Nige celebrates a surprisingly influential singer…
Today is the 91st birthday of Deanna Durbin, singing film star of the 1930s and 40s. And she is still alive to enjoy it, somewhere in France, where she has lived quietly for decades since turning her back firmly on the biz we call show and marrying a French producer-director.
Durbin was huge in her day. Among her legion of fans was the young Anne Frank, who, living in hiding with her family in the Achterhuis, pasted a photo of Deanna Durbin to her bedroom wall, where it can still be seen…
A more surprising Durbin devotee was the great cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, who said in an interview, ‘She helped me in my discovery of myself. You have no idea of the smelly old movie houses I patronised to see Deanna Durbin. I tried to create the very best in my music, to try and recreate, to approach her purity.’
And Durbin has another surprising musical legacy: the New Zealand nun Sister Mary Leo admired her style and technique so much that she trained all her charges to sing the Durbin way – among them, most famously, Kiri Te Kanawa. How good was she?
Well, here she is in full flow, at the age of just 17… Pretty amazing, wasn’t she?