Retirement

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Post  English Crusader on Thu 29 May 2008 - 3:03

One of the reasons Deanna Durbin retired early was because the scripts she was given were terrible and certainly not worthy of her talents. And her last four movies were poorly received by the public which made the situation worse. Also, she wasn't really allowed to have any decent imput on the content of her movies which must of been frustrating. Plus, she had a baby to look after from her second marriage and Deanna wasn't at all keen about raising a child in Hollywood. In 1949, Deanna said fame had not always been easy to take. She spoke of reading publicity stories and misquotations that hurt her. "I would cry and then mother would cry which would make it worse," she recalled. "Being a teenager, I took things seriously and was deeply hurt." There were other aspects of fame which didn't appeal to her. "The idea of being recognized wherever I go holds no enjoyment," she said. "I would like to be able to shop in a store or go to the theatre without people saying 'That's Deanna Durbin.' I would like to have people like me because I was just Edna, not Deanna. I would like to walk down a street and people admire me because of the dress I was wearing or the look in my eye or the bounce of my hair - not because I was a movie star."

Deanna Durbin's last official day with Universal was the 31st of August, 1949.

This is a photo of a happy Deanna Durbin in France during the early years of her retirement:



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Post  English Crusader on Thu 29 May 2008 - 3:11

Deanna Durbin's early retirement is the reason why she finally got the chance for happiness - a real happiness that she was never able to experience as a movie star. Over the 13 years she reigned in Hollywood, her mother was always at her side. Ada Durbin was unprepared for, and unequal to, the responsibility, wealth and studio politics to which her child's Cinderella story exposed her. She was a wonderful mother and well intentioned enough, but what teenager wants a well intentioned mother around all the time. By 1943, Deanna was the highest paid woman in the United States. She had an annual salary of $326,491 – when the dollar was worth about twice what it is today! Her stardom never fed her ego, rather thwarted it. There was an underlying rebellion in the young woman, groomed for public consumption by the studio who wanted the proper image for their "Baby Lark" - the young woman who had grown up wearing home made dresses and biting her nails. Today, with the honesty that is a plus of her retirement, Deanna says: "I was not happy making pictures; they wouldn't let me grow-up. I always had to be an idealized daughter to the many disappointed parents of the 30's and 40's." The only movie Deanna ever made which she is really proud of is CHRISTMAS HOLIDAY, the Somerset Maugham story of a honky-tonk singer. Deanna and her husband, Charles David have ever since spent much of their time living about thirty miles out of Paris. Here their unpretentious remodeled farm property stands on the main street, which, cresting a hill, offers serene panoramas of the countryside. The front yard of their neighbour's house is tilled into pocket-sized vegetable and flower gardens. There's an orchard or two. And directly across the road is a little restaurant with a few outside tables. When the Davids are in residence, the townspeople, passing on foot or bicycle, slow their pace to listen for Charles David's typewriter or Deanna's singing. She greatly enjoys singing for herself and for her family. A local woman lets herself in the side gate early every morning. She does the heavy cleaning and sometimes the marketing. But Deanna does most of the marketing. To quote the store keepers, she is "sympathetique." To those she meets for the first time she says, simply, "I am Madame David." She or Monsieur never make any noise about themselves! Deanna is never asked to sing at any church function or town entertainment. Appreciative – as the French are – of her wish to live privately, they would not expose her to the publicity such appearances would bring. During her visits to Paris with Charles, he attends to business, looks after the family's interests in the French film company, Pathe-Gaumont, while Deanna shops and visits with friends. Says one of her friends: "She's a delight – charming and intelligent with a great sense of humour. And she always looks fabulous because she's happy; really having fun at last!" Evenings in Paris, the Davids usually dine out before going on to either the theatre, a concert or a movie premiere, where the photographers and reporters, respecting Deanna's wishes, smile and then look the other way. Deanna and Charles first met during the production of THE AMAZING MRS HOLLIDAY. He later directed her in LADY ON A TRAIN. It was one of her less successful pictures – one of his, also. At that time, there was no hint of the attraction they were to have for each other five years later. He had a wife, and that was the year Deanna married Felix Jackson in Las Vegas. Their daughter, Jessica Jackson was born on the 7th of February, 1946. Deanna has repeatedly refused offers to make films – in France and Hollywood – star on the concert stage or do anything professionally. On the issue of her weight, says Deanna, "I'm really too thin by French standards. At the Louvre I've seen beautiful women of many ages – all of them larger than me!" The overweight rumours came about naturally. During Deanna's stardom there was always some talk about her weight. Column items were perpetually announcing she had gained ten pounds, that the seams of her clothes had had to be let out during a production, that the studio had put her on a diet. But her extra poundage was nothing more than normal adolescent excess. Also, Deanna had the deep chest of a singer. The studio used to put her in bolero jackets to disguise it! They also used to employ cosmetic tricks to tame her sensuous mouth into some semblance of innocence. It's possible she would have been tempted to come out of retirement by some of the fabulous offers she received had she not married Charles David, but that is doubtful. The Davids are more than comfortable. He has an income from his family's film interests and whatever he saved during his active years. She, whatever else she has or doesn't have, enjoys the $400,000 annuity that Mitch Hamilburg, her manager, persuaded her to buy with the proceeds from Deanna Durbin dresses, hair-ribbons and all the other items he promoted through her name. Recently, of course, the David income has been augmented by the royalties from her records, selling in England like the proverbial hot cakes since London's Ace of Hearts bought the masters of her old Deccas. Today she prefers singing the hits of contemporary artists. Deanna sees little of her parents, James and Ada Durbin, who now live at "Leisure World" in the Laguna Hills. Edith, Deanna's older sister who insisted she have singing lessons and helped pay for them, lives in Glendale, California, and Deanna's daughter, Jessica moved back to Los Angeles. Wishing to be independent and live her own life, Jessica left France with Deanna's understanding and blessing. She wants her daughter to have what she had missed out on, a chance to grow up and find herself without someone living her life for her. So for all Deanna's fans, and for all you doubting Thomases, who happen to be reading this, rest assured that Deanna is, perhaps for the first time in her life, really happy.


