Deanna Durbin’s Dust-Up With Judy

In terms of singing ability, one of the best of the actresses who sang was Deanna Durbin, who was classically trained and could handle just about everything from opera to pop tunes. Although she had a relatively short career, the Canadian-born performer left her mark in Hollywood with a number of strong performances. (Even though she apparently lost a dust-up with Judy Garland when both were young teens, but more later about that.)dd

Born in Winnipeg to British immigrants, Edna Mae Durbin actually grew up in the Southern California area after her parents relocated there in the early 1920s. She was only 14 when MGM first began to work her into their plans, and she was soon being featured alongside an even younger Judy Garland in a short musical film. (Video below.)

As it turned out, MGM signed Judy to a new contract that would lead to stardom, leaving the perception that Deanna had been bested in a duel of young singers. But it’s likely that it wasn’t that clear-cut at the time. For one thing, Deanna soon landed a deal at Universal and at age 15 began a movie career of her own with a featured role in 1936’s Three Smart Girls.

In addition to enjoying her burgeoning film work, Deanna also began appearing on radio and making records. Not surprisingly, she kept pretty busy for the rest of the decade and well into the 1940s, but by the post-war years she was becoming disillusioned by the business. Even though she’d made a couple of dozen movies by then (and was the highest-paid female star), she made her last appearance in a film in 1948’s For the Love of Mary, and then retired — at age 26. She eventually relocated to France, where she resisted invitations for comebacks and pretty much stayed until her death at age 91 in 2013.

ddcdDeanna Durbin – “Always”

9 thoughts on “Deanna Durbin’s Dust-Up With Judy

  1. I wasn’t really familiar with Deanna but I can tell you one thing that struck me like a ton of bricks about 5 bars into the song “Always”, Lawrence Welk would no doubt have done double back flips if this young lady would have been available for the prestigious position of ‘Champagne Lady” on his weekly television show. 🙂


  2. One source says her quitting was not well-received by the studio and a lawsuit forced her to agree to make more movies, but the studio eventually let her go. Apparently she was pretty firm about not returning to show biz after she left, even though she was offered various opportunities through the years – movies, stage shows, even a Las Vegas spot.


  3. She was a HUGE STAR! Legend has it that Mr. Mayor said(after seeing “Every Sunday”), drop the fat one(meaning Judy) & Deanna was “let go” in error. Judy was always jealous as Deanna “got everything first” such as stardom, her OSCAR, marriage, children, etc. Deanna left at the right time in 1948 at age 26 to have a “normal life”. By comparison to Judy, Deanna had a better life filled with much happiness. She was still a top star when she left Universal(a studio she saved from bankruptcy). Former director Joe Pasternak begged Deanna to come to MGM to star with Mario Lanza in “The Midnight Kiss”. She declined & the rest is history!


  4. Thanks – good to be reminded of her. Fascinating to contemplate the long, out of the limelight, retirements that some Hollywood stars had. Regards from Thom at the immortal jukebox.


  5. Interesting lady. Apparently she went by her original name – Edna Mae – in her private life even when she was a big star. And after two relatively short marriages in her early years, she married for the third time just about the time she was retiring to France — and it lasted 48 years, until her husband died in 1998.


  6. Although for years it was believed that the “Every Sunday” short was produced by MGM as a sort of public screen test for Judy and Deanna, more recent research indicates that about a month before it was produced in late June/early July 1936, Deanna had already been dropped by MGM and quickly signed by Universal, possibly placed under personal contract to Rufus LeMaire who had been a casting director at MGM when Deanna was there and had recently begun working in the same capacity for Universal. Whether Metro dropped Deanna intentionally or by accident is unclear. A clause in Deanna’s MGM contract allowed MGM to call on her services for up to 60 days after its’ termination providing she wasn’t working on another film/project at her new studio/stage show, etc. Since THREE SMART GIRLS wasn’t scheduled to begin filming until September 1936, Deanna found herself back on the MGM lot making “Every Sunday” with Judy. Understandably, since Judy had been given a long term contract by Metro, ES features her more prominently than it does Deanna. Anyway, I think they were both great and both rightly earned top stardom and became much beloved stars.


  7. James De Menna, your comment is more than speculation, it has been backed up by multiple people. After being fired by MGM, by a man that was friends with Judy’s mother, within an hour Deanna was signed at Universal. Mayer was furious. I can’t give you the name because I didn’t write it down, but it was a first hand account of somebody that was there, being interviewed for his career.


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