile image

      Jan 5 years ago

      I loved her beautiful voice from the 40ties on and still do. Nice to know that she is alive now.

    • Skarlet profile image

      Skarlet 5 years ago from California

      Hi Patriette,

      I love BWs too.

      I like "First Love" and "Three Smart Girls"

    • Patriette profile image

      Patriette 5 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      Beautiful voice that one doesn't tire listening to... Skarlet, do you have any Deanna Durbin movie recommendations? I love watching old Black & Whites.

    • Skarlet profile image

      Skarlet 5 years ago from California


      Thank you teaches345.

      I adore Deanna, and watch her old movies when ever I can. I would not be surprised if she still does sing, but I am sure she does not sound the same. Still, I would like to hear it.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      Wow, what a beautiful voice. I wonder if she still sings at 90, wouldn't that be something? Thanks for the information on this talented opera singer.