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Post  English Crusader on Thu 29 May 2008 - 3:28

This photo of a retired Deanna Durbin came from the family album of her parents:



While living in France, Deanna would frequently visit London. She had photos taken of herself in Hyde Park and in front of the Tower Bridge. During those visits, people would come up to her and say, "You look terribly like Deanna Durbin!" And Deanna would reply, "Isn't that funny? All my life people keep telling me I look like Deanna Durbin!"


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Post  English Crusader on Thu 29 May 2008 - 3:30

Deanna Durbin loved to listen to Barbra Streisand:



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Post  English Crusader on Thu 29 May 2008 - 3:32

Deanna Durbin loved the movie M*A*S*H:



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Post  English Crusader on Sun 1 Jun 2008 - 5:44

One of Deanna Durbin's favourite musicals was OLIVER which first appeared on the stage in London in 1960 and then was made into a film in 1968. Deanna particularly enjoyed the performance of Ron Moody who played the character of Fagan in both the stage and screen versions:



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Post  English Crusader on Sun 1 Jun 2008 - 6:08

Deanna Durbin felt that Marilyn Monroe was a very talented performer. She liked her rendition of That Old Black Magic from BUS STOP:



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Post  English Crusader on Fri 8 Aug 2008 - 10:14

In her retirement, Deanna Durbin enjoyed listening to the music of The Beatles:



INTERESTING NOTE: In July of 2008, the bass drum skin used on the front cover album of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" sold for ₤541,250 at an auction at CHRISTIE'S in London.

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Post  English Crusader on Sat 9 Jan 2010 - 12:15

One of many of Deanna Durbin's interests during her retirement included travelling to many parts of the world to hear the great opera singers. She made regular visits to the United States, Salzburg, Florence, Prague, Vienna, Glyndebourne, and London. Some of her favourite singers were Victoria de Los Angeles, Kiri Te Kanawa, Gundula Janowitz, Frederica von Stade, and Teresa Stratas:



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Post  English Crusader on Sun 9 Dec 2012 - 11:24

Henry Koster and his wife were hosting a young orphaned Dutch girl who had a broken leg at their home in California. In the early 1950's, Koster was directing the film DESIREE starring Marlon Brando and Jean Simmons. He invited both men to a dinner party. He also invited Deanna Durbin and her husband, Charles David, who were in town at that time. The little girl was very excited to meet the famous Deanna Durbin even though she had retired from show business. She was thrilled that Deanna signed her cast, but showed no interest in meeting Brando. She was finally persuaded by her hosts to let him also sign her cast. The fact is Deanna Durbin became a world famous figure, not just a movie star in America!!



