Deanna Durbin (1921-2013)
- Adriana Caselotti, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, 1937. Walt Disney wanted a 14-year-old Janet Gaynor to voice his $1.4m “folly.” Her animation was based on live-action footage of dancer Marjorie Belcher (later Marge Champion). With an office loudspeaker tuned into the audition stage, Disney rejected the unknown Durbin as “too mature” (at 14!). He was mulling over Susanna Foster and Betty Jaynes when Caselotti, 19, similarly evesdropped on a Disney casting man's call to her vocal-coach father. When she piped up with a little girl’s voice, she was promptly invited to test. “That’s the girl,” yelled Disney. Her fee for 48 days of recording: $970. Ironically, Foster later signed by Universal in the 40s to keep Durbin in line…making seven films spurned by her. Caselotti died aged 81 in 1997, having claimed to be the first woman to wear a bikini.
- Judy Garland, The Wizard of Oz, 1938.
- Susanna Foster, Phantom of the Opera, 1943. Anne Frank’s favourite movie star (Churchill’s, too) begged for drama. Universal (and her fans) did not - and kept her out of the first re-make of of the 1925 horror trip.
- Susanna Foster, Top Man, 1943. Film’s musical content including “Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams and Dream Your Troubles Away.” Susanna had been signed by Universal simply to keep Durbin in line.
- Susanna Foster, This Is The Life, 1944. “Winnipeg’s Sweetheart” rejected small musicals like this adaptation of the Angela Is 22 play by... Sinclair Lewis and Fay Wray!
- Susanna Foster, The Climax, 1944. Whatever Durbin refused - like this “musical thriller” with Boris Karloff - was handed to her shadow..
- Susanna Foster, Bowery To Broadway, 1944. The beergarden musical line-up included Universal’s newest Durbin rival, Ann Blyth. She went on to MGM; Durbin never did.
- Susanna Foster, Frisco Sal, 1945. Durbin won her best juvenile Oscar in 1938; her old-time rival, Judy Garland in Ã”39. But Judy was already at MGM. And in colour. One only of Durbin’s 25 films is in colour.
- Susanna Foster, That Night With You, 1945. Durbin's salary - the highest for a Hollywood woman - meant no cash for colour at Universal. By 1949, no cash for Durbin, either, due t “increasing public apathy.” Moving to Paris, Durbin declared: “I don't want to have anything to do with show business ever.” Susanna Foster agreed, quitting (at 21) after this film which featured another Hollywood victim as a short-order cook. Buster Keaton.
- Yvonne De Carlo, The Girl Who Took The West, 1949. Howard Duff, Stephen McNally, and Durbin (or Ava Gardner) became Scott Brady, John Russell and Yvonne Yvonne De Carlo. Their tale was told three ways - by two Western cousins and the gal they’re fighting over - in a Western Rashômon made a year before Japanese ace Akira Kurosawa made his instant classic - re-made as a Western in its turn as The Outrage, 1964.
- Dorothy Tutin, The Beggar’s Opera, 1952. The Hollywood singer agreed to be Polly Peacham in an earlier UK version, to be produced by Michael Balcon for the J Arthur Rank organisation in 1947.
- Kathryn Grayson, Kiss Me Kate, 1952. Durbin was MGM’s first choice (sorry about that, Kathryn!). Producer Jack Cummings flew to France, full of entreaties about forgetting her retirement and coming back one mo’ time. No, sir, means: No, sir! Durbin had already refused the Lili role in the London West End production of the Broadway play.
- Patrice Munsel, Melba, 1952. A Rank Organisation biopc with the Hollywood star as the Australian opera diva, Dame Nellie Melba, collapsed in 1947. Producer Sam Speigel won the rights and made his version at Beaconsfield Studios, starring the New York Metropolitan Opera’s coloratura soprano. Ten years later, it was the sanme story for… Lawrence of Arabia.
- Ann Blyth, The Student Prince, 1954. She refused to forget herretirement in order to becomebarmaidKathie Ruder opposite Edmund Purdom miming to Mario Lanza’s tenor arias!
- Florence Henderson, The Song of Norway, 1969. Twenty-hours before the saccharine Broadway operetta about Edvard Grieg closed in 1946, Universal announced a ’48 movie headed by Durbin (apparently Mrs Grieg was more important). In 1947, the plan was dropped by SP Eagle (aka Sam Spiegel) when forming the new Horizon Pictures with John Huston… for The African Queen, The Bridge on the River Kwai, Suddenly Last Summer, Lawrence of Arabia, etc. Thriller director Andrew L Stone made the “Godawful” (Time magazine) Cinerama (or Norway Tourist Board) version 21 years later - the movie debut of Henderson, a Broadway star (and licensed hypnotherapist), later better known as the of The Brady Bunch in all its incarntations between 1969-1995.