Deanna Durbin


  1. 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.
  2. Judy Garland, The Wizard of Oz, 1938 ..
  3. 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 the suits kept her out of the first re-make of of the 1925 horror trip .  Jennette MacDonald also passed, So her singing partner, Nelson Eddy, had the field to himself, wherein, as the New York Times headline put it, the titular Claude Rains “also appears”! 
  4. 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.
  5. 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!
  6. Susanna Foster, The Climax, 1944.     Whatever Durbin refused – like this “musical thriller”   with   Boris Karloff   – was handed to   her shadow..
  7. 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.
  8. Susanna Foster, Frisco Sal, 1945.    Durbin won her best juvenile Oscar in 1938; her old-time rival, Judy Garland in Ô39. But Judy was already at MGM. And in colour. One only of Durbin’s 25 films is in colour.
  9. 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.
  10. Ann Blyth, Top o’ the Morning, 1948. Seriously musing about quitting movies, Durbin rejected two consecutive opportunities to co-star with Bing Crosby, himself. First in this piece of Irish whimsey (so yes, Barry Fitzgerald was in it) about the theft of the Blarney Stone and…

  11. Rhonda Fleming, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, 1948. A musical take on Mark Twain’s fable about a 1912 mechanic finding himself in Britain when Arthur was king and, thus, head of the round table… As Arthur’s niece, Alisande La Carteloise, Fleming looked very 528 AD!
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. Kathryn Grayson, Kiss Me Kate, 1952.     Durbin was MGM’s first choice (sorry about that, Kathryn!). Producer Jack Cummings flew to Neauphle-le-Château, 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. The stage Kate, Patricia Morison, said Durbin  got tired of movies, left her second  husband for French film-maker Charles David “and told me, she couldn’t be happier” with her new life in Yvelines (which is where I live in France).
  15. 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.
  16. 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!
  17. 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. 



 Birth year: 1921Death year: 2013Other name: Casting Calls:  17