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Post  English Crusader on Wed 10 Feb 2016 - 10:35

Deanna Durbin with Charles David and Joe Pasternak with his wife in 1953 in Los Angeles:



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Post  English Crusader on Wed 10 Feb 2016 - 10:41

Deanna Durbin with Dinah Shore and George Montgomery in 1953 in Los Angeles:

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Post  English Crusader on Wed 10 Feb 2016 - 10:44

While Vincent and Mary Price were living in Rome in 1961 they went to visit their friend Deanna Durbin, who was living in Paris. While they were there, Mary discovered that she was pregnant. This French version of Dr. Spock's baby book, Comment Soigner et Eduquer Son Enfant, was given by Deanna Durbin with inscription as a gift to Vincent and Mary Price:



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Post  English Crusader on Wed 10 Feb 2016 - 10:44

Deanna Durbin wrote this letter to the Toronto Film Society:



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Post  English Crusader on Sun 19 Feb 2017 - 23:03

In the late 1970's, the film historian William Everson wrote a career retrospective article about Deanna Durbin to which she responded:

"Thank you for all the pleasant things you wrote about me. Thank you specially for your interesting point of view about my pictures and my career. It puzzles me that after so many years the character still has a mysterious appeal. I remember 'Deanna' as a byproduct of my youth which had so many facets that I had to struggle not to be engulfed by it and start leading somebody else's life. Now time has passed with the many grave and exciting events and I can look back dispassionately and understand and appreciate others' views and explanations of the Durbin phenomenon. And yours pleased me particularly."
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Post  English Crusader on Sun 19 Feb 2017 - 23:04

DEANNA DURBIN PROVES HER POINT:

In 1980, Deanna sent a recent photo of herself to Life Magazine in order to dispel rumours that she is overweight, hoping that the photo "might set straight the false rumours about my figure. These, after so many years of happy oblivion, still disturb me a little and are not compensated by that first sentence of old friends when meeting me: 'Deanna! But you're not at all plump!' No, I can still pass under the Arc de Triomphe without holding my breath."

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Post  English Crusader on Sun 19 Feb 2017 - 23:04

DEANNA DURBIN AT 60 YEARS OF AGE:

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Post  English Crusader on Sun 19 Feb 2017 - 23:05

THE FAMOUS 1983 INTERVIEW BY DAVID SHIPMAN:

Paris. No exclamation point. I've had Paris. I lived there for five years and what I disliked about the city - the traffic and the prices - can only have increased. Still, I had never seen the Centre Pompidou nor the lady I had come to meet, despite a correspondence that goes back several years. She was once one of the most famous women in the world, which didn't exactly fit in with her conception of the life she wanted to lead. She was Deanna Durbin and she is now Deanna Durbin David, but recent showings of her films on British and American television and reissues of six LP records have persuaded her to become Deanna Durbin again - for just one evening. The British season came about when a BBC radio programme devoted to the public's comments on the corporation's output, established that it received overwhelmingly more requests for her films and records than for those of any other star.

She became famous overnight in THREE SMART GIRLS, a run-of-the-mill feature whose budget was doubled after studio executives had screened the result of her first few days work. The studio was Universal, threatened with closure for some years, but re-established as a major studio because of her popularity. That popularity was due to her "fetching naturalness", as the News Chronicle put it. There was also the mature soprano voice. She sang operatic arias and songs such as "Beneath The Lights Of Home" and "It's Foolish But It's Fun", which became Hit Parade records. Her first screen kiss received more press coverage than any of Elizabeth Taylor's marriages, and the transition to adult roles was so successful that, as she left her teens, British cinema managers voted her the biggest draw for three years running. Indeed in 1942 the Odeon Circuit throughout the country offered a Durbin Festival, a different film on each of the week's seven days, and that has been done for no other star.

However, the poor quality of her later films caused her to retire. She had made just 21 films in all, and her career had lasted just thirteen years. Like Garbo, she turned her back on Hollywood - both of them were still young women and both of them refused to even consider further offers. Living since then in a beautiful old farmhouse, just outside Paris with her French husband, she has, during these thirty odd years, refused to see the press - and Monsieur David, champion of guardians, has been the intermediary, patiently explaining that she really isn't interested in show business, and certainly not publicity. She is finally breaking her silence because she is deeply touched by the reaction of old and new fans. I doubt whether any other star of her generation has held the love of her fans quite so surely - so many people, hearing that I was about to visit, became emotional and all-too-serous as they made me promise to mention their affection.

"I knew that sooner or later I would give an interview and decided that I would do it with you. I liked your two books on the stars and such statements you made as, 'the system was firmly rigged against the individual in favour of the machine.' I admire you as one admires a scientist who, with a few bones, manages to reconstruct an entire dinosaur. So I am curious to see what you'll make with the bits and pieces I offer you today. Why did I give up my career? For one thing, just take a look at my last four films and you'll appreciate that the stories I had to defend were mediocre, near impossible. Whenever I complained or asked for story or director approval, the studio refused. I was the highest paid star with the poorest material. Today I consider my salary as damages for having to cope with such complete lack of quality."

