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?


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  1. Worm on Tuesday 4, 2012

    Wow that was rather good! Despite knowing the name I had never actually heard her singing before- she has a lovely warm tone, especially for 17 years old!

  2. Peter on Tuesday 4, 2012

    I believe all the songs Durbin sang in that movie–First Love– were from the classics (she does One Fine Day as well) because the Director, Harvey Foster, was so penny-pinching he didn’t want to pay anybody royalties.

  3. Jan Lambrechts on Tuesday 4, 2012

    During worldwar II and further in the forties Deanna Durbin was very populair in Holland.
    When seeing then, in the local cinema, one of her movies for the first time i was totally overwhelmed by her beauty and beautiful singing voice.
    The movie must have been “”His butler’s sister”".
    Lateron i collected all her movies and lyrics, playing them over and over again.
    Thanks Nige for memorising her 91th birthday.
    May Deanna be blessed for all the beauty she has given us.