"I did not hate show business. I loved to sing. I was happy on the set. I liked the people with whom I worked and after the nervousness of the first day, I felt completely at ease in front of the camera. I also enjoyed the company of my fellow actors, the leading men who were so much older, like Herbert Marshall, Melvyn Douglas, Franchot Tone, Walter Pidgeon, Joseph Cotton, Vincent Price, and Robert Cummings. I did two films with my special friend, Charles Laughton. Working with those talented men helped me so very much and I grew up much faster than the average teenager. What I did find difficult was that this acquired maturity had to be hidden under the childlike personality my films and publicity projected on me."

I thought it ungentlemanly to ask about money, but asked whether it was true that her father had handled her investments. "Yes, he did before my first marriage, but he was not a broker or a businessman as the publicity department always made him out to be. My father - Lancashire born and raised - had taken his family to Winnipeg, where he worked as a blacksmith for the Canadian Pacific Railway. As the cold Canadian winters ate up all the summer savings, he took us all to California where he worked as a welder and held a variety of manual jobs. His clever hands, combined with my mother's intelligent housekeeping got us all through the Depression. But my father started having trouble with his health. I remember when he came to pick-up mother and I from the studio where I had gone for an audition. Dad looked pale and sick. He had fainted twice and the doctor had told him that he had to stop working for quite a while. He was desperate. 'Would it help Dad, I asked, if I brought home a hundred dollars a week? The studio wants you to come back tomorrow and sign a contract for me.' I'll never forget the look on his face, the happy tears in his eyes."

"I had been singing since the age of goodness knows. Some neighbours knew an agent, not one of the important ones, and he got a try out for me at the Disney Studios for the voice of Snow White, which I didn't get for they said I didn't sing like a child. Then he took me to MGM and I sang for one executive who went out and got another executive and I sang again, and I sang again. Each time I sang there was a lot of whispered consultation and someone else was sent for. I must have sung about ten times in all."

MGM put her into a short with Judy Garland, and this particular Hollywood legend is true, that when Louis B. Mayer said "drop the fat one" he meant Garland, not Durbin. "For me that was the end. My dog Tippy and I went for a long walk. I was crying bitterly and decided that I'd kill myself - I couldn't go back to school a failure. Not many months later, returning from my first publicity trip for THREE SMART GIRLS in New York, I saw huge posters of me all over Hollywood. I had become a star. I was tired, but happy and alive! Judy soon entered her own period of triumph. Right from the start Judy had an immense talent. She was a professional and had been on the stage since she was two. Her later story is tragic, but I'm certain she could never have given up. She needed an audience as she needed to breathe."

There is no need to comment on the difference between their two fates since Deanna exudes happiness. She goes on, "I understood Judy, though. I did some vaudeville with Eddie Cantor when I was beginning in pictures and between our weekly radio show. Eight shows a day! It was very exciting. Contact with a live audience is heady stuff, like the evening I walked in to sing at the Tabernacle in Salt Lake City when the entire audience rose to its feet. I should have done more live shows." I point out she did sing extensively for the troops during the War, but that, she says, was a very different emotional experience, remembering one evening when she was lifted on the back of a truck and sang without accompaniment to soldiers about to embark for overseas.

"I hated being in a goldfish bowl. If I went to New York, I had to stay in my hotel room or go everywhere under guard, whisked away in a big black limousine, terrified that the fans running alongside would get hurt in the traffic. My mother and I were once mobbed in Texas - the police lost control of the crowd and my mother suffered two broken ribs from people trying to reach me. I have never been so frightened. They put me in the town jail for safety and to avoid the mob still waiting at the station. They flagged the train down in the middle of nowhere, where I got on safely."

Realizing that at fifteen Deanna had the world at her feet, I wondered about her upbringing. "Very proper! It was drummed into me that I must never have sex with a man before I was married, and then the next day I was off to the studio where a very different set of rules prevailed. I must admit that it was lovely to be asked. Part of the fun of being asked meant that I wasn't a little girl anymore - and that is why I wanted to look glamourous. I couldn't wait to wear low cut dresses and look sultry. I remember the day when Philippe Halsman from LIFE magazine came to my home. He said he was going to photograph me 'looking like an angel.' I answered that I may not know how I did want to be photographed, but if there was one way I certainly did not want to be photographed it was looking like an angel! He laughed and the picture he took more than satisfied me. I'll admit that for some of my public all of that must have been hard to understand."

"My two broken marriages were not an asset either. When my first marriage failed everyone said that I could never divorce because it would ruin my image. How could anyone really think I was going to spend the rest of my life with a man I didn't love, just for the sake of an image? The second divorce was traumatic, for there was a child involved. Being the child of a movie star can mean a life even more unreal than that of the parent - and at that point I knew that I didn't want my daughter to grow up in Hollywood. Donald O'Connor once said that I was a professional, which, coming from him, pleased me, but at the time we worked together, I was unapproachable with my second marriage breaking up."

In 1950 she left for France where she married Charles David who had directed her in LADY ON A TRAIN. Since then she has resisted some tempting scripts: "I would have had to go through all the paraphernalia, the pre-recording of songs, wardrobe fittings, publicity, and so on, not to mention the time that would have taken me away from my family. Joe Pasternak, who produced my early movies, used to telephone whenever he was in Paris. 'Are you still happy?' he would ask, and when I answered 'yes,' he would say, 'well, I'll try again next time' - and then hang up. Just once was I seriously tempted by the prospect of MY FAIR LADY on Broadway. It was still in an embryonic state just a few songs completed when Alan Jay Lerner came to my home to play them for me. I loved them, but I had my ticket to Paris in my pocket and anyway, Julie Andrews was great and so was Audrey Hepburn in the film."

So she brought up her children. Jessica returned to America to marry while Peter, her son by Charles David, is working there in medical research. I sense, rather than see her pride in them, and the reason I don’t see it is because her radiance is absolutely undimmed by the years. She speaks with the directness and vitality of the young Deanna, but again I sense an extra enthusiasm when she says that bringing up the children and seeing them happy represents no sacrifice. Now she and her husband indulge their passions for music and travel, combining both with regular visits to the United States, Salzburg, Florence, Prague, Vienna, Glyndebourne, and London. They speak enthusiastically about certain of their favourite singers such as Victoria de Los Angeles, Kiri Te Kanawa, Gundula Janowitz, Frederica von Stade, and Teresa Strata.

Deanna herself still sings. She is grateful to her second film, 100 HUNDRED MEN AND A GIRL, for introducing her to Mozart. At the age of fifteen she sang Mozart's "Alleluia" with the Philadelphia Orchestra, Leopold Stokowski conducting. It is impossible not to say that I would like to hear her sing, which receives a crisp "thank you." She did not want to continue making films when she left films because the required publicity would have destroyed the privacy she longed for. I wonder, without asking her, whether she might be tempted now. She does turn down all requests to appear on TV shows and does not want a biography done. I did not suggest that any other form of comeback could be considered, even with the children grown up, for I could not imagine her ever being more contented than she now is – and we were talking, one or the other of us, for more than five hours.

The waste of her talent is in the past, even if, at a cheerfully admitted sixty-one she looks a mere thirty-five, slim and so attractive that it is a relief when she puts on glasses and looks maybe forty. Because of that youthful appearance, and because I doubt whether she has even glimpsed a beautician since she left Hollywood – she is not only like the young Deanna, but uncannily like - candid, sensible, completely without affectation, concerned and captivating company. Like all great stars, and despite her particular qualities, she is mysterious. She is Deanna Durbin – one of the best-loved of all stars. It is to return that love that she has given her first interview in so many years. I assure her that many people who asked me to convey messages of affection were not even born when she quit movies. She smiles, too much of a realist to be surprised. And when you've been smiled at by Deanna Durbin you stay smiled at, even when the car won't start, even when another car has gone into its rear on the Avenue de La Chapelle, even on the rainy drive to Boulogne and find the Hovercraft isn't running.
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Post  English Crusader on Sun 19 Feb 2017 - 23:08

DEANNA DURBIN STATED SHE HAD STARTED WRITING HER AUTOBIOGRAPHY:



In November of 2000, Deanna Durbin said the following in a letter she wrote to a friend:

"Unfortunately, my autobiography is a thing of the past. The necessity of the assistance I would be expected to give in the form of talk shows, interviews, etc. would finish off all the privacy I have managed to keep over the years."
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Post  English Crusader on Sun 19 Feb 2017 - 23:09

TIME TO SAY GOODBYE:

At the end of April, 2013, the Deanna Durbin Society based in England released a statement informing the world that Deanna Durbin had recently passed away in Paris at the age of 91. The news was conveyed to the Society by Deanna's only son, Peter David. Details about the exact date or cause of death remain unclear. Some reports suggest she was cremated and her ashes scattered, but without hard written evidence that information cannot be confirmed.

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